Saskatchewan people have displayed resilience in response to the many challenges brought on by COVID-19.
Our response to the pandemic has placed us in a position of strength as we look to a strong economic recovery. In August, Saskatchewan added 4,700 more jobs and our province had the country’s lowest rate of unemployment.
Despite the fiscal pressures associated with COVID-19, Moody’s Investors Service has confirmed Saskatchewan’s Aaa credit rating. Moody’s also confirmed that our province will continue to have the second-lowest debt burden among all Canadian provinces. This is an indicator that we are on the right track for a strong recovery as we balance today’s needs with prudent fiscal management for tomorrow.
Advancing Provincial Priorities
Premier Moe has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlining our province’s priorities ahead of the federal government’s Throne Speech. These include advancing new technology, funding infrastructure, fixing broken transfers like equalization and, of course, pausing the Trudeau Carbon Tax until the Supreme Court is able to review its constitutionality.
As you know, Saskatchewan has led the fight against the carbon tax because it isn’t an environmental plan, it’s a tax plan. While the Opposition NDP supports the Trudeau Carbon Tax, your Saskatchewan Party government is focused on other tools and policies to reduce emissions without penalizing families and businesses.
Recently, our government also announced its recommendation for more than 120 infrastructure projects for final approval under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. This would represent more than $192 million in provincial funding. To apply for this program, projects must be shovel-ready – and they are. However, the federal government is dragging its feet and construction season is coming to an end. The sooner these projects are approved and put forward, the quicker our families, communities and businesses can benefit.
Rebuilding Education Infrastructure
One of the key components of Saskatchewan’s two-year $7.5 billion capital plan is significant investment in schools. Recently, communities across the province have been celebrating the planning, design and opening of new schools that will serve our students and staff for decades to come.
Since 2007, our government has committed approximately $1.9 billion toward school infrastructure projects including 57 new or replacement schools as well as 28 major renovations.
Increased Funding for Safe Schools
Our government has also invested $51 million into our classrooms for emergent, one-time expenses to ensure a safe return to school for both students and staff. The funding has been approved for sanitization measures, equipment, furniture, and support for immunocompromised students and staff. As a result of this funding a total of 443 custodial support, teachers and staff are expected to be hired. This is an addition to more than 200 staff projected to be hired as a result of the increased funding in the 2020-21 Budget.
There is also funding available for additional distance learning capacity and technology upgrades. We are continuing to work closely with our school divisions to allow for flexibility in local needs during this unprecedented school year.
We thank school divisions along with staff and students for their efforts in bringing our kids safely back to the classroom. We will continue to adapt as needed based on the advice of our Chief Medical Health Officer.
A Plan for a Strong Recovery
If we were to go back in time just a year ago, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that we would find ourselves in the midst of a global health pandemic. Fortunately, as we always do during trying times, the people of Saskatchewan have risen to the challenge. It is a core characteristic of our identity. When a friend, neighbour, family member or even a stranger is down, our communities rally together to help.
Our government has a plan for a strong recovery and a strong Saskatchewan – and it is working. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about government programs or services, please contact my constituency office.
If you have a question about this Legislative Report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.
To view this section on video, click here and start play at 1:55:25 PM.
Member Statement from Larry Doke (MLA for Cut Knife-Turtleford)
Mr. Doke: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Each year, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, more commonly known as PNWER, recognizes a person who has gone above and beyond to build trust and co-operation across the US [United States]-Canada border. In honour of PNWER’s founder, this recognition comes in the form of the Alan Bluechel Memorial Award. Mr. Speaker, at this year’s PNWER’s Summit in Saskatoon, the Premier and myself presented the award to our very own, the member from Lumsden-Morse.
I’d like to read a quote from the PNWER Daily News at the Summit, and it reads as follows:
Lyle Stewart was honoured with this award for his exceptional service to both Canada and the United States during his service as Saskatchewan’s first president of PNWER as well as his two years as vice-president.
Mr. Speaker, during the member’s time as president, he advocated and facilitated trade, investment, and co-operation between the economies of northwestern North America. In addition to energy and mining, the member ensured that agriculture was at the forefront of PNWER’s agenda by addressing red tape, promoting agricultural exports, and fighting for issues like electronic certification for livestock. He also addressed top environmental concerns like invasive aquatic species such as quagga and zebra mussels.
As past president of PNWER, I am incredibly honoured to be following in the footsteps of such a great leader. Mr. Speaker, I now ask that all members of this Assembly join me in congratulating the member from Lumsden-Morse on this incredible achievement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.