(29 May 2013)
As your representative, I believe strongly in the responsibility those in public life have to be accountable for their actions. I work for you and have an obligation to conduct myself in a manner worthy of your trust. It is with that in mind that I express my concerns about recent events regarding the Canadian Senate.
For many years, politicians in Western Canada, including those in Saskatchewan, have been strong advocates for Senate reform. Proposed reforms included elected Senators and greater accountability. Some provinces, but not all, have even gone so far as to elect Senators, who are then appointed by the Prime Minister. While this is a small step in the right direction, all Senators, including those who were elected, serve until the age of 75 and do not have to stand for re-election, unlike MPs and MLAs. Further, we are no closer to having a Senate in which each province is represented equally. The fact that many provinces have indicated they will not elect Senators leaves us with an Upper House that is a hybrid lacking accountability and equal representation. It may look more legitimate, but that legitimacy would be false. Given the lack of progress regarding meaningful Senate reform, abolition of the Upper House must be given serious consideration.
To that end, MLAs will consult with constituents over the next month to find out where they stand on abolishing the Senate. At the same time, the Saskatchewan Party will be holding a referendum of its membership on abolishing the Senate, with results expected in early July. If that vote is a yes, and there is widespread support for abolishing the Senate, Premier Brad Wall will bring the issue to the next Premier’s meeting, also in July. Since abolishment of the Senate could only be achieved by amending the Canadian constitution, the Premier will also consider moving a constitutional amendment in the Saskatchewan Legislature this fall.
Our sense is that Saskatchewan people overwhelmingly support abolishing the Senate. Regardless, one thing is certain – the status quo of an undemocratic, unelected institution costing taxpayers nearly $100 million a year is no longer acceptable.
An important part of accountability is setting goals and working toward them, as demonstrated by our government’s Growth Plan. One of the major goals of that plan is to ensure our economy continues to grow is to meet the identified need for 60,000 more workers by 2020. Recently it was announced our province would receive an additional 450 spaces this year under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, bringing our total nominee level to 4,450 for 2013. Effective immigration policies that focus on providing opportunities to skilled workers in hard-to-fill in-demand positions continues to be a important part of our governments growth strategy.
Another part of the Growth Plan is ensuring that we have a safe, reliable, effective transportation throughout the province to meet the challenges of growth. This year’s $576 million Highway Construction Season, which will result in more than 350 km of major projects throughout Saskatchewan, is now officially underway. One notable pilot project to improve safety and traffic flow are new passing lanes on Highway 10, between Balgonie and Fort Qu’Appelle. This $16.9 million investment will provide a significantly improved experience for travelers. Since 2008, our government has invested $3.7 billion into our transportation system. Remember to slow down in highway construction zones – fines and enforcement have been increased this year.
A major benefit of a growing economy is the increased services our government can provide for you and your family, such as more child care spaces. This year, over 500 new child care spaces will be developed in 15 communities throughout Saskatchewan. This increase brings the number of child care spaces to more than 13,700. Since our government took office in 2007, we have increased the number of licensed child care spaces by 48 per cent or by 4,435 new spaces.
We also continue to make real progress towards our goal of making Saskatchewan the best place to live in Canada for persons with disabilities. Effective June 1st, benefits under the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program will increase by $50 a month for single people, $60 for couples and the benefit for persons in residential care will rise by $20 per month. There are now more than 10,000 people with significant and long-term disabilities benefiting from SAID, providing them with a dignified income support program separate from the Saskatchewan Assistance Program.
If you have a question about this Legislative Report or any other matter, just Contact Nadine.
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