Saskatchewan’s mid-year financial update shows our plan to balance the budget in 3 years is on track. Efforts to control spending have expenses down $9 million with the budget contingency covering public sector wage compensation savings that will not be realized in 2017-18.
We will not follow the lead of other governments that are choosing to run up huge deficits with no path to balance. This only leads to credit rating downgrades and higher financing expenses for carrying debt. We will carefully manage expenses to keep our financial house strong.
Saskatchewan’s economy is expected to post positive growth for the first time in two years. Fueled by a strong performance in the resource sector, Saskatchewan’s real GDP is forecast to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2017 and 2.2 per cent in 2018. A return to normal crop production, in addition to rising oil prices and strong oilfield investment, is expected to support stronger growth.
Earlier this year, the federal government announced its intention to legalize the non-medical use of marijuana by July 2018. Despite concerns ranging from safety and distribution to taxation and public education, the federal government has not changed its timetable for implementation. Therefore, our government has no choice but to prepare for this historic revision to the Criminal Code.
Our review process included an online consultation to collect insight from residents and help shape cannabis legalization within Saskatchewan. The survey included questions about areas which the province has the ability to regulate, such as age limits on cannabis sales; public consumption; taxation on cannabis sales; distribution and wholesaling; potential retail models, locations and rules; regulatory compliance; and the enforcement of modified impaired driving laws.
The information provided is valuable to assist us in developing a plan to meet public safety expectations and residents can expect to see a framework document outlining the future of cannabis legalization within Saskatchewan in the near future.
Saskatchewan has the highest rate of impaired driving among the provinces and our government has introduced a number of measures to address this.
It’s important to remember that in Saskatchewan it is currently and will continue to be illegal to drive while impaired – whether by drugs or alcohol. That is not changing, even when personal cannabis use becomes legal in July. New federal legislation gives police new tools to detect drug-impaired drivers and anyone caught will face the same tough consequences as drivers impaired by alcohol.
We know that additional steps can be taken to reduce impaired driving and improve safety which is why we will be urging municipalities to allow ride sharing services to operate within their jurisdiction. We are also introducing legislation enabling SGI to offer affordable insurance to drivers working for ride sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft, and will work with smaller communities to attract or establish a ride sourcing network so people have another option for a safe ride home.
Community safety is a major priority for the Government of Saskatchewan and provincial grants for targeted police initiatives are helping keep our communities safe and secure.
The provincial government is continuing to provide Municipal Police Grants to Saskatchewan’s urban police services to support 128 municipal police positions and policing initiatives.
In 2017-18, the province is contributing:
· $4.8 million for 43 police officers in Saskatoon;
· $4.7 million for 40 police officers in Regina;
· $2.1 million to fund 20 existing Prince Albert Police Service positions;
· $770,000 to fund seven existing North Battleford RCMP positions;
· $770,000 to fund seven existing Meadow Lake RCMP positions;
· $330,000 to fund three existing Moose Jaw Police Service positions;
· $330,000 to fund three existing Yorkton RCMP positions;
· $330,000 to fund three existing Estevan Police Service positions; and
· $220,000 to fund two existing Weyburn Police Service positions.
In addition to activity in urban centres, our government has heard that more must be done to prevent crime in rural Saskatchewan. To address these concerns, we appointed a committee of government MLAs to consult on measures that might strengthen public safety.
Acting on the committee’s recommendations, the Government of Saskatchewan has created a Protection and Response Team (PRT) consisting of 258 armed officers who have the authority to arrest and detain those suspected of committing crimes in rural Saskatchewan.
Made up of 120 police officers from the RCMP and municipal police services; 40 Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers with expanded powers; and 98 Conservation Officers, the PRT will improve response times and increase the visibility of uniformed officers in rural areas.
In combination with the Provincial Response Team, Municipal Police Grants fulfill the government’s commitment to supporting the policing services within the province’s municipalities.