REGINA - Provincial measures to defend Saskatchewan’s economy and some additional law enforcement measures highlight the Speech from the Throne delivered at the Legislature Wednesday.
Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty delivered the address on Wednesday afternoon, and as promised the address included a focus on measures to protect the provincial economy from federal overreach.
The Sask Party government noted the strength of the province’s resource economy with strong oil and gas revenues, as well as a budget surplus.
“Our government’s focus in today’s Throne Speech and the upcoming legislative session is to ensure that strong growth continues,” said Premier Scott Moe to reporters at the legislature.
Moe noted a number of steps had already been taken in the last number of weeks, including their Affordability Plan and extension of the small business tax exemption to gym memberships. Moe also noted the announcement of a comprehensive Health Human Resource Action Plan to recruit health professionals.
But two new measures in the Speech from the Throne are being highlighted in particular. One of those is action to “protect and defend Saskatchewan’s economy and Saskatchewan jobs from constitutional overreach by the federal government,” said Moe.
The first new bill to be introduced this session will be the Saskatchewan First Act, which will “clearly define Saskatchewan’s exclusive jurisdiction over its natural resources, and our ability to develop those natural resources and ultimately our exclusive jurisdiction over our economic future,” said Moe.
It will be based on the existing constitutional division of powers present today. Moe said more detail will be provided in the coming days.
But the indication from Moe is the changes coming will be “similar to what Quebec has done to ensure that the Constitution is even stronger with its language” with respect to the provinces having the jurisdiction to develop their natural resources.
“Really what this is is reasserting our ability to develop our natural resources,” said Moe.
The Throne Speech also pledges the government will amend the province's Constitution to "state– in no uncertain terms – that Saskatchewan continues to retain exclusive jurisdiction over its own natural resources."
"This will be done by amending The Saskatchewan Act, similar to how Quebec recently unilaterally amended the Constitution to declare that Quebec is a nation and its official language is French," the Speech from the Throne reads.
The government also states it will sign the Saskatchewan—Canada Immigration Accord. The Accord will then be sent to the federal government for ratification.
"This Accord would give Saskatchewan similar authority over immigration to that which has long been guaranteed to the Province of Quebec," the Throne Speech states.
"The growth we are experiencing as a province means we require more autonomy and flexibility over immigration to meet our economic needs and address gaps in the labour market. During this session, my government will further enhance provincial autonomy by introducing legislation enabling the province to collect its own corporate income tax, as is currently done in Alberta and Quebec."
The second set of initiatives also announced in the Throne Speech are measures focused on making Saskatchewan people safe.
One of those is creation of the Saskatchewan Marshals Service to enhance law enforcement in communities, particularly in rural and remote areas. It will be based out of Prince Albert but work alongside RCMP and municipal police forces to augment any challenges they have.
The government also plans to increase enforcement of outstanding warrants by adding eight more officers to their WEST team — the Warrant Enforcement Suppression Team also located out of Prince Albert. They also will be adding one more Crime Reduction Team in North Battleford.
Moe said there will also continue to be discussions with the Prince Albert Grand Council and federal government on community based Indigenous police initiatives, whereever they may be interest in the province.
"We've heard through our MLAs travels' that there's concerns," said Moe. "Community safety -- getting out, going for a walk safely on the riverbank in Saskatoon or along downtown Regina, or in any of our rural communities, is on peoples' minds."
Moe noted they have brought in initiatives over the last number of years to augment the RCMP, pointing to such things as the Crime Reduction Teams and the PACT - Police and Crisis Teams. These new measures are continued initiatives, Moe indicated.
There are other measures included in the Throne Speech, one of which is a plan for the province to exit out of Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority retail operations.
“It’s not a core business of government in my view,” said Moe, who noted private liquor stores have been operating across the province for years.
“We want to focus our efforts as a government on what people view as the core business of government,” said Moe, referring to health care, education, highways and other services.
This is included in a larger SLGA reform package which will also see the government re-introduce legislation to allow municipalities to designate areas for safe consumption of alcohol in parks.
The 2022 Speech from the Throne also outlines a number of other measures including the following, as outlined in the province's news release:
The government announced it will open a new trade office in Germany, "a manufacturing powerhouse with the fourth- largest economy in the world."
A new in-patient joint replacement facility in Regina is expected to begin operations by the end of 2023;
The province is to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation for a new Saskatoon Urgent Care Centre;
Plans are to create 200 new Educational Assistant positions in school classrooms;
The Throne Speech pledges to create of a new centralized online learning model to ensure all students can enroll in any course offered in the province, regardless of where they live;
There will be funding for the Dene Teacher Education Program at the First Nations University of Canada and for scholarships for up to 25 students to study Indigenous languages;
There will be continuing work on the Saskatchewan Polytechnic's Saskatoon Campus Renewal Project, to be located in the vicinity of the University of Saskatchewan and Innovation Place;
The government plans to sign the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, along with the federal government and all provinces and territories;
Increased veterinary training seats are planned;
There will be continued support for nearly 2,000 Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion who now call Saskatchewan home;
There are plans for continued expansion of rural internet service by SaskTel;
Plans are to develop 700 more megawatts of wind and solar power generation in south-central Saskatchewan by SaskPower;
The province plans on partnering on two First Nations solar projects;
There will be continued planning for small modular nuclear reactors, with Estevan and Elbow identified as potential sites;
The government will be working to create a made-in-Saskatchewan carbon offset credit program;
They will be partnering with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services on projects to address homelessness;
The province will be introducing The Accessible Saskatchewan Act to identify and remove accessibility barriers for those living with a disability;
And there is an increase of $7.5 million in the current year to the $10 million Creative Saskatchewan Feature Film and Television Grant Program.