Premier Scott Moe declared a State of Emergency last week in response to the COVID-19 situation. As the people of Saskatchewan always do, we are working together for the well-being of all.
Legislative action has been taken to minimize the financial impact on families and individuals. Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, supported by all parties, passed to ensure employees have access to job protected leaves during a public health emergency. The proposed amendments to the Act will remove the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer prior to accessing sick leave; remove the provision requiring a doctor’s note; and introduce a new unpaid public health emergency leave.
The impact of COVID-19 on the economy is monumental. As a result, revenue forecasts prepared for the March 18th Provincial Budget release are no longer accurate. Instead of a full budget, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer tabled government spending plans for the upcoming year. The 2020-21 estimates represent an increase of 3.1 per cent from 2019-20, including important investments and spending increases in health care, education, social services, public protection and infrastructure. Once the situation has become more stable, a financial update including revenue forecasts will be released.
Fortunately, we have a very strong cash position of $1.3 billion, so we are well-positioned to manage through this challenging time, and are able to provide additional resources to address the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 as required. The government will provide the Saskatchewan Health Authority with a $3.74 billion grant this year, an increase of 3.9 per cent over last year. This funds the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who today are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, while meeting the health needs of Saskatchewan residents. An increase of $12 million over last year has been targeted for mental health and addictions supports and services.
The disruption of the school year is a concern for students, parents and educators. Supports will need to be in place now and when our classrooms re-open. Saskatchewan will increase investment in the coming fiscal year, with capital investments, as well as a $42 million operating budget increase over last year to address enrolment growth, inflation and collective bargaining.
The cooperation and compliance of all the people of Saskatchewan is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Up–to-date information will continue to be available at http://www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19.
It will be challenging for those who are required to be isolated, but support from friends and neighbours will make it easier. Running errands for them and keeping in touch by phone or email are ways we can help. A phone call to someone confined to a care home can relieve their loneliness.
The Government of Saskatchewan continues to work collaboratively to maximize the health of the people of our province, and to ensure that families can recover financially when the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided. The Legislative Spring Session has been suspended to limit the spread of infection.
Our constituency office will continue to respond to phone calls and emails, but we ask that you do not visit in person at this time. Should you have a matter you would like to discuss, please feel free to call or send an email. May God bless our efforts as we work together in these challenging times.
Moose Jaw North Constituency Office: 306-692-8884; 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.