Report from the Legislature – December 09, 2021

A successful Fall Sitting of the Legislature has concluded; significant progress was made on the goals outlined in the Speech from the Throne. As we plan for the future, we look to make Saskatchewan stronger, safer, healthier, better educated, and more independent.

A stronger Saskatchewan will be built on a strong economy. Already, Saskatchewan is forecast to lead the country in economic growth in 2022, and our labour force has recovered to 99 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is the third-lowest in the country, and we are forecasted to see a total of nearly 16,000 new jobs by the end of the fiscal year.

This year saw nearly $10 billion in capital investments supporting major projects throughout Saskatchewan. To ensure our workforce is skilled and ready for employment, we continue to invest in skills training programs like the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission. A new pilot program under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program was launched to address hard-to-fill positions.

Our government is addressing the need for affordable child care to support working families. A partnership with the federal government will see more than 600 new regulated child care centre spaces allocated in 20 communities across the province. This is the first step toward delivering on our commitment to increasing the number of regulated child care spaces by 6,000 in 2021-2022 and by 28,000 over the next five years.

This session, we took significant actions to address the crime rates in rural communities. We brought forth initiatives to make real changes to address policing and public safety gaps in our rural communities. These include a new Provincial Protective Service unit, strengthening law enforcement’s ability to deal with outstanding warrants, transporting illegal firearms, human trafficking, and the seizure of criminal property. We want criminals to know if they commit a crime, they will be caught.

In a significant moment in Saskatchewan history, members from both parties unanimously adopted a motion to amend the Saskatchewan Act and the Constitution of Canada. Section 24 is a relic from a time when our province was not treated as an equal partner in Confederation. It is unfair that decisions were made in 1880 that provided CP Rail with substantial tax exemptions in Saskatchewan. Removing the section will level the playing field for all businesses while supporting Saskatchewan’s autonomy.

As we move into the New Year, our government’s commitment to build a healthier Saskatchewan means taking action to address the surgical backlog COVID-19 caused. We will also have short-term and longer-term targets to expand intensive care capacity. 

Our goal is to achieve a three-month surgical wait time by 2030; our initiative will see an additional 7,000 surgeries in 2022-23 over pre-pandemic levels. There will be an emphasis on surgical procedures with higher numbers of long-waiting patients, including hip and knee replacements, ear/nose/throat, dental and general surgeries.   

We will expand permanent ICU beds from 79 to 90 by June 2022. This is the first step to achieving 110 ICU beds in the province, better preparing for surges in ICU demand, and ensuring access to services. The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health are developing a long-term plan to achieve these targets while ensuring the right mix of critical care services across the province.

The new decade did not start in a way that anyone was expecting. The past twenty months have been stressful for everyone. But, Saskatchewan’s greatest strength is its people, and now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to listen to one another. Our brightest days are ahead of us, and we can have confidence that the 2020s will be Saskatchewan’s decade.