Report from the Legislature – November 9, 2017

Our government has introduced legislation invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect parents’ choice in where they send their children to school.

The legislation is in response to a Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that would have forced non-Catholic students out of Catholic schools.

The court’s decision sets a worrying precedent that could threaten funding not only for students in Catholic schools, but also the 3,600 students attending 26 other faith-based schools in Saskatchewan.

We believe families should have a choice in where they send their children to school, regardless of their religious faith.  This is why we will use all tools available to protect parents’ choice of where to send their children to school.

The new legislation will maintain the current funding model that allows the government to fund students attending public or Catholic separate schools, regardless of their religious affiliation.

While both the Government of Saskatchewan and Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Divisions have filed appeals on this ruling, the notwithstanding clause is being invoked now so parents and students can be assured they will continue to be funded to attend their school, without having the uncertainty of waiting for the outcome of an appeal.

Following legislative amendments that have now been introduced in the legislature, small businesses in Saskatchewan will soon have the highest income threshold in Canada.  Effective January 1, the provincial small business income threshold is going up from $500,000 to $600,000.

The threshold is the amount of income up to which small businesses pay tax at the much lower two per cent small business tax rate.

Increasing the income threshold to $600,000 provides Saskatchewan small businesses with an incentive to hire more workers and invest new capital right here in our province.  Meanwhile, rates for personal income tax in Saskatchewan continue to be reduced, which also helps create jobs.

These amendments will implement business income tax initiatives announced in the October Throne Speech.  This includes returning Saskatchewan’s general corporate income tax rate to 12 per cent (a half-point increase), effective January 1, 2018—matching the rates of the other western provinces.

Our government’s goal to recruit and retain more doctors in Saskatchewan is working with residents continuing to benefit from better access to physicians.  The addition of more than 750 new doctors represents a 43% increase in overall physician numbers compared to a decade ago, and includes a 53% increase in specialists and a 35% increase in general practitioners.

We have seen this progress through a variety of initiatives, including:

  • a competitive compensation package for physicians
  • doubling post-graduate physician training seats at the College of Medicine to 120;
  • increasing undergraduate medical education seats from 60 to 100;
  • training more family medicine residents in sites outside Regina and Saskatoon; and
  • implementing the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA).

SIPPA in particular has resulted in more than 200 additional doctors providing services in the province with 80 per cent of them practicing in a rural or regional community.

This made-in-Saskatchewan solution ensures foreign-trained family physicians are assessed with sufficient rigour so patients receive safe, high-quality care.  SIPPA assesses physicians before they start practising, resulting in greater continuity of patient care and fewer disruptions to communities.

Another 13 doctors recently completed the program and will begin practicing in communities across Saskatchewan.

More locally-trained physicians staying in the province after graduation has also helped boost the overall physician supply.  Overall, the retention rate of family medicine graduates trained at the University of Saskatchewan has jumped over the past four years – from 58% to 93%.  In addition, the growth of internationally-trained physicians has helped to increase the number of physicians.

Saskatchewan has a strong history of men and women serving in Canada’s Armed Forces and our government wishes to acknowledge and thank them through the Scholarship of Honour.

This token of gratitude and respect gives eligible returning members, as well as the spouse and children of injured or fallen members, a $5,000 scholarship towards their post-secondary studies.

Our government recently acknowledged 22 new recipients.

One of this year’s recipients, Mark Giroux, wrote that the Scholarship of Honour “…has enabled me to learn the skills that will greatly assist me with my transition to the civilian workforce when I am released from the military.

Since 2009, 183 scholarships have been awarded, totalling $915,000.  Nineteen of these recipients are family members of injured or fallen Canadian Armed Forces Members.