Report from the Legislature – October 22, 2014

Our Government’s Speech from the Throne opened the Fourth Session of the Twenty-Seventh Legislature in Regina.  The Speech highlighted our strong, growing province, the strength and determination of our people and outlined our plan to keep Saskatchewan strong.

Our focus is the economy.  When our economy is strong, our province and its people are strong.  A strong economy gives us a broader tax base and more resources to invest in health care, housing, education, infrastructure and a better quality of life for individuals and families.

Our government will continue with international engagement and trade missions, as well as our work to reduce barriers and expand free trade.  We are also working to ensure opportunities for local businesses are maximized within existing trade agreements.  Priority Saskatchewan, a new agency, is leading a cross-government review of current tendering practices.

Saskatchewan is an exporting province.  To help meet our government’s goal of doubling exports by 2020, we will introduce a new growth tax incentive tied to the creation of new jobs by manufacturers and processors as they expand sales outside Saskatchewan.  This will also include an incentive tied to the creation of new corporate and head office jobs in Saskatchewan.

A strong Saskatchewan requires a strong, skilled workforce.  Employment numbers have hit record highs and unemployment has reached record lows – which is good – but we continue to face a shortage of skilled labour.  In some cases, people are unable to compete for jobs because they lack the skills required to secure employment.  This is why we have invested heavily in Adult Basic Education (ABE).  This coming fiscal year, we will again increase the number of ABE training seats to a total of 9,355 while boosting apprenticeship seats to a total of 7,000.

Our government is committed to tackling our province’s infrastructure deficit.  Since 2008, nearly $16 billion has been spent on capital projects that include hospitals, highways, schools and power plants.  This year alone nearly $3 billion has been committed to renew and expand infrastructure but there is still more to do.  To meet those challenges, we are leveraging the forces of innovation and competition through the use of public private partnerships (P3s).  SaskBuilds has already initiated a number of P3s that will save millions of dollars.

Municipalities should also consider the P3 approach to access funding through the federal government’s new $53 billion Building Canada Fund (BCF).  To help them take advantage of this, our government is reintroducing and expanding the popular Saskatchewan Infrastructure Growth Initiative (SIGI).  The program provides interest rate subsidies for up to five years on municipal borrowing for infrastructure development.  The original program, which provided nearly $200 million in borrowing to the benefit 82 communities, will also be opened to Saskatchewan First Nations.

Other measures in outlined in the Throne Speech include:

  • An options paper and public consultation process on private liquor retailing in Saskatchewan;
  • Legislation to better protect patients’ privacy and medical records;
  • Legislation to help reduce wait times for organ transplants;
  • Legislation to increase the scope of services that can be provided by pharmacists;
  • Upgrades to internet access and speed at regional colleges throughout the province;
  • Improvements to high speed internet and cell phone service in hundreds of Saskatchewan communities;
  • Legislative changes to help police officers and the justice system better protect victims of domestic violence;
  • Expansion of the HUB crime reduction model;
  • A comprehensive review of child welfare legislation that will lead to improvements in laws that protect children;
  • Development of a Poverty Reduction Strategy that builds on the government’s significant efforts to reduce poverty;
  • Increased penalties for those who commit hunting violations; and
  • A special licence plate for the loved ones of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who died in service.

These are among the many ways in which we are working to keep Saskatchewan strong.  Our strength comes from our people – their hard work, their determination, their ingenuity and their generosity – and these values will keep Saskatchewan strong and moving forward.