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The Saskatchewan government’s first budget update of the fiscal year shows the province is still on its way to balancing the books.

First-quarter results project the province will finish the year with a surplus of nearly $26 million — almost $9 million less than what was expected when the budget was released in the spring.

The reduction is due to an increase in pension expense, the government said.

“We think it is very important to balance our budget so that the services that we provide for our citizens in health care, education and social safety nets are sustainable into the future,” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said Thursday.

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the government isn’t properly spending in areas such as education.

“We have a deficit in our classrooms, classrooms that are at a breaking point.” Wotherspoon said. “Students are ... returning to school next week and they’re simply not going to have the supports that they need to thrive and to grow.”

The reduced surplus is offset by high revenue projections from non-renewable resources and federal transfers.

Harpauer called the first-quarter update encouraging and said it shows the province remains on track.

She cautioned that it’s still early and that the second-quarter update will be more reflective of the province’s fiscal situation.

Harpauer said wildfire season is almost over and although harvest isn’t finished, the province is predicting an average crop.

“We’re not projecting any massive problem in agriculture. Frost is always our next concern.”

The 2019-20 budget was the first one in years to forecast a surplus.

Harpauer said one challenge to that goal is the trade disputes with China over canola.

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