SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty is taking umbrage with accusations that the government is hiding the truth about the province's finances.
"Nobody's lying about anything here," he said Monday at the legislature.
"We are gathering the information (and) the information's going to be presented on March 22 along with the budget, three weeks from this Wednesday."
The third quarter ended in December and Opposition finance critic Cathy Sproule said the government should have released a budget update by now.
Sproule said fresh numbers would provide a clear picture instead of speculation about an estimated $1.2-billion deficit.
"For Saskatchewan families and workers, times are tough, but, instead of providing honesty and stability, the Sask. Party keeps lying about the facts and throwing around phrases like 'transformational change' and 'everything is on the table,' " Sproule said in Saskatoon.
"The people of the province deserve to know the truth."
The NDP said third-quarter updates have been released in February since 2012, with the exception of 2015, when the government didn't release one because it was changing the way finances are reported.
The government used to report the budget on its general revenue fund, which was just the government's operating expenses and revenues.
It switched to what is called a summary basis, which includes all parts of government and Crown corporations, and was recommended by the provincial auditor.
Doherty said that's one reason why it takes more time to pull the numbers together.
"It's just not ready yet. Nobody's hiding anything. If the numbers were ready to be released, we would release it tomorrow."
The NDP raised similar concerns last summer when the government did not release a first-quarter budget update.
Doherty said last September that the fiscal year was unusual because of the provincial election last April and the timing of the budget. The government tabled the budget in June instead of March.
That meant the budget passed and the first quarter ended on the same day, so the numbers that the public saw June 1 were essentially first-quarter numbers, he said.
The government projected a deficit of $434 million when it introduced the budget last June. That climbed to about $1 billion when the mid-year update was released last fall.
Premier Brad Wall told the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association earlier this month that the provincial deficit is up to about $1.2 billion. The premier said tax revenue is lower than forecast and crop insurance claims are up $250 million because of a late harvest.
The government is also trying to save money because of a big drop in revenue from oil and gas, potash and uranium.
"We don't have all the different revenue figures in. We don't have all the different expenditure numbers in to say assuredly, 'Here's the actual number that we're forecasting for the end of the year' until they consolidate all of that," said Doherty.
The government has publicly mused that public servants could be forced to take unpaid days off as it wrestles with the deficit.
Wage rollbacks, layoffs in health care and education and tax increases are also being considered.