Report from the Legislature – August 21, 2013

As summer comes to a close, our caucus is preparing for the upcoming legislative session.  Throughout the summer, Saskatchewan Party MLAs have been consulting with constituents to find out what your priorities are.  We heard that overall you are happy with the direction the province is taking, but there is still more work to do in regards to highways and senior care.

To that end, this year our government is investing more than $260 million in highway construction across the province.  Since 2008, our government has invested a record $3.7 billion in transportation infrastructure.  We will continue to take action to ensure you and your families have a safe, reliable highway system.

Our record on Seniors Care includes hundreds of new long-terms beds throughout the province, substantial increases to the Seniors Income Plan, increased funding for health regions to deliver home care services and historic income tax cuts that mean many seniors no longer pay any provincial income tax at all. We have come a long way in providing support to those to whom we owe so much, but there is still more to do.

One important issue that we heard during our summer consultations was the need to maintain the economic strength and growth of our province.  Through this we can continue to invest in the services that you need and deserve.

Throughout the summer, our economy continued to set records, such as the strongest employment growth and the lowest unemployment in Canada.  Employment rose to 564,100 people which is a 4 per cent increase over last year.  July also saw the lowest youth unemployment rate among the provinces, at less than half the national average.

If you are looking for a job, Saskatchewan is the place to be.  In July, 60 per cent of jobs posted on were full time positions. This is a 14.7 per cent increase over the same month last year.  The number of jobs available in July was 17,249, spread over 327 communities across Saskatchewan.  This is an increase of 8.6 per cent over 2012.

Providing quality and timely surgery is another area in which we are working to provide the services you need and deserve.  We are well on the way to ensuring you and your loved ones’ surgeries are performed within three months of a physician’s referral by April 2014.  The latest update from the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative (SKSI) shows that wait times for surgeries continue to decrease.  The numbers show that 79 per cent of patients are having their surgeries within three month of their referrals and 91 per cent are having their surgeries within six months.  This was an ambitious target when we set it and through the hard work of the SKSI we are on our way to realizing it.  Our government is investing $70.5 million this year to improve access to surgeries which will provide for about 89,000 surgeries throughout Saskatchewan, an increase of 7,000 from last year.

As post-secondary students prepare for the upcoming study year, I wanted to remind you of the benefits of the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship.  In its first year, this scholarship has provided more than 4,500 students with more than $2.2 million to help offset the cost of their post-secondary education.   This scholarship reduces tuition up to $500 per year to a lifetime maximum of $2,000 for new Saskatchewan grade 12 grads who are enrolled in a post-secondary institution right here at home.