From the office of Bob Bjornerud
New Growth Incentives Working for Saskatchewan
The 2015-16 provincial budget is designed to keep Saskatchewan strong. Included in this year’s budget are incentives for new job creation in export manufacturing and processing as well as a rebate for primary steel production that encourages new capital investment. Evraz has responded with the company’s largest single investment ever – a $200 million expansion in Regina that will, over the next two years, create around 40 permanent positions and approximately 1100 construction jobs.
Saskatchewan Surpasses Alberta in Non-U.S. Exports
Saskatchewan continues to punch above its weight in exports, providing the world with what it needs, creating jobs and opportunities which help keep taxes low and our province growing. According to Industry Canada, between 2007 and 2014, major increases in exports from Saskatchewan were reported in a number of countries including China, India, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and Italy.
Merchandise exports to countries other than the U.S. totalled $12.6 billion in 2014, surpassing the $11.9 billion posted by Alberta and setting an all-time record for the province. Our total exports were a record $35.1 billion last year – the highest on record and third consecutive year Saskatchewan has set a new record.This significant achievement demonstrates the diversity and strength of our economy.
Saskatchewan Wage Growth Rate is Canada’s Best
Saskatchewan’s strong economy is allowing employers to increase wages for Saskatchewan people. Compared to other jurisdictions in Canada, our province continues to do very well. In January 2015, average weekly earnings were $987.51 (seasonally adjusted), the third highest among the provinces behind Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Nationally, the average was $947.68.
Saskatchewan has some of the highest wages in the nation which helps us attract the skilled and professional workers our employers need to fill job vacancies. Our strong and diversified economy will continue to provide benefits for all Saskatchewan people.
Procurement Action Plan Increases Fairness and Consistency
Our government is committed to ensuring Saskatchewan businesses are treated fairly, respectfully, and consistently. To that end, we are taking immediate action to ensure there is a level playing field for local businesses and to ensure contracting is strategic so taxpayers get the best possible value.
From simplifying documentation and language, to awarding contracts on best value, our new Procurement Transformation Action Plan is based on input from over 140 Saskatchewan businesses, associations, municipalities, colleges and universities, and other government partners.
Priority Saskatchewan will lead the implementation of the action plan and will continue to consult with Saskatchewan businesses and our broader government partners.
$200 Million in Highway Construction Projects Ready for Tender
The provincial government will continue implementing this year’s record Highways and Infrastructure budget with the release of the spring tender plan.This year’s spring tender plan includes 54 projects valued at $200 million.Combined with the fall tender plan released in September, there are more than 130 projects in progress with a value exceeding $400 million.This tender plan contains a number of projects that will keep our province growing, improve safety and renew our existing transportation infrastructure. Projects include new infrastructure, repaving, as well as bridge and culvert work. Highlights include:
- New overpasses at Warman and Martensville;
- 12 km of repaving on Highway 11 between Girvin and Davidson
- Twinning Highway 39 between Estevan and Bienfait; and
- Final paving of the section of Highway 22 over Pearl Creek that was washed out during last year’s flooding.
This year’s Highways and Infrastructure budget is $842 million, the largest transportation budget in the province’s history. This includes $560 million for several bypass, twinning, passing lane and overpass projects across the province. With the 2015-16 Saskatchewan Budget, our government has exceeded its 2011 commitment to invest $2.2 billion over four years by about half a billion dollars.
Social Impact Bond Making Meaningful Difference for Families
Based on the success of Sweet Dreams, our government will be exploring options for further Social Impact Bond (SIB) partnerships. SIBsare funding arrangements between governments, private investors, and service providers in which government sets a specific social outcome, acquires the money from private investors to achieve that outcome and commits to pay the investors a pre-arranged sum if – and only if – the service provider achieves the desired outcome within a set period of time.
Under the Sweet Dreams SIB agreement, EGADZ will receive $1 million from private investors to provide a supported living home for at-risk single mothers and their children. Participating mothers will live at the Sweet Dreams home with their children and will receive support to complete their education or secure employment, or for pre-employment activities such as life skills and parenting classes. The ultimate goal of this program is to transition the mothers and their children back into the community and to keep the family unit together during and after the program.Since Sweet Dreams opened in June of 2014, the project has housed 14 mothers and 20 children. Some of the positive results to date include:
- All 14 mothers have enrolled in education to complete Grade 12 or secondary education
- Three have completed the Early Childhood Development Diploma program, with two participants having secured employment in day cares and one as an Educational Assistant on reserve
- Four have successfully continued on to independent living
- Two have been reconnected and transitioned to healthy family; and
- Six mothers and six children currently reside at Sweet Dreams.
The Sweet Dreams project is expected to result in savings to the Government of Saskatchewan of between $540,000 and $1.5 million over five years. These savings are based on the cost of children in care of the minister of Social Services. This figure does not include any other potential savings related to health, criminal justice and any future social assistance.