Report from the Legislature – January 6

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Keeping Saskatchewan Strong in 2016

As Saskatchewan people settle in to the new year, we have good reason to be optimistic.  While we face some challenges due to the drop in the global price of oil, a resilient, strong and diversified economy is helping us to meet those challenges and continue to keep Saskatchewan strong in 2016 and beyond.

Our population has now grown by 146,000 people over the past decade.  These people have worked hard to turn the worst job creation record in Canada into the best.  Our government has worked to set the right kind of environment and business climate to encourage this growth.  This is one reason for optimism.

Population and job growth during a downturn in the energy sector is a big change from a few years ago when a downturn in one part of the economy would lead to job losses in every part of the economy.  Today, 85 per cent of Saskatchewan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated outside of the oil and gas sector.

Indexation Will Save Saskatchewan Taxpayers $8.1 Million This Year

In 2016, all Saskatchewan income tax brackets and tax credit amounts will go up 1.3 per cent, matching the national rate of inflation.  This annual measure helps Saskatchewan people keep more money in their pockets throughout the year.  Indexation is part of an array of measures aimed at keeping taxes low.

Individual taxpayers now pay no Saskatchewan income tax on their first $19,220 of income while a family of four pays no Saskatchewan income tax on their first $49,800 of income.  A family of four with $50,000 annual income, and deducting $3,000 in child care expenses, has now seen their provincial income tax cut from about $2,300 in 2008 to zero in 2016.

When income tax savings are combined with new tax reduction programs that have been introduced since 2008, a single person with $25,000 annual income will benefit from $913 in lower provincial tax in 2016 than in 2008.  A family of four with $50,000 combined income will see tax savings of $2,977; and a family of four with $75,000 combined income will see tax savings of $2,709, when comparing 2016 to 2008.

New Essential Services Legislation Now in Effect

Amendments to essential service legislation (Part VII of The Saskatchewan Employment Act) are now in effect.  The amendments ensure alternative methods are available to settle workplace disputes.  They foster on-going, productive and effective relationships between workers and employers while protecting the public.

The new legislation addresses all concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in its January 30, 2015 decision.  The ruling recognized essential services must be maintained while respecting workers’ rights to take job action.  The amendments came from stakeholders working collaboratively with government.

Together, we created legislation that is fair and balanced and does not diminish existing rights and privileges of the working people of Saskatchewan.  For more information on the changes, visit http://www.saskatchewan.ca.

New Laws for Farmland Ownership

Amendments to The Saskatchewan Farm Security Act, clarifying who can and cannot own farmland in Saskatchewan, took effect earlier this week.

The legislation reflects the views of Saskatchewan residents, provides clarity around farmland ownership and gives the Farm Land Security Board the tools it needs to enforce the rules.

The amendments include:

•    Making pension plans, administrators of pension fund assets and larger trusts ineligible to buy farmland;
•    Defining “having an interest in farmland” to include any type of interest or benefit (i.e. capital appreciation), either directly or indirectly, that is normally associated with ownership of the land; and
•    When financing a purchase of farmland, all financing must be through a financial institution registered to do business in Canada, or a Canadian citizen.
•    Non-Canadian citizens can still own up to 10 acres of farmland, and exemptions can still be granted for economic development initiatives.  These rules were in place previously and will not change.

In addition, the Farm Land Security Board (FLSB) will receive new and expanded authority to enforce the legislation.

The amendments put into law the regulations announced this past April.

Premier Proclaims Year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians

The provincial government is recognizing the many and varied contributions of citizens of Ukrainian descent by designating 2016 as the Year of Saskatchewan Ukrainians.  The proclamation acknowledges the 125th anniversary of the first wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada and Saskatchewan.

Settlers from Ukraine helped build our province and Ukrainian culture and traditions are deeply embedded. Ukraine is currently the fourth top source of immigration to the province and, according to the last census, more than 13 per cent of Saskatchewan residents trace all or part of their ancestry to Ukraine.

Events commemorating the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration will be announced across the country in the coming weeks.  Regina will play host to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s 25th Triennial Congress of Ukrainian Canadians September 29 to October 2, 2016.

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