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Saskatchewan finance minister wearing tight shoes for tight budget

REGINA - Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz is breaking with the tradition of getting new shoes for budget day and is instead wearing a pair of shoes that belonged to his late father.

Krawetz says the shoes are about half a size too small. His father died in December 2006.

"They're a little tight like this budget is going to be," Krawetz said Tuesday while putting on the shoes in his office at the legislature.

"We've had to deal with declining revenue and we've had to deal with expenses and they're a bit tight. But as you can see, they fit well. They're a great pair of shoes and I think Dad would be pretty pleased by the fact that I'm still getting good use out of them."

The finance minister says the budget will have a surplus. But he also says there's less money for the province to work with this year.

"Revenues are actually down this year from last year. So if revenues are down and we have a balanced budget, you will know then that we had to make tough decisions on expenses," he said.

Krawetz says non-renewable resource revenue, such as gas or potash, is generally flat. He says revenue is down largely because the province is losing money due to the price gap between Canadian heavy oil and U.S. light oil.

Talk of a tighter budget comes after the province dipped into its rainy-day fund to pay the bills in its third-quarter financial update released Feb. 14.

The province said at the time that a drop in potash revenue meant it would have to take $135 million out of its savings to offset the shortfall in its general revenue fund.

Potash is a mineral used primarily as fertilizer. Saskatchewan collects billions in tax and royalty revenue from companies that mine the resource. But demand for potash softened and prices fell last year after Russian-based Uralkali, one of the world's largest potash producers, quit an export partnership.

The Opposition NDP presented their own shoe suggestion for Krawetz — a pair of clear, rubber ankle boots.

New Democrat finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said it's to remind the government to present a transparent budget.

"Anything short of honest, transparent books that you can trust, that we can trust, is unacceptable tomorrow," Wotherspoon said Tuesday.

"We're calling on the government to put forward honest, transparent books that don't hide anything, that don't hide debt, that don't play games with Saskatchewan people."

The Canadian Press

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