September 24, 2014
Our government’s goal is to make Saskatchewan the best place to live, work and raise a family. This requires a long-term vision for the province and its people. Saskatchewan’s Plan for Growth sets out our government’s vision for a province of 1.2 million people by 2020.
Our plan identifies principles, goals and actions to ensure we are capturing opportunities and meeting the challenges of a growing province. In the past seven years, our population has grown by 120,000 people and we remain on track to reach our Growth Plan target.
Our plan includes a goal to add 60,000 workers by 2020. This week’s proclamation of The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Act will help to achieve this by providing increased applied training and education opportunities for post-secondary students in Saskatchewan. It gives the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology the authority to operate as a polytechnic institution and officially change its name to Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
The Act clarifies SIAST’s authority to undertake and support applied research, grant degrees in accordance with The Degree Authorization Act, and fundraise for property. In addition, SIAST will now become a member of Polytechnics Canada along with ten other members that offer a broad range of educational experiences, including four-year bachelor degrees.
As Saskatchewan’s largest post-secondary institution for technical education and skills training, SIAST has earned a reputation for delivering quality education while being responsive to the labour market needs of employers. This evolution will create even more opportunities for students, resulting in a stronger economy and the continued growth of our province.
About 26,000 students receive training annually in programs on campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. Approximately 93 per cent of graduates are employed within six months and 95 per cent of them find jobs in the new Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan people can be proud of what we have accomplished together. Our province is home to more people and jobs than ever before, our incomes are higher and our taxes lower. These are among the many benefits that a growing, prosperous province provides.
Saskatchewan also enjoys the highest possible credit rating from both Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s – a reflection of fiscal discipline and sustained low debt levels. We have balanced debt reduction and responsible spending with the need for increased investments in infrastructure and people to keep us strong and moving forward.
Let’s not forget that our province today is much different than it was just a few years ago. When Statistics Canada issued its population projections in 2005, it projected decline. It projected decline because, under the NDP, our province was stagnant and had been for some time. Today, our population is over 1,120,000 and StatsCan predicts we could grow to 1.5 million people by 2038. Our government far prefers the challenges of growth to those of decline. We will continue to address them as we work to build a better province for all Saskatchewan people.
One of the advantages of a healthy provincial economy is increased investments in local economies across the province. In addition to sharing record Provincial Sales Tax revenues with municipalities, we have also brought back the Community Rink Affordability Grant (CRAG).
CRAG, which has helped over 380 communities in the past two years, provides funding to offset the cost of maintenance and minor capital upgrades at indoor skating and curling rinks. Communities, schools, non-profits and First Nations are all eligible to apply online at spra.sk.ca/funding/crag. Successful applicants will receive $2,500 per indoor ice surface.
Community rinks, particularly in the coming fall and winter recreation season, are a place to socialize, meet new people and engage in physical activity. Our government is proud to provide support that ensures healthier communities for all Saskatchewan people to live, work and play.
We also understand that investing in the early years today is key to our province’s prosperity in the future. Through Saskatchewan’s Child and Family Agenda, our government continues to invest in early childhood development and family supports. The benefits are clear.
This year, the Ministries of Education and Health are providing $14.61 million to KidsFirst programs across the province. Through guidance, referrals and access to programs, this innovative cross-government approach helps us to ensure children are getting a good start in life, youth are prepared for their future, families are strong and communities are supportive.