Corrections, policing and justice:
The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and pleasing are expanding a remand initiative.
A total of $2.375 million has been approved in the budget to expand the early case resolution program to weekdays, and expand enhanced bail supervision partnerships to Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Early case resolution is a program where staff come in on Sundays to examine arrests that have occurred over the weekend. The focus of the work is to resolve cases that would otherwise require the accused to remain in a jail on remand, and to identify people who might be management in the community with extra supports.
The program started in Saskatoon in early 2017, and P.A. in August. The funding would expand it to Regina and add staff in Saskatoon to focus on weekday service.
The enhanced bail supervision partnership is a program in Regina where the ministry provides funding to the Salvation Army, who in turn provide short-term residential beds to arrested men who would otherwise go to remand due to a lack of supervised residential and mental health services. The increased funding would enhance the existing partnership and develop similar programs in Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
The government has also committed $$5.9 million in new funding for the protection and response team, launched last summer to prevent rural crime.
The funding will consist of $4.9 million from SGI for enhancements to the Rural Crime Strategy, including the creation of 30 police positions for phase two of the combined traffic safety services unit.
Tuesday, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer was pressed on how adding to the traffic safety unit would contribute to combatting rural crime.
“One thing we heard from Rural Saskatchewan is (police) presence,” Harpauer said. “This will help with that. It does not replace other initiatives going forward. There are a lot of roads in Saskatchewan, and it’s hard for (RCMP) to be seen on every one.”
A further $1M will go towards addressing other recommendations. Since its launch the rural crime strategy has created a Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit in P.A., Intervention circles in Muskoday and Ochapowace, added three positions to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (which operates out of Regina, Saskatoon and P.A.) and led to the reassignment of 10 RCMP positions to help provide relief to detachment experiencing staffing shortages.
It has also led to the completion of the first innovation challenge, which led to the development of an app-based tracking system to alert land owners to irregular activity related to their property.
A $30 million funding increase was included in the budget, following through on a promise made by Premier Scott Moe earlier this year. The increase will be spread across all 27 public school divisions, and represents an increase of 1.6 per cent, and will be used to hire up to 400 teachers and other support staff. It’s less, though, than the $54 million cut from education budgets previously.
There was also a $367 increase for grants for independent and historical high schools, due to increased enrolment.
Cost savings in education came in a few areas. The general proficiency award was eliminated. The award granted $400 to 500 Saskatchewan high school students.
There was a decrease in spending for teacher pension plans. The province was able to find a $352 million offset in pension liability. Officials explained the reduction was due to old superannuated pensions expiring. No benefits or pensions were reduced.
Education also had $76.4 million in capital investments, including funding for two ongoing school consolidations in Rosthern and Weyburn, $49.6 million for preventative maintenance, renewal and emergency funding (a 14.8 per cent increase), $3.1M for relocateable classrooms and $1M for school facility assessments.”
Library funding was kept stable. The government acknowledged the response last year to cuts to libraries.
“We heard last year from the people of Saskatchewan about the importance of our libraries, which is why this budget continues to ensure libraries across the province are supported,” Education Minister Gord Wyant said in a press release.
The 2018-19 budget promises a 2.9 per cent in health care spending, bringing the Ministry to a total of $5.36 billion, a record amount.
The funding is intended to improve access to mental health, palliative care and community-based primary health care services, and provide universal coverage of HIV medications. New programs will also individual funding for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and ensure babies are screened for hearing loss.
Of the $5.46B, $3.5 billion will be directed towards operating funding for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, a $71.9 million increase over the funding for all previous regional health authorities. Increases include $25 million for operating costs and service pressures, and funding to prepare for the openings of the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford and the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.
New services funded in the budget include:
$2.8 million to provide individualized funding for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The funding will be $4,000 per child under the age of six.
$600,000 to provide universal drug coverage for HIV medications
$100,000 to increase HIV supports in Saskatoon
$523,000 to create the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program, so babies born in Sask. Hospitals will be screened to support early detection of hearing loss.
An additional $250,000 for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for vision loss rehab services and equipment.
There is also $99.2 million in capital funding under the health umbrella, an increase of $15.1 million. That includes construction for the children’s hospital, children’s hospital IT needs and $7.2 million for electrical renewal projects at provincial hospitals.
The health budget also found a savings of $9 million annually from the reduction in senior admin staff during the formation of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Further savings in IT are expected this year.
A total of five percent of the health budget, or $284 million is spent on mental health. The goal is to increase that to seven per cent in future years. In addition, $83 million from other departments has been directed to mental health services and supports, for a total 2018-19 mental health care investment of $367 million.
There will be $11.4 million in new, targeted investments from federal and provincial funding. The majority of the funding is from the federal government.
The investments include:
- Funding for new child and adolescent specialist positions to reduce wait times, increase capacity for diagnosis and treatment, and improve services and supports for children, youth and families.
- Implement a pilot project modeled after the Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB) initiative currently operating in Alberta to better engage high-risk youth in prevention and intervention programming, as recommended by Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.
- Implementation of a targeted physician training program to improve the capacity to assess and treat child and youth mental health conditions in Saskatchewan; will assist in reducing wait times for child and youth psychiatry services.
- Continue expansion of suicide prevention efforts through implementation of Mental Health Commission of Canada’s suicide prevention demonstration project
- Hire about 40 full time equivalents to develop multi-disciplinary community recovery teams in eight communities to provide client-centred support to those with complex and persistent mental illness
- Expand addiction medicine services to address service pressures in P.A. and northern Saskatchewan, and provide specialist consultation services to physicians and other allied service professionals
- Increase access to mental health first aid courses in communities across Saskatchewan, and better equip human service sector staff to recognize and respond to mental health crises
- Expand online mental health services through dedicated clinical positions and development of new supports
- Implement a new provincial mental health and addictions client record and clinical planning tool
- Provincial implementation of outcome management tools to improve client outcomes and support clinical supervision and community needs planning
The Ministry of Social Services budget will increase by $54.4 million, or 4.8 per cent over last year. That increase includes $10.4 million for community-based organizations (CBOs) and caregivers such as foster parents.
Of that, $8.2 million will go to providing direct daily care to adults with intellectual disabilities through day programs and residential services, as well as approved private service homes.
The remaining $2.2 million will target foster families and others providing daily care to children, including family-based caregivers, CBOS delivering in-home services to keep at-risk children with their families or support reunification once children leave care; and CBOS providing residential services to children and youth.
Other funding increases to support at-risk children and adults with intellectual disabilities includes:
- $700,000 for children and youth with exceptional medical and behavioural challenges;
- $4.5 million for extended family members caring for at-risk children and youth, keeping them connected to family, community and culture;
- $9.9 million to continue moving people from Valley View Centre to new community-based homes;
- $9.0 million to provide services for children with intellectual disabilities aging into adult care, as well as for adults with intellectual disabilities whose needs have increased or who are in crisis; and
- $250,000 to operate a new group home in La Ronge for five adults with intellectual disabilities.
As for income assistance, the Saskatchewan Assistance Program will increase by $14.2 million due to caseload growth. About 15,000 households receive the benefits each month. A further $9.2 million will go towards redesigning income assistance programs.
Seniors income plan, personal care home benefit and the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement will decrease based on projected program use. No reduction s to benefits have been made.
The Saskatchewan rental housing supplement will suspend the intake of new participants as of July 1, as a new support program is co-developed with the provincial and federal government. Existing clients will receive benefits as long as they are eligible.
The seniors’ education property tax deferral program will begin in April 2018, deferring education taxes for low and moderate-income senior homeowners through a repayable loan.
The provincial government is introducing two new incentives to boost investment in two sectors of the economy.
The Saskatchewan Value-Added Agriculture Inventive (SVAI) creates a 15 per cent non-refundable and non-transferable tax credit for new or existing value-added agriculture facilities that make a minimum investment of $10 million to expand productive capacity.
To be eligible, projects must demonstrate the capital spending is to create or increase productive capacity. The redemption of the benefits will be restricted to 20 per cent after year one, 30 per cent in year two and the remaining 50 per cent in year three.
The Saskatchewan Technology Start-up Incentive (STSI) is intended to create rapid growth of newly emerging technology companies, and to retain technology start-ups in the province. The two-year pilot will offer a 45 per cent non-refundable tax credit for investments in eligible tech start-ups, capped at an maximum annual benefit of $140,000 per investor.
To be eligible, businesses bust be early-stage tech companies located in Saskatchewan, with 50 employees or fewer, and at least half of the employees located in the province. Each business must complete a technology assessment to be considered eligible. More details will be provided when the program is launched this year.
The government is also spending $750,000 to create a new four-year Mineral Development Strategy to create an incentive program to encourage mineral exploration and increase the amount of geophysical data available.
An additional $1 million will continue the enhancement of the Integrated Resource Information System for the Pipeline Regulation Enhancement Program, a business system that supports the development and regulation of the oil and gas industry.