Report from the Legislature – October 29, 2014

Saskatchewan’s population continues to grow and our economy stands out as a national leader.  This growth allows us to increase important investments in people, programs and infrastructure.  For example, as a result of the province’s predictable and sustainable revenue sharing program, municipalities already know they will receive record revenue sharing of $265 million in next year’s budget – more than double what it was when our government took office.  This no-strings attached funding means our municipal partners are better able to meet the unique challenges in the communities they serve.

To further assist municipalities with infrastructure development, our government recently announced the renewal and expansion of the popular Saskatchewan Infrastructure Growth Initiative (SIGI).  Now including First Nations communities, SIGI will provide rate subsidies for up to five years on municipal borrowing.  This is another way in which we’re partnering to help build stronger, more vibrant communities.

Earlier this year, Saskatchewan was once again hit hard by flooding.  When the water was at its worst, our people were at their best.  Friends, family and neighbours grabbed sandbags and pitched in wherever they could.  Our government was able to respond by establishing 11 recovery centres, including 3 in First Nations communities.  These were one-stop points of access staffed by representatives from ministries, Crown corporations, the Canadian Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse Canada and other organizations to help individuals and families who were affected.

The benefits of a strong economy mean we can assist those hurt by flooding and still project a budget surplus.  So far this year, the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) has determined more than 340 municipalities and First Nations, and individuals living in those communities affected by flooding, are eligible for assistance under the program.  PDAP has now received over 3,000 claims.

Despite this year’s weather-related challenges, many Saskatchewan producers are in the final stages of harvest operations.  In the coming weeks, Saskatchewan will play host to a New West Partnership transportation and market access summit.  This will serve as an opportunity to discuss long-term improvements to Western Canada’s transportation system.

Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector remains strong, contributing $4.5 billion to Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product and sustaining 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.  In 2013, Saskatchewan set a record for agriculture exports for a third consecutive year with sales of $11.7 billion, and we are on track to meet our goal of increasing agriculture exports to $15 billion by 2020.  That is why, in November of this year, the Premier will be leading a trade delegation to India to continue to cultivate and strengthen an important and growing trading relationship. This mission will promote Saskatchewan’s agriculture and energy story to the fast-growing Indian market.

Announced as part of our government’s Throne Speech, SaskTel’s rural strategy will see the expansion of high speed internet into another 54 communities by the end of the year.  SaskTel is also doubling the available internet speed in 220 rural communities and improving cell phone service in 111 rural communities by adding more capacity to its 4G network.  This is in addition to the 318 rural communities that have already received improved internet service and upgrades to cellular service in more than 500 locations since 2007.  This is just another example of how a strong and growing province works to build a better quality of life for all Saskatchewan people.