‘Nothing new’ in throne speech, NDP says

NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili speaks to supporters in Prince Albert on Nov. 19. (Peter Lozinski/Daily herald)

SARM praises rural crime initiatives

The Saskatchewan NDP says Scott Moe’s first Speech from the Throne shows his government has run out of ideas.

The throne speech, delivered Wednesday to open the legislature, focused on crime prevention and safety, while also announcing mental health initiatives and a planned apology for victims of the Sixties Scoop.

The speech also took aim at the federal government’s carbon tax plan and reviewed the Saskatchewan Party’s economic record during its 11 years in power.

“They’re doing a lot of reannouncing things they have already done or planned to do,” Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt said.

“There’s really nothing new or innovative in the throne speech. It seems like a government that has run out of ideas and are out of touch with the people of Saskatchewan.”

Even the new announcements, such as the ability for smaller municipalities to form regional police associations, a planned revamp of the trespassing regulations and expanded leave for parents and for victims of sexual violence didn’t surprise Rancourt.

“There are a couple of new announcements,” she said. “But nothing we didn’t expect to be brought forward. Nothing they haven’t talked about before. They’ve been talking about those subjects.”

What the speech didn’t include are some topics Rancourt would like to see – such as the promised new hospital for Prince Albert.

“I was really hoping there would have been some discussion about having a new, bigger hospital built in Prince Albert … that the premier promised us in his leadership campaign,” Rancourt said.

“I was really hoping to see something .. to indicate this was going to be a priority going forward. I was also hoping there would be some reconsideration of some of the PST exemptions. We know how that has hit small businesses pretty hard and has had an impact on employment.”

Decisions to add pst to construction and to restaurants have been met with criticism from those sectors, who say the added costs have contributed to slower sales. As for the hospital, the provincial government is hoping to have a report ready early next year about whether a replacement or a redevelopment of the crowded Victoria hospital is the best option.

Rancourt also hoped to see some discussion about expanding the economy in the Prince Albert area to reduce the unemployment rate.

Party leader Ryan Meili also pointed to what he thought Moe should have focused on.

“We were disappointed that we didn’t see any commitment to addressing the underfunding of education, a focus on addressing the province’s worst-in-the-nation health outcomes, or the reversal of the harmful expansion of the PST to construction and restaurant meals,” Meili said.

“There was no mention of how to help people who are struggling to pay for their mortgages or how the unemployment rate is higher than it was last year. There was hardly a mention of the North, nor was there an acknowledgement that one in four kids in our province and six out of every 10 First Nations kids live in poverty. How can we work to fix these problems if the Premier won’t even recognize them?

“This was the Premier’s chance to make his mark on the province by addressing the real issues that people are struggling with, but he chose not to.”

Rancourt also said it’s “disappointing” the premier has “spent more time pointing fingers” at the federal government than “working on taking some action within the province.

“Now we have the federal government’s price on pollution that is going to impact the people of Saskatchewan. I was hoping he would have spent some time developing a plan that would have been effective.”

The federal government has recognized Saskatchewan’s climate change plan for reductions in emissions from some of its highest-emitting industries. But it deemed the plan didn’t go far enough to attempt to cut down on fossil fuel consumption by consumers or electric generation and natural gas transmission.

Rancourt focused on upcoming session

There are a few key issues Rancourt is hoping to put forward during this sitting of the legislature — some to do with Prince Albert, and some to do with her critic portfolios of social services, community-based organizations, housing and SGI.

Locally, she’s focused on emphasizing that Prince Albert needs a new, bigger hospital, she said, along with a second bridge. She’s also concerned with education funding, ensuring students have all the support they need.

“There are going to be some regulations with regards to truck driving education, so I’ll be focusing on that, and social services — I’ll be really focusing on addressing recruitment and retention issues because we know that’s really impacted caseloads and wait times at the call centre. “

She’ll also be continuing to push her concerns about the scrapping of the rental supplement.

SARM praises measures announced in speech

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) was pleased with what it heard in the speech fro the throne.

The organization said it was happy with the announcement about continuing to increase access to reliable internet and cell service, as well as the news that RMs will be able to join regional police services and the plan to address property rights around trespassing.

“Safe communities in rural Saskatchewan is key,” said SARM president Ray Orb in a press release.

“With the success of the Provincial Response Team, the update to trespassing laws and the development of Rural Crime Watch associations, we hope to see the increased prevention of crime in our communities.”

SARM also supported the province’s calls to fight the carbon tax and to complete the Kinder Morgan pipeline to free up rail capacity for grain.