It was a lively Question Period today (Thurs) centering around what was and wasn’t in the budget. NDP Leader Ryan Meili noted that the health care sector is struggling. He asked why there are so many disruptions in essential urgent care, saying there are no obstetrical services in Swift Current right now, which is something Yorkton went through last month, and pediatric wards are overwhelmed.
Premier Scott Moe answered that the province made a significant investment of almost $7-billion in health care. His message to health care professionals is help is on the way with the government’s efforts to recruit, retain and train.
Meili replied that people are sick and struggling today and Saskatchewan is leading the country in tuberculosis, HIV and syphilis and this province has the worst COVID death rate in the country. He added that tens of thousand of people are waiting for surgery, and hospitals are closed in places like Lanigan, Broadview, and Unity.
Moe said continuing care aides are coming through their training and will be in the workforce soon, more workers will be coming from the Philippines, and more funding is going toward physicians recruitment and retention.
Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon brought up the taxes announced in the budget, saying it’s not the time to add more taxes when prices are high and people are struggling. He suggested the taxes are on those hardest hit by the pandemic, and questioned adding PST on things like Rider games, concerts and rodeos. Wotherspoon added that Alberta is giving its residents a break on the cost of gas by nixing the fuel tax when the cost on the markets is over $90 U.S. a barrel and asked why the Sask Party government couldn’t doing something similar.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer answered that the budget addresses affordability with tax credits, and affordability initiatives totally $2- billion a year. Saskatchewan has the second lowest utility in the province, Harpauer says, and childcare fees are being reduced.
Through the Canada-Saskatchewan Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, signed last summer, the federal investment is nearly $1.1-billion over five years. With an average of 50 per cent child care fee reduction already announced, the goal is to bring the average down to $10 a day by the end of March of 2026.