Throne Speech Debate
29 October 2019

From Hansard - 29 October 2019

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In Reply to the Speech from the Throne

Mr. Stewart: — Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It’s a great honour for me to rise from my chair in this beautiful, historic room to reply to the 2019 Speech from the Throne.

Mr. Speaker, it’s been a great honour to come to work in this beautiful place for the last 20 years. So few people can say that they have had that experience at all, let alone for the 20 years that I have, Mr. Speaker. And as you know, some days in this place are better than others, but I wouldn’t trade one of them, or any of the great memories that I will take with me, from living out the honour of being elected to work for the wonderful people of Lumsden-Morse, formerly Thunder Creek, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, my constituency are basically rural people, with the largest centre in the constituency being Lumsden. They are people that work hard, raise great families, and contribute greatly to our province and their communities. They are people that only ask to be given a fair chance to make a living and raise a family and enjoy retirement without having to fight the policies of left-wing governments. I’m proud of my constituents. I’m proud of having been elected by them now five times. And, Mr. Speaker, I never forget who sent me here, and I’ve said it before: having their trust is a great honour indeed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it would be difficult to do this job without the support of a loving family, and in this regard I am truly blessed. My wife, Linda, has always supported me and my work here and in everything I have done in life except the stupid stuff. Together we have raised three wonderful children, Stephanie, Alison, and Lee, who are good people, successful people with wonderful families of their own. How lucky can we be?

Stephanie lives in Ontario and is CEO of a consulting business that she started and has since taken in a partner and a number of employees. Her business continues to grow. Her business began in the aerospace and shipbuilding sectors and has since branched out into several other areas of business including agriculture, much to the great pride of her father. Stephanie and her husband Gabe, who is CEO of his own software company that thrives mostly in the aerospace sector, have two boys — Stewart, aged 13, who is a terrific student, a wonderful teenager who excels at everything he does. Jack, who is seven years old, is a character famous for his insightful and often colourful observations of life.

Alison, our middle child, is vice-president of operations for Innovative Medicines Canada and an accomplished hockey player who capped her hockey career by playing for Team Canada. Her daughter Liberty, age seven, is a chip off the old block with a quick wit, independent spirit, and one who excels in gymnastics and hockey, particularly last weekend scoring two hat tricks in a tournament, I think out of two games, that made her old grandpa smile for sure.

Lee, the youngest and my son, runs the family farm which has been growing steadily under his leadership, and along with his beautiful wife, Jessica, are parents to Josie and Samson. Josie is a beautiful, somewhat shy nine-year-old who is always kind to the people in her life as well as the animals in her life and has a keen interest in horses which she has been riding, feeding, and grooming for the last two or three years now. A truly gentle soul who is a great help in looking after her little brother, three-year-old Sam, who is like a perpetual motion machine who I understand the local teachers aren’t necessarily looking forward to having in school. Sam sure keeps his mom and Sissy, as he calls Josie, busy and sometimes a little exasperated maybe, but he makes me smile. He dresses just like his dad and I see them, I see him follow his dad around the yard helping him work, and its really great to have three generations of Stewarts on that farm.

I also want to mention my constituency assistant, Terry Lynn Carefoot, who runs the office, my office in Moose Jaw, my constituency office, and makes me look better than I am. Terry Lynn is always asking if there are other things that she can do to serve our constituents better and to make my job easier and maybe even to try and help me get organized for a change. And, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I appreciate her as do the many constituents that have better access to government because of her efforts.

One of the things I’ve learned over my 20 years in this place is that politicians are unfairly and unjustly maligned. I can say that I have the greatest respect for my colleagues. Yes, even those on the other side of the floor. Although we may not agree, and sometimes I must admit that I find the more abrasive approaches to issues a bit irritating, there are a lot of good people in the political life, and I am proud to know many of them from the past and present, yourself included, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Throne Speech sets out a road map for the kind of government that we want to provide in the future and, Mr. Speaker, I think we can judge our future actions reasonably well by our past actions. And over the last 12 years, Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan has enjoyed a remarkable period of strong, sustained growth. Our province has not seen growth like that since the 1920s, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Government’s goal is to ensure that Saskatchewan’s strong growth continues.

Today more than 1,170,000 people call Saskatchewan home. We have welcomed newcomers from every province and territory, as well as from 170 different countries around the world. In June of this year the number of people working in Saskatchewan hit an all-time high of nearly 593,000 people. That is an increase of 83,000 new jobs since we became the government in 2007.

Mr. Speaker, members of this Assembly and members of the general public will see a new growth plan rolled out in the not-too-distant future. A couple things we can say about it is, that will be a road map of how Saskatchewan will achieve some of the targets that we will set, and among those targets will be a couple of things in particular. We’ll project to have 1.4 million people living in Saskatchewan by the year 2030 and 100,000 more people working in Saskatchewan by then.

Saskatchewan punches well above our weight class in world trade, Mr. Speaker. We export two-thirds of what we produce to over 150 countries around the world, and at that we are Canada’s largest per capita exporter and by quite a margin, Mr. Speaker. Over 100,000 Saskatchewan jobs depend on exports.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Saskatchewan must meet the challenge of global protectionism head-on and seize every possible opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of purchasing our products to our trading partners around the world. And that’s what our Premier and ministers do. That’s what they accomplish on the trade missions that we undertake, Mr. Speaker.

To ensure the province gets full benefit of our agriculture resources, government will continue measures to increase agricultural value-added exports to $10 billion by 2030.

Mining is a very important part of our economy in this province, Mr. Speaker. And Saskatchewan under our government is considered one of the top places in the world for mining investment, and accordingly, Mr. Speaker, the industry creates a large number of jobs. Incentives like the TMEI, the targeted mineral exploration incentive, is leading to increased activity in the province and, as a result of this incentive, 110 new exploratory drilling operations for base and precious metals are currently being undertaken in the province, Mr. Speaker. And the oil and gas processing investment incentive supports infrastructure upgrades as well as value-added processing. And the petroleum innovative incentive provides transferable royalty/freehold tax credits for qualified projects.

Despite challenges around the globe resulting from low uranium prices, we see new opportunities in this province, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Recently ALX Uranium announced that they are beginning a drilling program at Close Lake in the Athabasca Basin. And NexGen also has announced the beginning of its first drilling program in the region.

We’re proud of our mining, our oil and gas, our manufacturing, our agriculture, but we couldn’t be as proud of it if we didn’t have a good record of reducing emissions. And this government will continue to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the Prairie Resilience climate strategy.

And our government will assist the communities of Coronach and Estevan and areas surrounding there to transition to new economic development opportunities with the creation of a fund of up to $10 million that will be administered by the impacted communities.

Our agriculture industry has sequestered nearly 12 000 000 tonnes of carbon in recent years. And during this session the carbon capture and storage unit at Boundary dam 3 will remove its 3 millionth tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Mr. Deputy Speaker, what other jurisdiction can boast a record like that?

The ground has been broken on a 200-megawatt wind farm near Assiniboia, nearly quadrupling our wind power capacity since 2007. And SaskPower is accepting applications to fulfill 35 megawatts of renewable, carbon-neutral, non-renewable self-generation . . . [inaudible] . . . power generation partner program.

Deep Earth Energy Production Corp., or DEEP, announced the successful drilling of a preliminary well for its geothermal facility. SaskPower and DEEP have signed a power purchase agreement allowing for further research into the potential for Canada’s first, very first, geothermal project.

Our government signed the first agreement in Canadian history between a provincial government and a First Nation to provide provincial support in environmental regulation to an entire reserve at Whitecap Dakota First Nation. The Prairie Resilience plan supports a pilot project using technology to monitor and measure electrical consumption at Cooper Place building in Regina. And since January 2018 the effort has resulted in a 30 per cent savings and a reduction of more than 500 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. And this type of green monitoring has been expanded to 11 additional government buildings, including this building, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and four others commonly referred to as the legislative loop: the Walter Scott Building, the T.C. Douglas Building, the Power House, and Lloyd Place.

Prairie Resilience will accomplish the goal of adapting and thriving in a changing climate resulting in real emission reductions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and ensuring that our industries can stay competitive without harm to our environment. Doesn’t this make more sense than to simply force a tax on emissions, Mr. Deputy Speaker? This is a solution. That’s just a tax grab.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Saskatchewan technology start-up incentive is a most aggressive angel investment tax credit. And it’s creating jobs in Saskatchewan, attracting private investments, and increasing the number of start-up technology companies.

And with the support of Innovation Saskatchewan, Co.Labs technology incubator has helped 72 companies receive programming support and mentorship. This results in more than $6.85 million in private investment for those companies.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I’m running out of time. And I want to point out that the reason that we try to grow the economy and do so successfully is not so that we can brag about the numbers. It’s so that we can do things like this: more hospitals, doctors, and nurses; shorter surgical wait times; more schools, teachers, and funding for education; lower personal income taxes and Saskatchewan people being allowed to keep more of the money that they earn; safer highways; more police officers; more long-term care beds, and tripling seniors’ income plan benefit; more child care spaces; more funding for post-secondary education; doubling of funding in municipalities; and 70,000 Saskatchewan students benefitting from the graduate retention program after graduating and staying in Saskatchewan.

Mr. Speaker, the member from Regina Rosemont had some things to say about our economy.

An Hon. Member: — All negative.

Mr. Stewart: — Yes, all negative. He implied that our economy is in shambles. Of course I know — I was in opposition once — and I know what they try to do, Mr. Speaker. They try to create impressions with people. They don’t back these impressions up with any numbers or any facts. But I have the facts. I’ve got the numbers here, Mr. Speaker, and they’re not our numbers. They’re independent numbers and they’re up-to-date numbers. Here are some numbers on our jobs and economy.

Saskatchewan has seen strong job gains for 14 consecutive months. September 29 saw Saskatchewan having 13,300 more jobs than it had one year earlier. In September of 2019 Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate was 5.3 per cent, fourth lowest in Canada, tied with Ontario, and below the national average of 5.5 per cent. In July 2019 Saskatchewan had the fourth-highest average weekly earnings in the country at $1,035.63 a week. The third-best job creation record in the country since forming government with over 78,000 new jobs. By comparison, the NDP in their 16 years of government had the worst job creation record in the country.

In unemployment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in September 2019 Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate was 5.3 per cent. This is the fourth lowest in the country. And from 2007 to 2019 we’ve had the best job creation record with 78,000 new jobs, Mr. Deputy Speaker. And these are the real numbers. This is not what the opposition do, of trying to create a negative impression. This is trying to set the record straight, and it should, Mr. Speaker. Those are real numbers, and they’re genuine numbers, and they’re not our numbers.

Mr. Speaker, Moody’s Investors Services has affirmed Saskatchewan’s AAA credit rating and has also maintained a stable outlook for the province. Saskatchewan’s credit rating and outlook have now been upheld by all three major credit rating agencies in recent weeks. Dominion Bond Rating Service affirmed its AA rating for Saskatchewan in June, and last week Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings maintained its AA rating for the province.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Speech from the Throne is a road map of where the government intends to go and it’s designed to show people the government’s intentions. Mr. Speaker, I think the government intends to continue to do what it has done and that’s to provide good, secure jobs for Saskatchewan people, to tax us as little as possible and still manage to maintain a high level of services, and accordingly, Mr. Speaker, this Speech from the Throne sets out that map. And I will be supporting the motion of our government, and I will be not supporting the ill-conceived amendment from the opposition. Thank you very much.

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