Legislative Report (11 March 2009)

New and Enhanced Programs For Rural Saskatchewan

Rural residents make an invaluable contribution to our rural economy and the entire province. Our government recognizes that and is improving programs for rural residents which will improve their quality of life. At the recent Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities Convention (SARM) Premier Brad Wall announced additional support for rural communities. They include:

  • Initiatives which will help rural residents reduce the risk of power line contacts and improve productivity on farms and ranches. Saskatchewan’s aging electrical system, with lines dating back to the 1950s, needs upgrades, including moving existing overhead lines in fields to road allowances.
  • A reinstatement of SaskPower’s Farmyard Line Relocation Program, cancelled by the NDP in 2004. The program will pay 75 per cent of the cost to place overhead lines underground, to a maximum of $2,000.
  • Continuing to rebate farmers, ranchers, RMs and First Nations for 50 per cent of the costs of controlling gophers for 2009. We will contribute nearly $3 million for the rebate as part of a $4 million comprehensive Pest Control program.
  • A $350,000 Saskatchewan Livestock Predation program will be included as part of the Pest Control Program, which hires hunters and trappers to control coyotes and wild boars, will also be included as part of the Pest Control Program. This is a $50,000 increase over 2008-09.
  • $600,000 for a fieldworker program as part of the Pest Control program to provide support for control of pests and diseases. This is a $60,000 increase over last year.
  • An expansion of the Municipal Roads Programs. Our government will significantly enhance the existing $20 million shared by the Municipal Bridges, Haul, Roads to Resources and Clearing the Path programs in the upcoming budget. We will rely on SARM to make key decisions on how it is distributed; and
  • In the March 18, 2009 balanced budget we will keep another campaign promise to achieve a fairer balance for education funding and reduce the education portion of property tax.
These programs will help rural residents in their daily lives, making Saskatchewan a better place to live for everyone. These changes address 16 years of rural Saskatchewan being neglected. Under the NDP hospitals closed, Crop Insurance premiums went up, roads were allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and drought conditions in southwestern Saskatchewan were ignored.

RAISING SASKATCHEWAN CONCERNS OVER COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELLING

In an unanticipated meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Washington, Premier Brad Wall raised Saskatchewan concerns over country of origin labeling. A final rule for country of origin labeling is expected to come into place in the U.S. on March 16, but Vilsack has sent a letter to American meat-packers which invites them to follow additional voluntary labeling practices. That may lead to American meat-packers refusing or limiting animals from Canada because of the costly segregation that would be required. The final rule, on the other hand, is a more positive step for Saskatchewan producers, because it improves on interim rules that had been in place. Vilsack re-assured Premier Wall that the letter won’t have that much of an impact. Our government will continue to work with both Washington and Ottawa to ensure our producer’s voices are being heard.

GLOBAL TRANSPORTATION HUB UNVEILED

Our government is providing $22 million in infrastructure upgrades that will allow the construction of the Global Transportation Hub (GTH). The Hub, once complete, will provide bring millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Saskatchewan. The $22 million investment will fund upgrades to Dewdney Avenue and Pinkie Road west of Regina. This work is the first stage of a long-term plan to build a west bypass from Highway 11 to Highway 1, west of Lewvan Drive. The bypass provides the long-term transportation capacity needed for the estimated 1,400 heavy trucks per week that will move goods to and from the GTH. Selecting the route involved a comprehensive consultation process, involving stakeholders, area municipalities and dozens of area landowners. This route was chosen from five possible routes, and was selected because it affected the fewest number of landowners. The GTH development has significant potential. By moving ahead with these roadway improvements we have shown our commitment to the continued strong growth in the province.

PROTECTING CONSUMERS

During these uncertain economic times, our government is working hard to protect Saskatchewan consumers from financial loss. We have launched a new awareness campaign called “The Money Game – Play it for Keeps” to inform consumers about cons, scams and credit troubles. The campaign will include radio, billboard, bus board, and brochure advertising throughout the province; a toll free number (1-877-880-5550) and a website.

Late last year, our government also introduced amendments to legislation to protect consumers who purchase gift cards. These protections prohibit expiry dates on gift cards, prohibit the charging of inactivity fees, and require disclosure of any limitations, conditions or restrictions related to gift cards. Effective November 10, 2008, all prepaid purchase cards, including gift cards, bought or sold in Saskatchewan will no longer have expiry dates.

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Past Legislative Reports