by Joe Hargrave, MLA
The Fall Session of the Legislature saw a lot of work completed that was first laid out in our Speech from the Throne. This work will keep us on track to fulfill promises to build a better, stronger, safer, better educated and more independent Saskatchewan.
Economic opportunities for Northern Saskatchewan have been plentiful this fall thanks to several major developments. Producing over $1.1 billion worth of sales in 2020, forestry is set to expand even further in 2022. There are approximately 8,000 jobs in the forestry industry right now, creating the largest economic sector for Northern Saskatchewan. Hundreds of businesses help to generate jobs and economic prosperity for the region and it’s only going to get better.
Already, nearly 2,400 new jobs are expected to be created in the area due to recent forestry announcements. One Sky Forest Products is building a new Oriented Strand Board mill in Prince Albert and will see a significant equity investment by Indigenous communities. At the same time, the reopening of the Paper Excellence pulp mill in Prince Albert will enhance Indigenous economic and labour development opportunities.
Saskatchewan is anticipated to harvest and produce record levels of timber and products in 2022. Development of the sector has the potential to generate over $2 billion in sales annually with nearly 12,000 jobs.
In addition to support for the forestry industry, another $2 million will support Northern Career Quest Inc. This funding will support training and employment services to Indigenous job seekers residing in the northern part of the province.
Northern Career Quest Inc. will facilitate industry-led training programs, employability supports and employment services to 400 Indigenous job seekers. Leveraging their strong industry partnerships, Northern Career Quest will meet the needs of both labour supply and demand in response to emerging needs for the area, including the hospitality, health, natural resource and infrastructure sectors, among others.
Furthering investment in the province and strengthening opportunities for the Indigenous business sector, $75 million was announced in the Speech from the Throne this fall to create the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation.
This new corporation will provide funding to Indigenous communities and organizations interested in making equity investments in resource development projects. The initiative will also support the Truth and Reconciliation call to action to build stronger economies in Indigenous communities.
Moving on our commitment to make Saskatchewan safer, 30 locations across are now providing take-home drug test strips for the general public to help address the dramatic increase in drug overdoses that our communities have been facing.
Of the 149 confirmed accidental drug toxicity deaths in 2021, 72 per cent involved fentanyl. Those who use drugs often do not know if fentanyl is present at the time of consumption since it cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Mixing benzodiazepines (benzos) with opioids like fentanyl increases the risk of an overdose.
While a negative result on a test strip does not guarantee that the substance is safe for consumption, the test will show if there are fentanyl or benzo compounds in the sample that was tested. These strips can be used as another tool to limit potential overdoses.
A record $458 million has been invested in mental health and addictions services for 2021-22, an increase of $23.4 million over last year. Of that, $2.6 million is specifically dedicated to harm reduction initiatives.
If you have questions, comments, concerns or require assistance with provincial government programs or services, I encourage you to contact our Constituency Office located at 406 South Industrial Drive, Prince Albert. We can be reached by telephone at 306-922-2828 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.