(28 October 2010)
Saskatchewan on a New Road
Saskatchewan is on a new road. In this week’s Throne Speech, your Saskatchewan Party government set out the agenda that will move us forward on that new road.
On the new road, our government is taking action to ensure important resources, such as potash, belong to the people of Saskatchewan. In the Throne Speech, we announced our government would consider a resolution calling on the federal government to reject BHP Billiton’s hostile take-over bid of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. This is not a good deal for the people of this province and it is our job to act in your best interest.
On the old road, 52 hospitals were closed. Hundreds of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals left the province. Saskatchewan had the longest surgical waiting lists in Canada. On the new road, ensuring your family has access to timely, quality healthcare is a priority for our government. In the Throne Speech, we announced a plan to expand emergency medical services in cooperation with the helicopter-based Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS). Providing helicopter EMS to the entire province will improve emergency response times. Improved emergency response times saves lives. On the new road, surgical wait times are down and we are working to meet our goal of reducing wait times to no more than three months. We are also committing $5 million to fund clinical trials for the liberation procedure as a potential treatment for Multiple Sclerosis that will provide a measure of hope to thousands of Saskatchewan families. Our government surpassed our campaign promise to hire 800 new nurses. We added 300 new nursing training seats and have taken steps to recruit and retain more physicians in both urban and rural communities. On the new road, Saskatchewan is receiving its first-ever Children’s hospital.
On the old road, the NDP had no plan for education tax, which resulted in some of the highest property tax rates in the country. On the new road, Saskatchewan people are paying less in property taxes. In 2009, our government provided $103 million in relief to property tax owners – the largest education property tax cut in Saskatchewan’s history. In the Throne Speech, we announced that we will implement the final phase of our education tax reduction plan, which means that tax will have dropped by an average of 20 per cent since 2008. This means more money in the pockets of Saskatchewan property owners.
On the old road, the NDP clawed away $600 million in revenue sharing over 16 years, leaving municipalities struggling to complete basic needs, like paving roads and providing people with clean drinking water. When Dwain Lingenfelter left for Alberta, revenue sharing was at $54.9 million, an all-time low. In their 2007 election platform, the NDP made no commitment to a revenue sharing deal with municipalities, not even the guarantee of an increase in funding. On the new road, municipalities finally have a stable source of government funding. In the Throne speech, we announced we will keep our campaign promise to implement revenue sharing to a full percentage of the PST.
On the old road, in Dwain Lingenfelter’s last three years in government, the NDP refused to commit 100 per cent of what they collected in fuel tax on highways. That kind of neglect left a billion dollar pothole in Saskatchewan’s highways. In 2000, when rural residents were forced to fix their own highways, Lingenfelter mused that more farmers should volunteer to fix roads. On the new road, a record $1.7 billion has been committed to highways. Over the past three construction seasons, there have been 1,149 kilometres of major highway upgrades and more than 900 kilometres of maintenance work. We also met and surpassed our commitment to dedicate 100 per cent of fuel tax revenues to highways repair. On the new road, we are funding multi-year projects designed to improve safety, efficiency and drive economic growth.
On the old road, programs and services for agriculture producers were cut and there was no commitment to fully-fund the province’s share of programs such as AgriStability. There was no support for farmers dealing with flooding challenges in 2005 and 2007, and delayed and minimal support in 2006.
On the new road, agricultural producers are receiving more support than ever before. When farmers were swamped by historic flooding this summer, we partnered with the federal government to make $360 million available under the Excess Moisture Program, the largest one-time provincial agricultural disaster response in Saskatchewan history. On the new road, we are committing to fully fund the provincial share of agriculture programs up front. On the new road we are working to improve programs such as Crop Insurance and the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program, and introducing new programs, such as the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program, the Gopher Control Rebate Program, and the Crown Land Sale Program.
On the old road, thousands of people left Saskatchewan, including 11,380 people during Dwain Lingenfelter’s last four years in office. Lingenfelter himself moved to Alberta. We had the worst job creation record in Canada. Millions of tax dollars were lost on bad investments.
On the new road, Saskatchewan’s population is at an all-time high. From January 2008 to January 2010, Saskatchewan experienced its fastest growth in nearly 80 years, an increase of 30,511 people. More people are working in our province than ever before. We have some of the most optimistic business owners in Canada and chartered banks are predicting that Saskatchewan will lead the nation this year in economic growth.
On the new road, Saskatchewan is growing and our people and families are enjoying the benefits of that growth. Our government is working hard to ensure that growth continues. We will take further action to move Saskatchewan forward on the new road.
If you have a question about this Legislative Report or any other matter, just Contact Don.
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