Premier Brad Wall said the provincial government will focus on keeping Saskatchewan strong during the 2014-15 legislative session which opened yesterday with the speech from the throne.
“Saskatchewan is strong,” Wall said in a news release. “In just the past few months, Saskatchewan hit an all-time high for population and job creation and an all-time low for unemployment. This is very good news, especially with the amount of uncertainty today in the global economy.
“While there are certainly some challenges ahead with the falling oil prices, this session will focus on keeping Saskatchewan strong.”
Wall said the provincial government will carefully manage the province’s finances while continuing to make important investments.
“We know there is more work to be done, which is why we continue to fix highways, build new schools and hospitals and invest in programs that make life more affordable for all Saskatchewan people,” Wall said. “For instance, we are continuing to increase the Seniors Income Plan benefit, which will have tripled by the end of this term. We have introduced other programs to make life more affordable for students, for families and for people with disabilities and we have cut taxes to make life more affordable for everyone in Saskatchewan.”
Specific measures in outlined in the throne speech include an options paper and public consultation process on private liquor retailing in Saskatchewan; a new growth tax incentive for manufacturers who create new jobs, including new head office jobs in the province and continued promotion of Saskatchewan to international markets with reduction of interprovincial trade barrier. It also promised increases in the number of adult basic education seats and apprenticeship training seats.
The throne speech also called for the reintroduction of the Saskatchewan Infrastructure Growth Initiative to assist municipal infrastructure development and expansion of the program to First Nations, legislation to better protect patients’ privacy and medical records, and legislation to help reduce wait times for organ transplants. They also plan to increase the scope of services that can be provided by pharmacists.
“Though a discussion on the potential of direct pay MRIs in Saskatchewan is not in the throne speech, I would expect there to be some further debate in the legislature on that issue,” Wall said. “We should remain open to discussing, examining and innovating in our health care system in a drive to improve patient outcomes.
The NDP said the throne speech missed the mark when it comes to helping families in the province. In a news release, the Opposition said the speech failed to address crowded hospitals, the rising cost of living and the lack of one-on-one attention for many children in classrooms throughout the province.
“The government’s agenda for the next year is quite disappointing for families,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “Saskatchewan people keep asking me how it is that this government keeps struggling to deliver adequate health care, seniors care and education and why it keeps forcing families to pay extra.
“That’s why I wanted to see a commitment to improve the backlogged, filthy and short-staffed hospitals. I wanted to see action on the cost of living. I wanted to see a plan to fix the seniors care crisis. Families deserve to benefit so much more from what’s going on in Saskatchewan, and for them, this throne speech offers very little.”