Report from the Legislature – October 23, 2013

More people, more jobs, more economic activity – Saskatchewan continues to grow.  Just a few weeks ago we learned that our province is now home to more than 1.1 million people, up over 100,000 in the last six years.  This is the kind of growth that brings with it many new opportunities but, at the same time, also creates new challenges.  This is why, one year ago, our government unveiled the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth: Vision 2020 and Beyond.  This is a plan that works toward continued growth while meeting the challenges that come along with it.

Today’s Throne Speech highlights a number of new initiatives and renewed commitments to address added pressures in areas such as health care, education, highways and housing.  Initiatives include:

  • A new program to enable some seniors with complex issues to receive house calls from physicians, nurse practitioners and other health care providers;
  • Amendments to The Personal Care Homes Act to allow for the public disclosure of inspection reports;
  • New Collaborative Emergency Centres in Shaunavon, Spiritwood, Wakaw and Canora;
  • New “hot spotting” pilot programs to take pressure off emergency rooms in Saskatoon and Regina by providing more appropriate services to assist high-risk, high-use patients who repeatedly show up in emergency rooms;
  • A new Student First approach in education that will include wide-ranging consultations with students, teachers, parents and administrators;
  • New anti-bullying measures
  • Nine new joint-use schools to be built using an innovative P3 bundling approach;
  • Improvement to Internet access and speed in all schools through SaskTel’s CommunityNet program;
  • Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) to become a polytechnic institution;
  • Further highway twinning in high traffic areas, including Highways 6 and 39 from Regina to Estevan;
  • New measures to improve traffic safety and reduce fatalities, with a particular focus on tougher penalties for drinking and driving;
  • Significant infrastructure investments by Crown Corporations including four new cellular sites in the north in Fond du Lac, Stony Rapids, Black Lake and Wollaston Lake;
  • Expansion of the HeadStart on a Home program to encourage construction of rental properties;
  • A new Life Lease Program through Saskatchewan Housing Corporation to improve housing options for seniors;
  • 1,000 new training seats, including 300 new apprenticeship seats and 700 new Adult Basic Education seats;
  • A new Manufacturing Centre of Excellence;
  • A new event hosting strategy through Tourism Saskatchewan;
  • A new Saskatchewan International Future Scholarship for up to 20 students annually;
  • A new Western Canada Livestock Price Insurance Program for cattle and hog producers;
  • Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act to include the province’s essential services law, which was recently upheld by the Court of Appeal;
  • A comprehensive public consultation on the province’s disability strategy; and
  • A new Lobbyists Act

These are just a few of the actions our government will be taking to address the challenges of growth with more to come when the next provincial budget is released in March.  Also during this session, former University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon will release his report on the Saskatchewan Heritage Initiative – his recommendations on how best to ensure that resource revenues become a permanent source of wealth for both current and future generations.

Most of our growth as a province has been driven by Saskatchewan businesses and our government will continue to play its role by encouraging further diversification of our resource-based economy, marketing our province throughout the world and maintaining a competitive tax and regulatory environment that encourages new investment and new jobs.  As we move forward into this legislative session, we are more confident than ever that our resilient, determined, optimistic citizens can meet any challenge as they work to fulfill the enormous potential of this great province.