From the office of Bob Bjornerud
Wildfires Highlight Saskatchewan’s Strength
Saskatchewan’s greatest strength is Saskatchewan people – people who work hard and help others in need. At a time of unprecedented wildfire activity in northern Saskatchewan, it is these people who have answered the call and made a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
When the threat of wildfires forced thousands from their homes, municipal leaders, volunteers, firefighters and members of the military started working day and night to provide for people, care for their pets and work to protect homes, businesses, vital infrastructure and communities.
This is a difficult time for evacuees and that’s why we’re doing what we can to provide them with as much comfort and peace of mind as possible. One of the ways we’re doing that is by giving evacuees and affected businesses some relief on their utility and insurance bills.
Thank you to the Red Cross, our municipal leaders, and the many volunteers, businesses and organizations who are helping out across Saskatchewan. And thank you to evacuees for their patience through it all. The scale of the effort to make people feel as comfortable as possible is truly remarkable and, from many peoples strength, we will carry on.
Additional Free Fishing Weekend Later This Summer
Due to the wildfire conditions in northern areas of Saskatchewan, an additional free fishing opportunity will be considered later this summer. A date will be confirmed when the wildfire conditions no longer pose a significant threat and individuals have returned to their homes.
Until further notice, anglers and others are asked to avoid all wildfire-affected lakes and communities in northern Saskatchewan and to respect fire bans in northern provincial forests and parks. For more about the wildfire situation, please visit saskatchewan.ca/fire.
Boosting Benefits for Saskatchewan Seniors
Starting July 1, 2015, seniors across the province who qualify for the Seniors Income Plan (SIP), Personal Care Home Benefit (PCHB), or both, will notice a boost to the monthly benefits they receive. With this latest increase, our government is fulfilling its four-year commitment to increase supports and improve the quality of life Saskatchewan seniors in need.
Qualifying seniors will see the maximum monthly benefit under the Seniors Income Plan boosted by $10 per month – to $270 for single seniors and $235 for each member of a senior couple. Seniors who qualify for the maximum benefit will now receive $2,160 more this year than they did in 2007. They may also qualify for additional health benefits, including:
• one free eye examination every 12 months;
• chiropractic services (to a maximum of 12 services per year);
• a reduced Prescription Drug Plan semi-annual deductible;
• a home care subsidy; and
• the free loan of lower-cost devices available through the Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living Program.
800 seniors will also benefit from this year’s increase to the Personal Care Home Benefit, which assists seniors who have limited income with the costs of living in a personal care home. This latest boost means the monthly income threshold will move to $2,000, which represents a $50 increase per month. The province has allocated $173,000 toward this increase. The PCHB currently makes up the difference between seniors’ income and the monthly income threshold.
Saskatchewan People Set Another, All-Time High Employment Record
According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan’s job market is strong. The June unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent (seasonally adjusted), down from 4.9 per cent in May (seasonally adjusted), and once again the lowest among all provinces.
June marked an all-time high for employment as well as the 21st consecutive month that Saskatchewan had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. Nationally, unemployment was 6.8 per cent in June. Maintaining the lowest unemployment rate is thanks to the hard work of Saskatchewan people and our strong, diversified economy that continues to create jobs.
One of the initiatives that helps maintain the lowest rate is our government’s investment in training for in-demand jobs. This helps employers fill their labour needs and helps Saskatchewan people get good jobs that they can turn into rewarding careers.
Construction Continues, Consider the Costs of Speeding
A major paving project has officially wrapped up on Highway 9 in the Melville area, providing drivers with a smoother, wider driving surface.In addition, the final set of passing lanes on Highway 7 between Delisle and Rosetown are now officially complete. A total of four sets of passing lanes were built, addressing increasing traffic volumes in the area.There are also many new projects this week including some culvert installations and one bridge replacement.
A record $842 million highways budget coupled with a short construction season means an abundance of work is taking place on our roads and highways this summer. For that reason, SGI, the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure and provincial law enforcement are partnering to make work zones the focus of July’s traffic safety spotlight. Base fines for speeding in highway work zones are triple that of a regular speeding ticket when workers are present.