Crime reduction & economic growth top Sask. government's priorities in throne speech

The Saskatchewan government will have a keen focus on economic growth and crime reduction this session, according to the throne speech. 

The speech, which kicked off the second session of the 29th Legislature, was delivered by Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty Wednesday afternoon.

“It's about building a better province of Saskatchewan a stronger a safer, healthier and more educated and a more independent Saskatchewan,” said Premier Scott Moe during a media availability Wednesday morning.

“And of course, our most immediate priority continues to be the COVID-19 situation here in this province. But the Speech from the Throne is an opportunity to focus on our important priorities for our province and for our government.” 

The throne speech didn’t contain any initiatives targeted directly at fighting COVID-19 – the virus was named just five times in the 25-page speech.

When asked why it wasn’t indicated as a priority in the speech, Moe highlighted the work the province has done to fight the virus so far and that they "do mention the pandemic, ultimately, in this speech.”

“Where we are in the Speech from the Throne is ultimately putting forward some of the initiatives that we're hearing are important to Saskatchewan people,” he said.

The throne speech did tout health investments the government has made during the pandemic and outside economic investments made in the province’s agricultural sector over the last year.

Moe said if Saskatchewan is able to attract over $10 billion in new projects in a year plagued by the pandemic and a drought, the province’s potential is “unlimited.”

Here is a rundown of some of the government’s priorities outlined in the throne speech:

CRACKING DOWN ON CRIMINALS

The premier said the province wants criminals to know they’ll be caught if they decide to commit crimes in Saskatchewan.

“It's been said that the certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment,” he said.

“We want to provide criminals with that certainty. If you commit a crime, you can be certain that you will be caught.” 

The Sask. Party plans to create provincial teams to target offenders and amend legislation in response in to a rise in violent crime and rural property crime over the last five years.

The government says it will create the Saskatchewan Trafficking Response Team (STRT) to combat human trafficking and target people moving illegal drugs and weapons into the province. Additionally, it will form a Warrant Enforcement and Suppression Team (WEST) to go after criminals with outstanding warrants.

The province also says it will add 60 new police positions and create a new Provincial Protective Services unit that will bring together various enforcement officers – such as deputy sheriffs, conservation officers and highway patrol officers – to work with police.

Amendments to The Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act will allow enforcement officers to “take quick action” when someone ordered to pay spousal or child support repeatedly and “maliciously” doesn’t make payments. The province says this legislation will be the first of its kind in Canada.

The government says it wants to make sure people are safe from harassment in the workplace and will introduce legislation to protect workers from sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at work.

BOOSTING ECONOMIC GROWTH

The province says a “strong recovery” is underway in Saskatchewan and it’s driven by entrepreneurs and workers, which the government plans to keep supporting.

The Sask. Party will create a new brand called Sustainable Saskatchewan, which aims to promote the sustainability of products in the province.

The government will also be “enhancing” the Saskatchewan Value-Added Agricultural Incentive – a tax rebate on investments in new or expanded agriculture facilities.

The province is aiming to strengthen Indigenous businesses through the creation of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation, which will give up to $75 million in financing to Indigenous communities or organizations investing in resource development projects.

EDUCATION INVESTMENTS

To support Saskatchewan students, the government will add new funding for hiring educational assistants and launch a new pilot project that will see teachers visiting students and their parents at home.

The province says it will introduce a “Take a Break” campaign with will teach youth how to responsibly use social media.

Post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan will see an additional $60 million in operating funding over the next two years.

At the beginning of November, the government will start a new international education strategy that aims to push the province as a place for international students and researchers.

SUPPORTING THE HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM

The government, following in the footsteps of other provinces, is going to put forward a bill that will prevent protestors from blocking access to hospitals.

The province says the construction of urgent care centres in Regina and Saskatoon will start next year. It hopes the facilities will free up space in emergency rooms by receiving patients whose illnesses or injuries are non-life threatening, but need attention.

The government is moving forward with plans for 600 new long-term care beds in Regina.

To address the current addiction and overdose crises, the province will increase treatment and detox spaces, increase accessibility to the Take Home Naloxone Program and launch three new community wellness buses that will be equipped with harm reduction supplies and provide professional support.