From the office of Bob Bjornerud
Saskatchewan’s Population Continues to Grow
Saskatchewan continues to be one of the fastest growing provinces in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, as of April 1, 2015, there were 1,134,402 people living in Saskatchewan, an increase of 1,762 in the past quarter and an increase of 14,273 in the past year.
Saskatchewan had the second highest growth rate among the provinces in the past year and third highest in the past quarter. Our province has now had population growth every quarter for the past 9 years – the longest period of continuous growth since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Building Schools for Saskatchewan Students
Our growing population means more than 11,000 students will be attending new state-of-the-art elementary schools in Saskatoon, Martensville, Warman and Regina. Each of these nine new, joint-use schools will include 90 new child care spaces, community space and more.
Building schools in fast-growing communities is a priority for our government and, using a P3 model, we will complete this work on-time and on-budget.Construction on the publicly-owned and operated schools is expected to begin this summer and will be ready for students in 2017.
Our government is also pleased to support a major renovation and expansion in Gravelbourg that will combine early-learning, elementary and secondary education under one roof. Since 2007, we have committed approximately $948 million toward 65 major school capital projects and numerous smaller projects including preventative maintenance and renewal.
Students Saving with Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarships
Students who are graduating from Grade 12 this year are now eligible for the $500 Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship. This $500 per year scholarship (to a lifetime maximum of $2,000) is applied to tuition costs at a Saskatchewan post-secondary institution.
Since its inception, more than 17,000 Saskatchewan students have been awarded scholarships worth nearly $14 million. In 2015-16, the provincial government is committing $9 million toward the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship, an increase of $2.3 million from last year.
Since 2007, our government has provided $670 million in direct support to students through scholarships, bursaries and grants through the student loan program, the Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings and the Graduate Retention Program.
More People Working in Saskatchewan Than Ever Before
Saskatchewan’s economy is diversified with a broad base of goods and services which has set us apart from other provinces. Our economic outlook is positive – jobs are up, population is up, and other indicators like exports and wholesale trade are making steady gains.
New job numbers released by Statistics Canada show that there were 582,700 people working in the province in May 2015, an increase of 4,800 over the previous year. At 4.9 per cent, our province also maintained Canada’s lowest unemployment rate for the 20th consecutive month.
Saskatchewan Reports on Patient First Review Progress
Saskatchewan has made significant progress addressing patient feedback from its ground-breaking Patient First Review. This includes dramatically reduced surgical wait times and primary health care innovations that are revitalizing health services in rural communities. The focus is now on reducing emergency department waits, improving care for seniors and improving services for people struggling with mental health and addictions.
A Patient First Review Update report outlines options under consideration to improve patients’ access to health care, such as recent legislation to pave the way for patients to choose to directly pay a private facility for an MRI scan in Saskatchewan. Other approaches under consideration include a credit system for people who want more choices outside of the province for select services not available in Saskatchewan, and activity-based funding for health facilities.
Our government is firmly committed to a health system that puts patients first, and we’ll continue to ask for input and learn from their experiences. Much more work is ahead, but a solid foundation is in place to achieve exceptional patient and family-centred care.