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Legislative Report
(19 April 2012)

Healthcare and Transportation Improvements

Our government is moving forward on another commitment to improve healthcare in Saskatchewan. Last week, Moose Jaw received some long awaited news from the Five Hills Health Region on the site of the new hospital. The Health Region has purchased 30 acres of land on Diefenbaker Drive; this location is close to highway #1 and #2 which will allow for good traffic flow, future growth and parking. This new hospital will incorporate the LEAN principles of design and be a patient-centered facility. The funding for this hospital will fall under the new model where the province funds 80 per cent and the local communities will be responsible for 20 per cent, this is a significant change from the old model where local communities were responsible to pay 35 per cent.

Our government has made improving healthcare throughout Saskatchewan a priority which is further reflected in our commitment to reduce wait times for surgery. The Victoria Hospital Department of Orthopedics in Prince Albert has introduced a “pooled referral” process that gives patients the option of seeing the next available specialist who is qualified to treat their condition, rather than waiting for a particular specialist. This process will work to reduce the bottle-neck in the wait-times for particular specialist and improve over all wait time outcomes. This “pooled referral” system is being implemented in other health care areas, and is one more way our government is working towards our commitment of providing all patients the opportunity to have surgery within three months by 2014.

As our province grows, so do the challenges for our transportation infrastructure. Heavy truck traffic is one of those challenges. One way our government is addressing that challenge is by providing $700,000 in funding to 11 shortline railways through the Shortline Railway Sustainability Program. This will provide funding to improve provincially-regulated shortline railways, and can be used for projects such as track maintenance, railway tie replacements and bridge repairs. This is an alternative means of transportation for grain producers and other shippers to get their products to market, and in turn reduces heavy truck traffic on our highways. Work on these railways began in 2008; up to $5.8 million will be invested in these railways by the end of this fiscal year. This is an important element in our ever growing transportation sector.

Another signal that Saskatchewan is the place to be is the announcement of a major investment by Canada’s largest privately owned transportation and logistics service. Consolidated Fastfrate is preparing to build a cross dock facility that will be 10,000 sq ft. and be co-located with the Canadian Pacific’s intermodal rail yard. Construction is scheduled to start this spring at the Global Transportation Hub, just west of Regina.

There’s more good news to report this week about Saskatchewan’s economy. According to Statistics Canada, our merchandise exports continue to increase. In February 2012, we had $2.62 billion in exports, a 22.2 per cent increase from the year before. The growth in our exports shows that the world wants what Saskatchewan has to offer, and is a good indication of what our future holds. This type of growth is one of the reasons Saskatchewan is expected to lead the country in economic growth, it also reflects the high level of confidence investors have in what the future holds for our province.

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