From the office of Bob Bjornerud
Fall Legislative Session Focused on Keeping Saskatchewan Strong
In a global market that is more complex and connected than any in history, the foundation of our economy is more important than ever. Fortunately, Saskatchewan has created one of the most diversified economies in Canada – able to take a punch on the commodity market and keep moving forward. This is a big change from a decade ago when a slowdown would drive people, jobs and investment out of the province.
The fall legislative session focused on keeping Saskatchewan strong and moving forward. The government is doing its part to keep the economy strong by continuing to invest in needed infrastructure. Since the session began, we have opened the new Dr. F. H. Wigmore Regional Hospital in Moose Jaw, new health facilities in Saskatoon, Biggar, Maple Creek, Kerrobert and Canora and a long-term care expansion in Tisdale.
We opened the new school in Hudson Bay, major additions at Holy Cross and George Vanier schools in Saskatoon, the expansion of the Queen Elizabeth Power Station in Saskatoon, a new Headstart on a Home housing project in Prince Albert, a new group home for persons with intellectual disabilities in Regina, the new Parkland Trades and Technologies Centre in Yorkton, and a number of completed highways projects including the Estevan Bypass.
At the same time, planning is continuing on the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert and work is underway on the new Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, the new Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford, the Regina Bypass, 18 new schools and a number of other important projects all over Saskatchewan.
During the session, our government passed a number of pieces of legislation, including:
• A new essential services law to protect Saskatchewan people in the event of a public sector strike;
• A new farmland ownership law to clearly define who can purchase farmland in Saskatchewan and prevent pension plans from buying farmland;
• A new conflict of interest law for municipalities;
• A new procurement law to ensure Saskatchewan taxpayers receive the best value for money when government contracts are awarded; and
• New legislation to give patients the option to pay for a private Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan in Saskatchewan.
During the fall sitting, our government also announced its intention to create 52 more private liquor stores in Saskatchewan while updating the liquor permitting and price system to put all retailers on a level playing field.
New Emergency Department Waits Target Announced
The issues that affect emergency department waits are complex but our government has affirmed its commitment to significantly reduce wait times in hospital emergency departments, establishing a new target of a 60 per cent reduction in wait times by 2019.
Teams have been working together to identify the root causes of hospital overcrowding and develop and implement plans to improve access to care in pre-hospital primary care settings, services in hospital and services in the community after a patient leaves hospital.
The 2015-16 provincial budget provided $4.7 million to support the effort to reduce emergency department waits. Ongoing initiatives to lower emergency department waits include Connecting to Care (hotspotting), Police and Crisis Team (PACT) in Regina and Saskatoon, and Seniors House Calls.
This effort will involve co-ordination across the health system but I am confident we will be able to achieve this new, ambitious target.
Reminder to Apply for the 2015 Community Rink Affordability Grant
Communities, schools, non-profits and First Nations are reminded to apply for the Community Rink Affordability Grant by December 15, 2015. Successful applicants receive an annual grant of $2,500 per indoor ice surface. The grant may be used to offset the cost of rink operations and minor capital upgrades. Over the past three years, the program has granted $4.8 million.
The Community Rink Affordability Grant has financial impact beyond the $2,500 payment per ice surface. Many of the communities across the province use the funding to offset operational costs and are able to provide free or reduced cost programming to the community’s citizens as a result. Other rinks have used the funding toward energy-efficient investments which create utility savings into the future.
You can learn more at http://www.spra.sk.ca/crag