Report from the Legislature – March 12, 2014

Clearing the backlog in grain transportation continues to be the top priority for our government and we are encouraged that the federal government responded to our concerns by signing an Order in Council with clear delivery targets for railways.  This requires railways to deliver one million tonnes of grain on a sustained level to domestic, U.S. and port positions, and report tonnage delivered on a weekly basis.  Railways will be charged a fine of up to $100,000 per day for non-compliance.  Emergency legislation will also be introduced when Parliament resumes on March 24th.

Our government will remain vigilant and focused as we work with the federal government on emergency legislation that needs to include mandatory service level agreements, reciprocal penalties for grain shippers and railways, and specific commitments for the volume of grain delivered.  We will monitor basis levels at country elevators and work with producers and shippers to ensure increased producer grain deliveries.  We fully expect grain companies will have staff on hand 24 hours per day, seven days per week, at both inland terminals and at port whenever necessary.

Saskatchewan remains on pace to achieve the goal of increasing agriculture exports to $15 billion by the year 2020, set out in the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth.  With $11.7 billion in exports last year, we’re well on our way but a much-improved transportation system is needed in order to get there.  All players in the supply chain must be held accountable to get this grain moved.  It is our priority to continue standing up for farmers and working with all stakeholders to resolve the situation in the short-term while working toward solutions for the long-term.

The energy, vision and hard work of our people continues to drive our strong and diversified economy.  The latest labour market figures from Statistics Canada shows full-time employment in Saskatchewan is up while unemployment is down.  For the 14th consecutive month, Saskatchewan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is the lowest in Canada at 3.9%.

According to the February figures, Saskatchewan is seeing gains in both private sector and Aboriginal employment while employment in our two biggest cities – Saskatoon and Regina – is up by 5.0% and 2.7% respectively.  Our labour force also reached an all-time high for the month of February, hitting 573,300.  Employment has grown year-over-year for 27 consecutive months.

The provincial budget is the best indicator of the direction our government is going.  Keeping our commitment to fiscal responsibility, it is no secret our government has had to make some difficult decisions, and we are proud to say our government will table its seventh consecutive balanced budget March 19th.  While laying out our overall priorities, this document will likely form the debate for much of the new legislative session.

Just as voters have come to rely on our commitment to balanced budgets, which enable the continued growth of our province, we have come to expect the Opposition’s habit of demanding more government spending without an actual plan to pay for it.  This isn’t helpful or responsible.  We all know that budgets don’t balance themselves and we believe there is real value in keeping track of their demands in order to have a complete and meaningful debate.