Report from the Legislature – April 16, 2014

As Canadians we are free to speak without fear, worship in our own way, oppose what we feel is wrong and choose who should govern us.  These freedoms, which we often take for granted, were put in perspective recently as 47 people from 22 countries
gathered at the Legislative Building in Regina.  They took the oath of citizenship, officially becoming Canadian citizens.  These 47 people, now Canadians, can now claim all of these freedoms for themselves.

This ceremony gave us an understanding of what it might be like to learn a new language and culture.  It was also an opportunity to see our country through the eyes of our grandparents, great grandparents and all others who came before us – a valuable experience for those born and raised here as we can sometimes lose touch with what it truly means to be Canadian.

With smiles on their faces and our national and provincial flags in their hands, our newest citizens took great pride pledging the oath of citizenship to our country, reminding us that our greatest resource has always been our people and that our greatest currency will always be our freedom.  With that freedom comes opportunity and, in Saskatchewan, there are many examples of how that opportunity continues to be realized each and every day.

It is encouraging to see newcomers to our country choose to build a better life in Saskatchewan.  Their hope, optimism and hard work plays a vital role in maintaining our energy, building on our momentum, growing our population, our economy and, at the end of each day, leaving our province just a little bit better off than it was the day before.

One of the key requirements for our strong, export-based economy is safe, modern and efficient highways connecting our products with markets around the world.  This is a priority of our government.  Funding for 2014-15, consistent with last year’s budget, will result in 80 road, bridge and culvert projects through the Municipal Roads for the Economy Program (MREP).

Since 2008, our government has invested a record $4.3 billion in transportation infrastructure.  Our investment in MREP supports 64 individual municipalities and plays an important part in our government’s plan for growth.  Program grants cover up to 50 per cent of the cost of road projects and 30 to 90 per cent of the costs associated with bridge and culvert projects.

According to the latest figures our economy is doing well, particularly the construction and manufacturing sectors.  Non- residential construction totalled a record $466.1 million in the first quarter of 2014.  This activity, typically larger projects of an industrial, commercial or institutional nature, is up by 4.9% over the previous quarter at the end of 2013.  Meanwhile, manufacturing sales in February were up 12.8% year-over-year – nearly four times greater than the national average.  It says a lot about the state of our economy when so many of our primary sectors are experiencing gains in the early part of 2014.  These are key revenue generators and, when they expand, we all benefit.

Economic growth not only supports investments in infrastructure but also investments in people. One of our goals, highlighted in our government’s plan for growth, is to make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada for people with disabilities to live.  We want to ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to live fully and inclusively in their communities.

To that end, the disability community had asked for a program that was separate and distinct from traditional social assistance.  Today, more than 11,000 households are benefiting from Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability.  In addition, the Saskatchewan Disability Rental Housing Supplement assists with the cost of quality and affordable, accessible rental housing.  There is still more to do to assist people with physical disabilities, including assisted living.

Our government is currently committed to developing a comprehensive disability strategy which involves extensive consultation with the public, members of the disability community, CBOs, employers, municipalities, school divisions, post-secondary institutions and health authorities.

Public forums across the province will provide people the opportunity to play a vital role in shaping a strategy that focuses on housing, transportation, employment, education, support for community inclusion and support for caregivers and families.  Details of the upcoming consultations can be found online at