Report from the Legislature – November 12, 2014

According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan’s strong economy produced our country’s fastest rate of employment growth (19,700 more jobs) and lowest rate of unemployment (3.5%) in the past year.  Saskatchewan’s strong economy continues to give confidence to employers who, in turn, are deciding to expand their workforce.

Over the past seven years, Saskatchewan people have created nearly 72,000 new jobs in the province – of which only 8% were in the resource sector.  The other 92% came from sectors such as agriculture and construction, innovation and manufacturing.  This means that our economy is not only strong but also diversified, the benefits of which are clear.

When more people are living, working and investing in Saskatchewan, the government has greater resources to invest in people, programs and infrastructure to ensure that everyone is benefiting from a greater quality of life.  There is always more to do and our government is working hard to continue balancing the budget with the priorities of Saskatchewan people.

In health care, a strong economy has allowed us to increase investments by 45%, which includes budgeting over $1 billion for health care infrastructure.  No longer are we talking about building a Children’s Hospital for Saskatchewan, we’re actually building it.  We’re also building new hospitals and long-term care facilities in communities across the province.

Under our government there are 2,600 more nurses and 423 new doctors. Thanks to the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment Program (SIPPA), 19 new doctors just recently began practising in Saskatchewan.  SIPPA is a unique, made-in-Saskatchewan program that assesses International Medical Graduates (IMGs) on their medical education and clinical ability before allowing them to practise medicine in the province of Saskatchewan.

People from across the province have better access to physician services because of SIPPA.  Since the program began in 2011, more than 150 new family physicians have completed the assessment and have fulfilled or are currently fulfilling their service commitment to the province.  In addition, a total of 20 new IMGs entered the SIPPA program last month and are now completing clinical field assessments.  If successful, they will begin practising later this winter.

A strong economy has allowed for record investments in education.  To meet the needs of growing communities our government is building a total of 40 new schools across the province.  These actions are in stark contrast to the school closures and decline that devastated 176 communities under the NDP.  In addition to the construction of new schools, our government is funding 25 major renovations and has provided a 26.5% increase in operating funds.

Based on feedback from the education sector, we are also reallocating $4.6 million to address the needs of our growing student population.  The needs of our classrooms are as diverse as our students which is why we’re asking school divisions to work with teachers to identify where this could have the most impact on students.  Whether it is hiring additional teachers, educational assistants or speech language pathologists, or investing in technology in the classroom, we believe teachers are in the best position to help determine where this funding will best support their students.

A strong economy is the foundation for a strong Saskatchewan.  Our government will do its part to build on that foundation as it seeks to lead in the creation of sustainable jobs, in health care innovation and in the ways in which we care for those most vulnerable.  These are among the many benefits of a growing province and why, together, we must keep Saskatchewan strong.