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Thursday, 08 February 2018 09:47

Saskatchewan's new premier visits Swift Current

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Scott Moe talks with Everett Hindley. Scott Moe talks with Everett Hindley.

Saskatchewan's new premier made his first visit to Swift Current since being sworn in a week ago.

Premier Scott Moe spent some time in the city on Feb. 6 to support the campaign of the Saskatchewan Party's Everett Hindley in the Swift Current by-election.
One of Moe's first actions as premier was to call by-elections in Swift Current, Kindersley and Melfort. Voters in these constituencies will go to the polls on March 1. Moe started his visit to Swift Current at Hindley's campaign office, where he spoke to party supporters. In the evening he did some door knocking with Hindley in the city.
“It's a little bit awkward for me actually to be in the city of Swift Current in the title that I have now because my premier has always been your MLA,” Moe told supporters during a speech at Hindley's campaign office.
He referred to the vision that he campaigned on to become party leader and the vision that he has been talking about with cabinet and caucus during the past week.
“It’s a lot of the same vision that we had under Premier Wall,” he mentioned. “You'll hear people say you’re not taking much of a difference, you’re doing a lot of the same things that Premier Wall did. Well, they worked, they worked the last 10 years and they will work into the future as well, and they start with a commitment to fiscal sustainability here in the province to ensure that some of the investments we’ve had over the last decade are available to the next generation.”
He therefore believes it is important to balance the provincial budget as soon as possible to ensure the next generation can also have opportunities for those same investments and to replace aging infrastructure.
“Second, we need to continue to invest in services that people expect of the provincial government in our communities,” he said.
He spoke about an announcement made earlier in the day by him and Education Minister Gordon Wyant to provide immediate mid-school year funding of $7.5 million to school divisions to assist with front line staffing needs.
The intention is to provide support for students in the primary grades to ensure that they are at their grade levels and that they graduate on time.
“Their careers are far superior when we have the proper and appropriate supports for our children and ensure that they have every opportunity to succeed with their K-12 education,” he said.
He concluded his address to party supporters by referring to an issue which he said they will hear a lot about over the next few weeks, which is his government's willingness to oppose the federal government's carbon tax.
“We won’t have that tax here in the province of Saskatchewan,” he emphasized. “There’s other headwinds that are coming in the way of corporate income tax and other initiatives by our federal government, and we need to ensure that we have a leadership and a caucus and a cabinet that is always communicating and always ensuring that we don’t have these types of pressures on our industries here in the province of Saskatchewan.”
Afterwards Moe elaborated on the issues in his speech during an interview with local media. He noted that the $7.5 million in mid-school year funding is in addition to his leadership campaign commitment of $30 million for education, which will be annualized in the 2018-19 provincial budget.
“This will be a start to a conversation with our education sector, not only with teachers, not only with our school divisions, but also with parents across the province on how we should invest and how we need to continue to operate our education sector as a whole,” he said.
In the 2017-18 provincial budget the total education expense was reduced with $45.1 million. Moe said discussions with educators and parents during his leadership campaign highlighted the need for additional supports in the classroom that focus on the primary grades.
“We do have challenging decisions ahead of us in our three-year plan to balance, in which we are now just about a year into, but this is about priorities, a priority on our education and our next generation,” he noted. “As we travelled the province over the last number of months, we’ve heard time and time again about the core services that the people of the province expect from their government in Saskatchewan, and education was among the highest of those along with health care, taking care of our communities’ vulnerable, or highways. Those are the things that the people of Saskatchewan want us to continue to invest in.”
According to Moe the provincial government wants to have a discussion with municipalities about revenue sharing. There will be $241 million available for municipal revenue sharing in the upcoming budget, which will be about $16 million less than in the 2017-18 budget.
“We broadened the scope of our PST to a number of other items and now we’re trying to find our place on that as we have some commitments around reinstating that PST exemption on some of those items, such as life insurance, health insurance, crop insurance, and hail insurance,” he said. “So we need to find our line on that and we need to have a conversation with our municipalities as we move forward so that they can have a stable, predictable funding mechanism that they’ve had the last decade. I think all would agree that it worked well for our municipalities over the course of the last decade, and we need to find a comparable funding mechanism as we move forward.”

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Matthew Liebenberg