April 17, 2014

Legislative Report

9 April 2014

A Big Province With A Growing Population

Saskatchewan is a big province with a growing population. While working to meet emerging challenges in larger urban centres, we are committed to supporting the needs of rural and remote communities. To that end our government is working to ensure everyone has access to quality primary health services. Part of that is a recruitment strategy to bring more nurse practitioners to rural Saskatchewan. These are people who can perform physical assessments and diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat common medical conditions, prescribe medications and those capable of performing minor surgical procedures.

Our recruitment strategy, which is comprised of four initiatives to be phased in over two years, encourages nurse practitioners to work in communities where there are fewer than 10,000 people. As part of this registered nurses will receive wages and benefits for up to two years while they receive full-time nurse practitioner training, based on a five-year return-of-service agreement.

In communities without nurse practitioner services, a locum pool of nurse practitioners will to provide services on a temporary basis with provisions providing relief for vacation, sick leave or maternity leave. Health regions will also be able to transfer positions to nearby communities in need and incentive grants of up to $40,000 will be available to nurse practitioners who practice in hard-to-recruit positions or locations.

The Government of Canada has made significant efforts to expand trade agreements and reduce barriers to market access. This puts us in an enviable position to provide the energy and food the world needs. The opportunity, however, is being squandered by an inability to get our products to port.

One of the greatest challenges affecting farmers continues to be the backlog in grain transportation. Producers have done their part but, as a new growing season approaches, they are still moving a significant portion of last year’s crop. It has been and continues to be a priority of our government to clear the current backlog and do everything we can to ensure a transportation crisis doesn’t happen again.

The federal government’s Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act is a step in the right direction but we feel it doesn’t go far enough. This is why we have sent a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. We are asking for service level agreements between shippers and railways, including reciprocal penalties for damages and an expedited arbitration process; services for all customers and shippers in all corridors and; a minimum railway delivery of 13,000 grain cars per week. For failing to comply, we are asking that the railways be forced to pay a minimum daily penalty of $250,000. We are also asking for the August 2016 sunset clause be removed until a review of the Canada Transportation Act is complete with permanent legislation in place.

Saskatchewan has a great story to tell and we need to be telling Saskatchewan’s story to the world. The public, however, has a right to know the cost and purpose of the trip and that their tax dollars are being spent efficiently. With that in mind, our government has implemented a new system for publicly reporting all expenses for out-of-province travel for ministers and the government staff who accompany them. This new reporting system features semi-annual expense reports and includes a list of meetings the minister attended on behalf of the province.

Our government is focused on being accountable to the people of Saskatchewan. We are focused on watching our bottom line and will continue to look for ways to do things better. Out-of-province travel is an important part of a minister’s job as it’s how we increase exports, build our economy and how we learn about best practices in other provinces and other countries. We will continue to do this while keeping our expenses in full-view of the public.

If you have a question about this Legislative Report or any other matter, just Contact Don.

Past Legislative Reports