Sask. Party touts successes as fall legislative session ends, but NDP says more needs to be done to help struggling residents
With the conclusion of the fall legislature session on Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government announced progress made on its Speech to the Throne priorities, but NDP Chair Carla Beck says more needs to be done.
The sack. The party’s key initiatives this fall included the provision of affordability easements, investments in health care recruitment and retention, new initiatives to make communities safer, and the introduction of the Saskatchewan First Act.
The government used higher-than-anticipated natural resource revenues to fund a range of policies designed to address affordability challenges. These plans include providing a check for an affordable $500 tax credit to everyone ages 18 and older, paying off $1 billion in business debt, extending the small business tax break, and canceling a previously announced tax credit PST extension.
The province said these measures helped Sask along with low utility bills and income taxes. Residents brave the challenges of inflation and interest rate hikes.
“A strong economy has allowed us to invest in affordable relief,” Deputy Prime Minister and Treasury Secretary Donna Harpauer said. “We will continue to advocate for and promote Saskatchewan because a growing economy allows us to make important investments in healthcare, education and social services.”
Official Opposition Leader Beck called Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government during fall session to probe food prices, expand $500 affordability checks and roll back increases from SaskPower and SaskEnergy to address the province’s national-leading rates of economic anxiety and insecurity.
Beck also said the provincial government has failed to come up with a serious public health plan despite sitting on billions of dollars in windfall resource revenues, and provincial auditor Tara Clemett found the government’s health plan to be inadequate and Saskatchewan likely has over a thousand health workers would have little and with even more hospital closures.
As part of an active recruitment effort, a delegation recently traveled to Manila, Philippines to recruit and promote healthcare vacancies in Saskatchewan. To date, 161 job offers have been submitted for Filipino health workers to join the provincial health system.
“We know there are serious human resource challenges in healthcare, but our plan is showing results,” Health Secretary Paul Merriman said. “We have received interest from more than 1,200 Filipino health care workers and posted 129 job offers during our stay in Manila, which will help stabilize health services across the province and build a stronger health care workforce.”
While the province said they are seeing success with the Health Human Resources (HHR) action plan, Beck disagrees.
“Saskatchewan has so much potential and the Sask. The party is holding us back,” Beck said. “Hospitals are closing, hard-working families are struggling to get food on the table and instead of solving those problems, the Sask. The party closed profitable liquor stores and poured taxpayer money into a redundant police force and a costly new tax system. The people of Saskatchewan cannot afford to keep paying for Scott Moe’s mistakes.”
Wednesday’s session also introduced the Saskatchewan First Act, which the province said will confirm exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources. As a result of the passage of the Act, an Economic Impact Assessment Court will be established to define, quantify and report on the economic impact of federal initiatives on provincial investments and projects, businesses and people in Saskatchewan.
“A strong Saskatchewan means a strong Canada,” said Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre. “We will not be shy in asserting our economic autonomy, and we will stand up and defend Saskatchewan against policies that are damaging to our economy.”
Premier Scott Moe thanked all Members on both sides of the House for their support of the Autumn Session priorities, particularly the second reading of the First Act, the Defending Law-Abiding Firearms Owners Motion and the Tax Credit Affordability Review legislation.