Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk says Saskatchewan is booming as he looks ahead to 2024

“Saskatchewan’s population is at an all-time high at 1.23 million people,” noted Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk, with 30,685 people coming to the province over the past year.

Perhaps the job growth can also be linked to this population boom as 19,300 new jobs were added year over year.

“With an unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent, that’s the lowest among the provinces,” Bonk said.

Other stats point to fantastic economic growth, for example nearly $28 billion in private investments and reaching a record-breaking $52.6 billion worth of exports in 2022. Construction numbers also look healthy as in September, provincial investment in building construction grew by 18.5 per cent year over year.

“It’s the third highest increase among the provinces and above the national average of 5.3 per cent respectively,” Bonk noted.

There’s been a lot of talk about shortages in the health care sector, but Bonk pointed to some positive numbers, starting with budget commitments to doctors.

“There’s been $1.8 million (a $600,000 increase) to support the Rural Physician Incentive Program, which was recently enhanced to provide $200,000 over five years,” he said. “Also, $1.3 million to hire up to 12 physician assistants in Saskatchewan’s health system for the first time.”

There are more than 1,000 doctors currently practicing in Saskatchewan, a 62 per cent increase since 2007. An increase in doctors will also be felt in rural areas, according to Bonk.

“Through the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment, over 283 additional doctors are currently providing service in the province,” he said. “The vast majority (77 per cent) are in a rural or a regional community.”

There’s good news for nurses as well, including $3.1 million devoted to the new registered nurse travel pool program which seeks to prevent service disruptions. Currently, over 18,000 nurses call Saskatchewan home. 

“Last year, over 600 nurses started practicing in Saskatchewan,” noted Bonk. “Saskatchewan has the highest Licensed Practical Nurse wages and second highest Registered Nurse wages in Canada according to the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.”

Surgical wait times were another priority this past year with almost $670 million invested to the surgical program for 2023-24.

“Between April 1 and June 20, 2023 more than 24,800 surgeries were performed, the highest quarterly volume ever recorded in Saskatchewan,” Bonk noted. “As of October 15, 2023 we have performed over 51,000 surgeries this fiscal year. Over 9,600 of these are publicly funded but privately delivered, or nearly 19 per cent.”

The government also announced $27.5 million in funding towards reducing interpersonal and sexual violence.

“We’re the first in Canada to enact Clare’s Law—to inform people who may not know they are in an intimate relationship with someone with a history of violence,” said Bonk. “In July 2023, our government was also proud to sign onto the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence with the federal government.”

Education was another area that saw a large investment, seeing the Ministry of Education devoting $3.1 billion in 2023-24. Of that, $382.4 million will go to early learning and child care with thousands of new spaces created and $10 per day daycare fees as of April 1—three years ahead of target.  

The province boasted the largest increase to education operating funding in more than eight years, investing $2.1 billion in school operating funds.

“Saskatchewan spent the highest per capita on primary and secondary schooling among provinces; over 24 per cent higher than provincial average,” Bonk said.

Bonk also noted the province’s stance on the Parental Inclusion and Consent Policy.

“Parents are the most important people in a child’s life and need to know what goes on and is being taught in their children’s school,” he said. “The default position of schools should be to include parents in their child’s school life, not to exclude them. This policy supports parental inclusion.

“Our government has heard from concerned parents and guardians across the province regarding sexual health education, including many parents and guardians of school-aged children,” continued Bonk. “Professional school supports will be provided to students who feel in danger when obtaining parental consent. We will work with school divisions on implementing these policies and any challenges that may arise in implementing them.”

In terms of capital spending on education, the province has committed $2.4 billion toward infrastructure since 2008 that included 60 new schools being built and 30 major renovation projects.

By Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 09, 2024 at 17:45

This item reprinted with permission from   Moosomin World-Spectator   , Moosoomin, Saskatchewan

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