The provincial finance minister says he is optimistic about Manitoba's financial recovery after reviewing the latest fiscal quarter.

It has been a taxing year for many, including for those looking at the province's latest fiscal budget. Spending was up by $2 billion, putting the province in a 2.117 billion deficit by the end of March, a new record. 

The provincial government is anticipating it to take eight years before the budget is balanced, saying they spent $2 billion more than their initial budget. Minister Scott Fielding says eight years is a reasonable restoration goal.

"We do have a realistic plan to get ourselves back into balance over an eight-year time period our number. One goal is, right now, to make sure people are protected. We think we've got a lot of money allocated here and a lot of money left for this year so it really depends on the pandemic to a certain extent of when we're able to get back to normal," Finance Minister Scott Fielding says.

Extreme weather such as a drought affecting both farmers and Manitoba Hydro did not help the province during the pandemic.

Fielding is sharing that while they are seeing losses, he is optimistic and planning for the next wave.

Close to $21 million worth of grant funds, especially grants aimed to return Manitobans to work, that was set aside was not used. Fielding says a significant amount of that fund was used, with the remainder being redirected to other areas.

"I have the ability to move funds around and that's exactly what we did throughout the year."

The province says Manitoba's overall unemployment rate is now 5.7 per cent, the best in Canada. Unemployment in women is ranking third-lowest at 5.7 per cent, and youth unemployment is second-lowest at 7.6 per cent.

Roughly $450 million is leftover from this fiscal quarter's allocated $1.2 billion COVID funds, which Fielding anticipates will be needed for a fourth COVID-19 wave. 

"Each phase of the pandemic, I guess I would suggest, there are different types of programs you look at," Feilding says, noting the different health orders will need different supports.

Feilding says some of the "good news stories" that came from the last quarter were spending more than 90 per cent of their road maintenance budget, and 80 per cent of education money was spent. An issue they saw was accessing facilities needing improvements.