03/20/2012 02:05 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Finance minister gets shoe shine for budget; NDP's shoes are mismatched

REGINA - Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz is kicking the tradition of wearing new shoes for budget day and is instead showing off a pair of old shoes with a new shine.

It's all to suggest that the budget to be tabled Wednesday will keep the books in the black — just like the polish on those shoes.

"This budget is going to be about ensuring that our economy is sustainable, first of all, and that the spending that we will do is also sustainable," Krawetz said Tuesday.

"It's keeping our budget balanced, it's keeping our economy growing and it's living within our own means."

Krawetz has said there won't be any radical cuts in the budget. But he said Tuesday that the government wants to make sure expenditures don't exceed revenues and as a result, there will be "some expense changes."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been warning for weeks that everything is on the table.

Wall said there will be management adjustments to social programs and other programs could be completely eliminated.

The premier hinted that municipalities will have to pick up the tab for economic development. He said local economic development should be locally funded — suggesting a cut to more than a dozen programs known as enterprise regions.

Wall said RCMP policing costs have gone up 57 per cent since 2006, but the share from municipalities hasn't kept pace.

Then the province announced last Friday that rural and urban municipalities with less than 5,000 people will pay higher RCMP policing costs. Eight per cent will be added to their current fee structure starting April 1.

Krawetz said the announcements are "not to lessen the blow" before the budget.

"When you make changes at government you have to make sure that the spending that we do today is sustainable into the future and that's the kind of balance that we've undertaken," said Krawetz.

"When we built this budget, we had to be able to ensure that the programs that we currently fund that we want to still continue to do that and that's the analysis that was done by Treasury Board and cabinet," he added.

The Opposition NDP said the government has been putting out mixed messages. It says the government is talking about Saskatchewan's strong economy while also talking about cuts.

New Democrat Trent Wotherspoon brought out a mismatched pair of shoes to make his point. He held up a beat-up loafer and a bedazzled dress shoe.

"We have this rather ostentatious, boastful shoe that we might call the prosperity shoe that he's been wearing on one foot. But then we have the austerity shoe that he's been wearing on the other foot, one that is all about cuts for Saskatchewan people and everyday families," said Wotherspoon.

The government has also promised to unveil a new funding formula for education in the budget that it says will provide for adequate, sustainable and predictable funding.

Sandi Urban-Hall, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, said Monday that schools don't know what to expect. Advance information indicates some school divisions may gain funding, but others could see their operating revenue drop by as much as 10 per cent. Urban-Hall said the association wants assurances that students won't suffer under the new funding formula.

Education Minister Donna Harpauer has said no school boards will see "a significant cut." She also said there will be "a mitigation strategy" to help boards transition to the new formula instead of just slashing programs or staff.