Report from the Legislature – December 4, 2013

Strong Economy, Continuing Surplus
Most Saskatchewan families understand it isn’t wise to spend more money than they’re bringing in and the same is true in government.  Balanced budgets are a key part of our government’s Growth Plan and our province remains on track to balance its books in 2013-14 with small surpluses projected.

Our population is growing, our unemployment rate remains low and the province is still experiencing significant growth in both employment and earnings.  In fact, Saskatchewan’s economic growth is now forecast to increase to 3.6 per cent in 2013, mainly due to record crop production.

The growth our economy is experiencing brings many benefits – including the ability to reduce government debt while still having the lowest provincial taxes for low and middle-income families.  This is important.  Eliminating deficits and paying down debt frees up money that would have gone to servicing the debt.  These funds can then be used to reinvest in things like schools, hospitals and highways which, in turn, will create a better quality of life for all Saskatchewan people.

Record Crop Exceeds Growth Plan Goal
Agriculture is the very root of our increasingly diversified economy and while our goals for crop production might be ambitious, they’re certainly achievable.  Saskatchewan producers proved that – well ahead of schedule.  Not only have they harvested the largest crop in our province’s history, they also managed to surpass the 2020 target set out in the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth.

The latest estimates from Statistics Canada indicate Saskatchewan’s 2013 crop is a record 38.4 million tonnes, exceeding the Growth Plan goal to increase crop production to 36.6 million tonnes by 2020.  The 2013 crop is 40 per cent above 2012 production levels and 48 per cent above the 10 year average.  These producers deserve credit for their hard work, dedication and innovation.

While there are many variables that go into producing a successful crop, with weather being one of the most important, the innovation of our producers and the research capacity in Saskatchewan will ensure that our province will continue to be a world leader in agriculture production.

Investing In A Healthy Future
Our government believes that everybody should have timely access to quality healthcare.  This can be challenging since healthcare needs are unique throughout the province, but we continue to explore innovative solutions.  One such example is the creation of Collaborative Emergency Centres (CECs).  Based on the successful Nova Scotia model, CECs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing the right care at the right time by extending the hours of primary health care and 24/7 emergency care.

Many communities in rural Saskatchewan still face challenges in recruiting and retaining family physicians.  By utilizing a team-based approach, CECs offer predictable and sustainable emergency coverage in communities that may have previously experienced disruptions in hospital services.  The province’s latest CEC just recently opened in Shaunavon.  The hope is that it will result in improved recruitment and retention of physicians, nursing staff, EMS providers, and all others.

The province’s first CEC opened in Maidstone earlier this fall with plans to open additional CECs in the coming months.

E-Ticketing To Save Time, Tax Dollars
A new pilot project is speeding up the process of issuing traffic tickets.  By January, more than 90 RCMP cruisers will be outfitted with electronic ticketing technology designed to save both time and taxpayer money typically spent on issuing, printing and processing minor traffic offenses.

This technology uses in-car consoles and printers to quickly scan drivers’ licenses, digitally record fine information and print the ticket on the spot.  Information is then uploaded to the Ministry of Justice’s Fine Collections branch on a nightly basis.  Previously, officers wrote tickets by hand, manually recorded them after returning to their detachment and mailed copies to the Ministry of Justice to be processed.

The ministry will make the e-ticketing program available to municipal police agencies once the pilot project is completed.  Over the long-term, this type of technology allows police forces to spend less time on traffic fines and focus more on serious criminal offences.