Legislative Report (19 November 2008)
Democratic Reform in Saskatchewan
Our government is keeping another promise by restricting government advertising before an election. Taxpayers should not be paying for political advertising. Under these changes, provincial government advertising will be prohibited in the month leading up to an election. Governments will not be able to increase the amount of ad spending in the four months leading up to the vote and any advertising during that time could only be used to inform the public about programs and services that will benefit them. These measures will help ensure fairness and improve the democratic process.
Your Saskatchewan Party government is also taking steps which will allow the election of Senators. The Senate Nominee Election Act has been introduced in the provincial legislature. Under this piece of legislation, nominees would be selected, based on factors such as the number of vacancies in the Upper Chamber, through the provincial cabinet. The Senate nominee election could then be held in conjunction with either a provincial or federal general election. Prime Minister Harper has committed to appointing democratically-elected senators.
DEBT REDUCTION ON TRACK
Saskatchewan’s economy remains strong and well-positioned to meet any challenges, despite the turmoil on world markets. The Mid-Year Financial Report has been released and shows that our province’s finances remain on solid ground. Despite the downturn in world oil prices, Saskatchewan remains on track to reduce the provincial debt by a record $2.7 billion, or 40 per cent, this year. The mid-year revenue forecast is $2.9 billion over budget, for total revenue of $12.26 billion in 2008-09. The Mid-Year Financial Report shows our government’s plan to share our newfound prosperity through tax cuts, debt reduction, investing in infrastructure, while maintaining a $2 billion dollar fiscal insurance policy, is prudent, sustainable and affordable.
SASKATCHEWAN ECONOMY STILL STRONG
The Saskatchewan economy continues to grow, despite the downturn in other parts of the country and around the world. The Conference Board of Canada is predicting Saskatchewan will lead the country in GDP growth both this year and next, at 5.2 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively. Statistics Canada is reporting manufacturing shipments, new vehicle sales and international exports are all up significantly. The largest increase is in the area of international exports, which have experienced growth of 120 per cent over the past year, a new all-time record. In September alone, $3.2 billion worth of Saskatchewan goods were shipped around the world. New vehicle sales were up 14.3 per cent year-over-year, well ahead of the national average of 2.2 per cent. Manufacturing shipments in September were worth more than $1 billion. Strong growth needs careful management. Our government is providing that management through our Ready for Growth plan and the announcement earlier this fall of historic tax cuts and debt reduction.
RELIEF FOR RENTERS
Our government is taking steps to ensure relief for renters in this time of unprecedented economic growth. With the introduction of amendments to The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Act, 1996, we are taking steps which will protect renters. The notice period for rent increases will double, from three to six months. For those in a fixed lease agreement, rent increases, unless agreed to, will be prohibited. The board of the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) will also undergo changes. It will have representatives from across the province. The new board will include both housing stakeholders and representatives from municipalities. It is expected to be in place in early 2009. By making changes to The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation Act, 1996 our government is further implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on Housing Affordability. Other recommendations we have implemented include:
PREMIER APPOINTS SASKATCHEWAN’S FIRST ARMED FORCES LIAISON
- Increasing the shelter allowance for clients of the Saskatchewan Assistance Program;
- Increasing the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement;
- Increasing the Provincial Training Allowance;
- Indexing adjustments of the above programs to the average market rent;
- Expanding the boundaries of Saskatoon and Regina to include the Statistics Canada Metropolitan areas for shelter allowances;
- Increasing the income thresholds for seniors on social housing programs; and
- Increasing per diem rates paid to CBOs that operate emergency shelters.
A Saskatchewan MLA has been appointed by Premier Brad Wall as the province's main contact with the armed forces. Wood River MLA Yogi Huyghebaert is Saskatchewan’s first Armed Forces Liaison. One of Huyghebaert’s first assignments is the creation of a scholarship for the families of slain Saskatchewan soldiers. Prior to entering politics, Huyghebaert had a long and distinguished military career. He is best known for the time he served in command of the Snowbirds Demonstration Squadron. Huyghebaert enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1961, and received his wings in 1968. His career has included postings in Germany and as a special consultant at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. In 1987, Her Excellency, Governor General Jean Sauvé invested Huyghebaert in the Order of Military Merit for exceptional service with the Canadian Forces.
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