In a year-end reflection with Discover Humboldt, Humboldt-Watrous MLA, Finance Minister, and Deputy Premier Donna Harpauer talked frankly about the challenges that constituents have faced this year. She also addressed the positive indicators that show both current growth and economic and social potential heading into a new year.
Harpauer began her review with an acknowledgement that it’s been tough on families given the current economic situation, brought on by various factors.
“We recognize there are inflationary pressures in Saskatchewan, but there are also so many positive stories. Our population has just surpassed 1.2 million people which is the highest it’s ever been in the history of our province. We are also showing very strong job numbers in our province, and we have the second lowest unemployment rate.”
Harpauer forecasts those numbers to stay strong with over 15 billion dollars in private investment committed to Saskatchewan. That includes the BHP mine investment for the next phase of development, one she acknowledges will certainly impact the area.
“It’s very positive even though we do recognize the inflationary pressures felt by people in the province,” Harpauer acknowledged.
Inflation is taking its toll in other sectors, not the least of which is education, with cost overruns continuing to impact the timeline on the new Lanigan school. Suspension of service at health care facilities in the province have also drawn concern, and while those circumstances are often bound to qualified personnel, the government has been called on to up its efforts to secure trained professionals for vacant positions.
“We had some additional funding that we had committed since the budget in both health care and education,” Harpauer explained. “Since then we’ve added dollars for inflationary pressures for school divisions, and we added additional dollars for increased student enrolment they didn’t expect. That totalled an additional $35 million going out to our school divisions.”
In health care, Harpauer pointed to an aggressive plan to recruit, train, incentivise and retain health care workers. Harpauer says there are several components to that plan.
“We’ve dedicated 60 million additional dollars to those initiatives, the most recent of which saw our Health Minister in the Philippines recruiting nurses. It was a very successful trip, and there were a number of conditional offers that have been made.”
In fact, the government reported 116 employment offers had been accepted, any many more applications are under consideration.
Through it all, Saskatchewan has remained dedicated to assisting Ukraine refugees to find homes in the province. Some families have made their way to the Humboldt-Watrous constituencywhere settlement agencies are assisting.
“What’s happening there is unacceptable, and our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine. We have now landed four planeloads that we have taken on as a province. We’ve landed more people in our province than they have in the entire country, quite frankly.”
Harpauer commends the communities, individuals, agencies, and businesses that have stepped up to support new arrivals with homes, furnishings, clothes and the necessities to attempt to make a new start.
As the old year rolls out, Harpauer says the government will continue targeting growth that works for everyone. That’s been a mantra throughout this government’s tenure, and Harpauer says the approach is justified.
“We feel that without growth, we’re not going to be able to continue the investments we’re making in health care and education.”
A second, but no less important focus, is to maintain a steadfast conviction to maintaining jurisdictional rights over those initiatives of the Federal government that do not serve Saskatchewan citizens, Harpauer says.
“I think a lot of people are talking about federal government policies that are infringing, quite frankly, on our ability as a province to develop the natural resources we have here. We think that will be detrimental to our growth going forward and we’re going to push back and push back hard.“
“We’re ending with one of the strongest economies in the country, and we hope to facilitate that strength going forward,” Harpauer concludes. “I want to say a Merry Christmas to everyone within the constituency. Take time, enjoy your families, enjoy your friends, and stay safe throughout the holiday season.”