Report from the Legislature – January 06, 2022

A bold, confident Saskatchewan that can also offer hope and opportunity will allow us all to meet the challenges before us. The last two years have certainly presented new challenges, and we have answered them with perseverance, courage, faith and compassion.

Lending a helping hand to those who need it is a Saskatchewan trait, and our government is pleased to see new services coming. Our investment of $6 million in annual funding has provided for 77 new mental health treatment beds in four communities, two more beds than first announced. So far, 67 beds are now serving residents in Saskatoon, Regina and North Battleford, with ten additional spaces opening in Prince Albert this March.

Residential mental health beds offer client-centred services for people who have severe and persistent mental health needs. These beds help people live more successfully in the community while reducing the pressures on emergency rooms, police cells and homeless shelters. The initiative allows for a better focus on recovery by providing a supportive living environment and understanding the challenges clients face each day.

The 77 beds move us towards our promise of adding another 150 treatment spaces over the next three years. We will continue to partner with charitable organizations and third-party providers to achieve that goal. Those relationships will support individuals as they focus on recovery goals, maintain optimal living conditions and work through stability barriers.

As we work towards better access to health care for northern Saskatchewan, our government has released a Request for Qualifications for the redevelopment of Prince Albert Victoria Hospital. When complete, the project will provide a larger emergency department, enhanced medical imaging services, and a 40 per cent increase in hospital beds, growing from 173 to 242. The province is paying 100 per cent of the capital costs with the Victoria Hospital Foundation fundraising for furniture and equipment.

Following an extremely difficult year of drought, the Water Security Agency (WSA) is helping producers prepare for the future. Free online workshops are being offered through April of this year, focused on innovative techniques to best manage water on their land. Managing water effectively has made significant contributions to our province and can be an important economic tool for farmers and ranchers. Facing increased challenges due to climate change, the WSA wants to assist in planning for agriculture drainage projects that are adapted and resilient to weather extremes, such as floods or drought, while increasing productivity.

We are also investing in water development across the province. We have tripled funding through the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure program to improve and build dugouts, wells and pipelines. This year, a $2.5 million commitment will build on existing irrigation development to increase the number of irrigable acres.

The Lake Diefenbaker project is a major initiative that will transform agriculture in the province. When complete, the project will increase irrigation opportunities, help diversify crop production, attract value-added processing and improve water security for communities in the area. It has the potential to boost Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product by as much as $80 billion over the next 50 years.

Water planning aside, there was some good news in the 2021 Conditions at Freeze-Up Report. Weather modelling data for December through March indicates parts of Central and Northern Saskatchewan could see wetter than normal conditions. The modelling is also predicting near-normal precipitation for the rest of Saskatchewan. While constantly changing, this data indicates some relief could be on the way following drier conditions last year.

Our government is committed to making sure Saskatchewan is ready for the future. We see a Saskatchewan that has thriving vibrant communities, more people, more jobs and more opportunities. To accomplish these goals and more, we will work towards better access to health care, a stronger economy, safer communities, better education, and a more independent province that will lead the nation for years to come.