Report from the Legislature – March 26, 2014

The 2014-15 provincial budget keeps Saskatchewan on track for steady growth.  The budget is balanced without tax increases at a time when revenues are flat and, by controlling spending, our government is proudly making important investments in
infrastructure and people.

One of our top priorities is supporting our seniors, to make life more affordable for those who worked hard to build the province we all enjoy today.  Starting in July 2014, Saskatchewan seniors will see a $10 per month increase in benefits under the Seniors Income Plan.  This means a maximum monthly benefit of $260 for single seniors and $225 for married members.  Next year, the  single benefit will increase to $270 per month, triple what it was in 2007.

The nearly 15,000 Saskatchewan seniors who receive monthly benefits under the Seniors Income Plan are entitled to additional health benefits such as one free eye examination every 12 months, chiropractic services (to a maximum of 12 services per year), a reduced Prescription Drug Plan semi-annual deductible, a home care subsidy and an exemption from many of the charges under the Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living Program.

Saskatchewan’s Steady Growth budget also includes an increase in the monthly income threshold in the Personal Care Home Benefit – from $1,875 to $1,950 – effective July 2014.  This supplement subsidizes the difference between a senior’s total monthly income and the cost of living in a personal care home.  Approximately 800 seniors access this benefit each month.

Our seniors also deserve quality care.  To that end, this budget invests in long-term care, home care, acute care, prescription drugs and other services.  This budget funds the continued construction of five long-term care facilities, an innovative home care support pilot project and continued improvements to services in long-term care facilities as part of the Urgent Issues Action Fund.  Our commitment to seniors also includes a new house call pilot program to provide intensive home care supports to those with complex health issues as well as dollars to plan the replacement of long-term care facilities in Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and funding to plan for more long-term care beds in La Ronge.

Our focus is the continued growth of our province, not for the sake of growth, but because of the dividends of growth that can create a better quality of life for all Saskatchewan people – including those with disabilities.  It is our goal of to become the best place in Canada for people with disabilities to live.   The 2014-15 budget supports that with $446.2 million dedicated to provide services and supports, an overall increase of $84.3 million over last year.

Our government is increasing benefits under the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program for the third year in a row. Designed in collaboration with the disability community, SAID is a landmark income support program for people with disabilities.  The increase – $20 a month for those in residential care, $50 a month for individuals and $55 a month for couples – comes into effect in June 2014, benefiting more than 12,000 households.

Our Steady Growth budget also includes funding for Autism interventions, FASD prevention programming and community supports as well as dedicated dollars for Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living in order to maintain benefits for those  with long-term disabilities or illnesses.

Increased spending also assists adults with disabilities prepare for, secure and maintain employment and includes a 14% increase in dollars for community-based organizations that provide residential spaces and programs for people with intellectual disabilities.  The Ministry of Social Services supports 4,300 people with intellectual disabilities around the province.

To further the work already being done to improve quality of life for people with disabilities, the province is developing a comprehensive disability strategy, led by a 15-member Citizen Consultation Team.  Meetings with the public, disability  community, government, CBOs, municipalities, school divisions and health authorities will begin in the spring of 2014.

We believe that this work, along with our continued investments, brings us much closer to the goal of making Saskatchewan the best place in Canada for everyone to live, work and play.