The Saskatchewan Government Speech from the Throne was remarkable for an absence.
With an election looming in 12 months voters could have expected a promise of some goodies — spending measures to buy votes next October. There were no such promises in the Throne Speech.
Even a government with support as strong as the Saskatchewan Party likes to offer goodies before the election. It’s part of the politicians’ desire to spend.
Either this government feels no need to promise spending or there is no money to spend on re-election promises.
It is evident from provincial finances that there is no extra cash floating around.
The cupboard is bare, as NDP Premier Roy Romanow said in his 1991 tour of provincial media outlets after defeating the Devine Conservatives. Few leaders do those media tours any longer, preferring social media to distribute their propaganda.
Instead of promises to lure voters in the Throne Speech, the government outlined what it claims to have done since the Saskatchewan Party became government 12 years ago.
The list is long and impressive with one catch taken from the speech “growth our province has not seen since the 1920s.”
The provincial government can lay claim to developing the right climate for business growth but there is no legitimate claim to having created 1920s-like growth.
The facts are clear: in the first eight years of Saskatchewan Party government the world couldn’t get enough of our resources, oil, potash, and grain.
During the last four years the demand for our resources has declined as oil and potash prices and demand fell and as international relations cost us grain exports.
Still, under the Saskatchewan Party population decline was reversed adding around 160,000 people through an aggressive immigration policy.
Health care spending has increased significantly, more than doubling in 12 years. That increase placed 3,800 more nurses and about 900 more doctors in the province.
Even with that, many towns are still without doctors and on-site emergency services; wait times for operations have not met targets; gaps exist in specialists.
Infrastructure spending has seen five new hospitals and 13 new long-term care centres. Among them are Saskatoon’s Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital and the North Battleford mental hospital.
Education spending increased substantially but still lags the 27,000 new students in 12 years, Classroom sizes — often 30 to 40 compared to the preferred 20 — still haunt school systems by creating hurdles to effective teaching.
One of the most pressing obstacles to increased spending and the goal of a balanced budget comes from Mother Nature.
Crop insurance claims caused by poor harvest weather could delay a balanced budget.
The province and the federal government usually put enough money into crop insurance to cover total losses at current insurance rates on about five per cent of seeded acres.
Given this harvest, crop insurance can expect partial claims on half of seeded acres, far exceeding planned funding.
Evidently the Saskatchewan Government hopes voters won’t ask: “What are you doing for us next term?”
Ron Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.