REGINA — The premier’s address at the annual Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention touched on plenty of topics important to members, including trade potential in the province and health care.
Premier Scott Moe spoke to members at the 117th annual SUMA convention on April 4, touching on the recently shared provincial budget and Saskatchewan’s upcoming industry-boosting projects.
The premier said the government anticipates the next decade in Saskatchewan will be one of “growth and prosperity” across the province.
Moe said a recent trade trip to Europe included talks with the European Union about future agreements on Saskatchewan’s largest exports — food, fuel and fertilizer, as listed by the premier.
Talks centred on concerns about supply shortages due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could potentially pinch import-export lines.
Moe posed Saskatchewan as a “trusted, reliable” supplier of potash, grains, manufactured goods and uranium, in response to continued sanctions against Russian trade imports to the EU.
“We are the answer to the question around food and energy security, not only in the EU but in other areas of the world,” said Moe.
The premier also highlighted the $14 billion in private sector projects announced in the past year, expected to expand industry and provide an estimated 3,000 new jobs in the province.
This includes new canola crush plants coming to Saskatchewan, like the facility on deck from FCL and AGT Foods near Regina, that will expand Saskatchewan’s processing capacity by almost double. It also includes the new BHP potash mine set for construction near Jansen, Sask.
“We’re well on our way to meet our growth plan goal by 2030, which was to achieve $90 billion in potash sales here in the province,” said Moe.
Moe also spoke on the provincial budget, shared publicly on March 23. He detailed the provincial government’s investment to launch the Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation, to support Indigenous business, as well as funding for the technology start-up sector.
Moe also talked largely about the upcoming health budget, which pledged a total of $6.44 million in funding to the sector for 2022-23.
The budget includes approximately $20 million to aid in the reduction of surgical wait times, with funding from the federal government, as well as a pledge to increase province-wide ICU capacity to 90 beds from 79.
“There is a substantial investment into health care in this budget,” said Moe.
In the afternoon session of the Legislative Assembly, opposition critics questioned the provincial government’s health budget and it's plans to address shortfalls in rural healthcare.
NDP municipalities critic and leader hopeful Carla Beck highlighted ten smaller communities in the province currently without full health services, including Kamsack, Herbert, Porcupine Plain and Esterhazy.
She noted that reduced services leave residents often travelling large distances to seek care.
“The future vibrancy and growth of our communities hinges on healthcare, and your access to that healthcare shouldn’t be determined by your postal code,” said Beck.
The opposition’s statements tag along with concerns raised by SUMA members, as part of the conference’s resolutions this year.
Beck said the province’s healthcare budget does not thoroughly address the problems causing chronic service disruptions for small towns, like recruitment and retention of health care staff, with long-term solutions.
“Doctors and care workers are flowing out of our health care system and out of their communities,” said Beck.
SUMA’s agenda also proposes a motion to advocate for a better acute care and staff retention plan from the ministers of health and of rural and remote health for all communities in the province.
Moe, in his address on Monday, highlighted a funding commitment to expand the provincial doctor recruitment centre to begin attraction efforts for all types of health care workers. He also noted the province’s commitment to add 300 new care aids in the province.
The provincial cabinet, including the premier, will field questions from SUMA members during the bear pit session on Wednesday morning.