“Build,” “protect” and “defend” were key words emphasized throughout Wednesday’s throne speech as the provincial government sets its course for the upcoming legislative session.
“We will protect what we have built from risks like global uncertainty caused by wars and unrest,” as well as protecting Saskatchewan from things like federal policy, Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday.
A major plank in the speech was the Rebate for New Home Construction, which will return “42 per cent of PST paid — about 2.5 per cent of the total house price, excluding the land value — for a new house.”
It will be reinstated and made retroactive to April 1, 2023. The province will also introduce a “Secondary Suite Program” which will help cover the cost of building a rental suite within a primary residence.
Moe said this will run parallel to new homebuyer incentives that exist already. As for whether this program will do anything for people who can’t afford a new build, Moe said the program will “have a broader impact on the real estate market.”
On the tax rebate, the premier added “the benefit goes to the homeowner.”
NDP Opposition leader Carla Beck said in an emailed response to the throne speech that while the government focuses on housing as a concern there are dozens of seniors facing uncertain futures.
“Moe says he’s concerned about housing, yet his government sat on its hands as dozens of seniors were thrown out of their homes this last week,” said Beck, referencing the shuttering of Parkview Villa and Princess Villa in Regina.
“We’ve seen this government act with lightning speed to fix much less important issues before. Good affordable housing and the health and well-being of our parents and grandparents should be a top priority,” said Matt Love, Opposition critic for seniors.
Beck touched on issues of affordability, of hospital and surgery wait times in her comments on the speech.
“If Scott Moe was more focused on fixing issues than scoring cheap headlines, maybe we’d be somewhere,” she said.
Within the speech, there’s also the new Saskatchewan Employment Incentive program which will offer financial incentives for low-income working families with dependent children.
Moe said more details on what those incentives look like will come later this year.
“Incredibly, one of the biggest threats to Saskatchewan’s economy is our own federal government,” reads the speech. It claims federal regulations will result in job loss and potentially plunge Saskatchewan homes into “darkness and cold.”
The Saskatchewan First Act, which passed last session, was evoked in the speech as the government aims to “take the next step to defend our economy and autonomy by using (it).” Specifically, it outlines a plan to take “Clean Electricity Regulations, the Clean Fuel Standard regulations and the oil and gas emissions cap” to the Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal. That tribunal will “define, assess and report” on the “economic harm” caused by the federal policies in question.
Bolstered by a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the federal Impact Assessment Act, which found a portion of it to be unconstitutional, the throne speech asks Ottawa “to rethink the many other areas where it is overstepping its constitutional competence.”
The province will also have a presence at the “COP28 Conference in the United Arab Emirates,” to promote Saskatchewan products.
The speech boasts of the government’s record since 2007, when the Sask. Party first formed government. It speaks of the population increase, “more homes, more businesses, more families, more opportunities, more careers and more futures” and how “we will protect all we have built.”
And while “protect” and “defend” were frequently mentioned throughout the speech the presence of the Saskatchewan Marshall Service was absent. The province started its search for a Chief Marshal on Sept. 12 but there was no mention of the service in the speech. Nor was there any mention of the Saskatchewan Revenue Agency.
Asked why Moe said he didn’t know and that “those are two topics that we’ve made decisions on and are either actively working on their implementation or continuing to look at.”
There are plans to create “30 new Complex Needs Emergency Shelter spaces in Regina and Saskatoon” and while there was no commitment to funding things like safe supply programs or safe consumption sites the speech did touch on aims to add 500 addictions treatment spaces.
The speech also addressed a series of bills coming forward this session.
Among them will be raising the legal age for smoking and vaping in Saskatchewan from 18 to 19.
Moe said this is a result of “continued lobbying” by concerned groups in the province like the Cancer Society.
Also, there will be added coverage for firefighters in the Workers’ Compensation Act to include six additional types of cancer, a bill to “to relieve human trafficking victims of negative credit factors incurred through coercion.” And also there’s the Saskatchewan Remembrance Day Observance Act, which protects a person’s right to wear a poppy in all Saskatchewan workplaces.
Moe said there has been “a report of one, maybe two situations” where employees have been denied wearing a poppy in their workplace.
Throughout the entirety of the speech, Bill 137 was not mentioned once.