Last Friday marked the end of a shortened Saskatchewan legislature session where the discussion centred around the provincial budget.
Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young says the session was “different” as they tried to ensure physical distancing was followed as well as health guidelines.
“We were operating mostly out of our own offices out of separate rooms through teleconferences. We did our estimates and passed a number of bills. That was important to us, to show the people that we’re still trying to do the work to make sure the province is stable and strong moving forward.”
The provincial budget played a role in the deliberation and projected a $2.4 billion deficit due to a loss of revenue. Young says the pandemic caused a shift in the budget as the original was expected to be balanced with a $39 million surplus.
“We do have a plan in place to grow and move forward and bring ourselves out of this deficit. It’s larger than we would like but it’s also smaller than most provinces. We are confident that we are going to recover from it and that people are going to support us moving forward.”
Young mentions 87 per cent of the provincial economy continued through the pandemic as well as Saskatchewan being the first to provide a provincial audit.
Part of stimulating the economy during the pandemic recovery process included a push towards funding infrastructure projects through highways, hospitals and schools. It included projects such as the expansions for both Holy Rosary High School and Lloydminster Comprehensive High School as well as improvements to Highway 21 in the RM of Frenchman Butte.
The budget also saw a $288 million increase to health-care from last year’s budget with 7.5 per cent of the total health-care spending going towards funding mental health and addictions supports. Young says part of the spending will be used to cover the Saskatchewan’s portion of beds at the Thorpe Recovery Centre but new beds are unlikely.
“They’re still reviewing things such as Project Sunrise and Residents in Recovery, I know that the minister said that they are still looking at what they might be doing for the future for programs such as that.”
Young adds the dialysis relocation project is also being reviewed by the Minister of Health.