Today there are several billboards here in Prince Albert that read “MLA Joe Hargrave: Where Did The Money Go?” The question is the very same that was asked and answered repeatedly in the lead up to the 2016 provincial election. No matter who asks the question, the SGEU or the NDP, or how many times it is asked, the answer is the same and perhaps bears repeating.
The money went to over $5.5 billion in cumulative tax relief, including the largest education property tax reduction in Saskatchewan history.
112,000 Saskatchewan people no longer pay any provincial income tax at all.
Billions more went to pay down operating debt. Even with recent deficits, the operating debt is still 10% lower than it was in 2008, saving $1 billion in interest payments.
Over $27 billion went to infrastructure that had long been neglected under the previous NDP government; this includes work on Diefenbaker Bridge, area highways and the twinning of Highway 11 between Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
More than $37 million went towards the development of 335 rental and homeownership units in Prince Albert, as well as 24 existing shelter beds. Over $5 million was invested to repair an additional 313 units right here in our community.
The money paid for 840 new teaching positions, 173 more student support teachers, and helped to build 40 new and replacement schools, including École St. Anne.
The money went to major school renovations, including a new gymnasium at Carlton Comprehensive, as well as upgrades to several local schools.
The money went to health care infrastructure like the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon and planning for the renewal of Victoria Hospital here in P.A.
The money was invested in long-term care facilities and supports for seniors, including the tripling of benefits under the Seniors Income Plan.
The money went to almost 900 more doctors, more than 3,700 additional nurses of every designation, and it helped us to more than double funding for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.
Saskatchewan’s surgical wait time initiative took our wait times for surgery from the very longest in the country to among the very the shortest.
The money went to municipal police positions in Prince Albert.
The money went to thousands of new child care spaces with more being added every year.
The money has helped to more than double the supports provided to people with disabilities, as well as increase support for child and family programs.
That’s where the money went and I am very proud of that.
As you know, Saskatchewan has been hit hard by a sharp decline in resource revenue in recent years. Your Saskatchewan Party government put together a three-year plan to meet the challenges brought on by persistently low commodity prices and return to balanced budgets by next year.
After experiencing sharp decline in resource revenues, getting the province’s finances back on track was key to ensuring the services people expect are sustainable for generations to come. I am pleased to say that our plan to reduce the province’s reliance on resource revenue, control and carefully manage spending, and achieve a balanced budget by 2019-20 is on track.
Even at a time of fiscal restraint our government continues to support the priorities of Saskatchewan people through major investments in health care, education, social services, and the protection of people and property. We are also continuing to invest in needed infrastructure, hospitals, schools and highways across the province while helping to support a strong and growing economy.
Today Saskatchewan’s economy is showing resilience. Oil patch production has increased and potash mines are more active, reflecting higher resource prices. Agriculture, the service industry, the manufacturing sector, and other engines of the economy are steady and Saskatchewan’s finances continue to improve. In fact, last year’s deficit improved by nearly $400 million.
The priorities of Saskatchewan people are the priorities of your Saskatchewan Party government. We will continue to stand with the people and industries that drive growth and support our families. This means working through the challenges we face to keep Saskatchewan – and Prince Albert – growing strong now and for the future.
Joe Hargrave is the MLA for Prince Albert Carlton and the Minister Responsible for SGI.