Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill spoke in the legislature Wednesday, as he announced his support for the provincial budget by seconding the budget motion of the minister of Finance.
In his lengthy remarks, Cockrill voiced support for several of the measures announced by finance minister Donna Harpauer on Tuesday. What follows are some highlights of what Cockrill said on the budget on Wednesday afternoon, as recorded in Hansard.
Mr. Cockrill: —
... So now, Mr. Speaker, to the topic at hand, the 2021-2022 budget. This is a budget, Mr. Speaker, that is focused on protecting, building, and growing Saskatchewan. In the face of COVID-19, which has been one of the most significant challenges that our society has faced in recent decades, our government has been there to protect Saskatchewan. On the COVID-19 front, in this budget there is one and a half billion dollars dedicated to protecting lives and livelihoods here in this province. And this will help ensure that our health care system will continue to be ready to protect us here in this province.
Now, Mr. Speaker, over the last year, protecting and serving our seniors has been highlighted, and this budget makes a number of significant investments to that end. We’re going to be hiring 100 new continuing care aids in the next year, something that we committed to doing in the fall election campaign. Promise made, promise kept, Mr. Speaker.
We have reduced ambulance fees by over half for seniors in this province. Another promise kept. And we are making significant capital investments in long-term care facilities in this province, and that will help us protect seniors well into the future.
Now, Mr. Speaker, these two items didn’t receive much attention yesterday, but I would like to highlight them. I’d like to highlight these two investments that I believe will go a long ways in protecting the people of this province. Firstly, Mr. Speaker, I’m thrilled to see the creation of another PACT [police and crisis team] team in Saskatchewan, this time in Estevan. I know from speaking with the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] in my home constituency of The Battlefords, having a PACT team makes local policing more efficient and helps to better address mental health challenges as police respond to calls.
There is also increased funding to enhance the provincial internet child exploitation units. This will help to support police as they seek to protect vulnerable children, and Mr. Speaker, I think that’s money well spent in this province.
Cockrill also voiced support for adding four more international offices to increase Saskatchewan exports. And he spoke about the commitment of $15 million to VIDO-InterVac’s [Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-international vaccine centre] Saskatoon facility, as well as the five-year extension of the Saskatchewan technology start-up initiative.
And, Mr. Speaker, this diversification of our economy, paired with growing agricultural and manufacturing exports, is giving Saskatchewan that increased economic capacity. And, Mr. Speaker, what follows growing economic capacity? What follows is an increasing quality of the public services that we enjoy in this province.
It means new highways, an increased investment in a variety of transportation infrastructure across Saskatchewan. Mr. Speaker, it means new schools — 16 of them, actually — and it also means major renovation projects in school divisions all over Saskatchewan, including one in my home constituency in The Battlefords. And we are really excited, Mr. Speaker, to see the historic John Paul II Collegiate about to undergo a major renovation project.
And, Mr. Speaker, it also means more long-term care beds for improved care for our seniors and hiring those CCAs to staff those facilities. It means new hospitals in Weyburn and Prince Albert, and it means growing our government’s investment in mental health treatment options across this province.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the budget that we have developed and that the Minister of Finance presented yesterday. I think she presented it eloquently. And, Mr. Speaker, I’ve tried to add a few helpful comments here today, along with a perspective on the budget for my area of the province.
Cockrill spent a good deal of time slamming the opposition’s continual call for lockdowns.
Now I’m looking forward to hearing more from members on both sides of the House, Mr. Speaker. However, I am curious to hear from members opposite how their comments or feedback or criticisms will square with their repeated calls over the last number of months to shut down our economy. Most of the members opposite have called for job-killing, circuit-breaker lockdowns, all while criticizing the employment numbers in this province, which, by the way, Mr. Speaker, are some of the best in the country.
Now, Mr. Speaker, as someone who has worked their whole career in small business, it just doesn’t make sense to me that closing down helps small businesses. How do you plan? How do you schedule staff? What do you tell customers? And as someone who has employed people, I find the opposition’s insistence on lockdowns infuriating.
And I know that hard-working small-business owners across this province and in The Battlefords agree. I know that because I’ve talked to them, Mr. Speaker. You see, small-business owners and entrepreneurs across this province have seen the adversity from COVID-19 as an opportunity to sharpen their business model and improve the way that they serve customers, but you can’t do that if you’re shut down, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, based on what the members opposite have said publicly over the last number of months, I expect that they will attempt to paint this province as lost. They’ll attempt to paint this province as perhaps lacking hope for the future. And, Mr. Speaker, I just don’t see it that way. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are currently in the throes of an incredible public health challenge, and I don’t make my comments to minimize that reality.
And, Mr. Speaker, I don’t say this to undermine the absolutely commendable work done by front-line workers across this province. They have answered the call for the people of Saskatchewan time and time again, and they continue to do that every day. And we thank them for that.
But I stand here today, Mr. Speaker, and second this budget motion with a deep sense of hopefulness about Saskatchewan. By and large, our government has walked the balance of restrictions and freedoms as best as we could see how, and the numbers bear that out in seeing the fastest vaccine rollout in this country.
Mr. Speaker, speaking personally, my father-in-law received his vaccine yesterday in The Battlefords, and that gives me a great sense of peace. I have another relative and a friend receiving their first dose today in The Battlefords, and after these constituents get their dose, they text me. They say, I just feel so much better. And I hear that sentiment from other people in The Battlefords.
Cockrill ended his remarks on an optimistic note.
...Mr. Speaker, as vaccines are becoming more widely available, there is hope. That’s why I’m feeling hopeful. There is hope for family dinners together and visiting your loved ones and seeing your kids. And there is hope for vacations in sunny destinations and having your customers walk back through your
And given that hope, Mr. Speaker, I believe that we must go forward boldly. And I think of my family who many generations ago settled in the Mayfair area and homesteaded, and I think, did they give up after a tough year? And, Mr. Speaker, I won’t tell the full story, but no they didn’t. They planted again and kept working. So we must, we must, Mr. Speaker, go forward boldly to continue building and growing this province, building the economic capacity that fuels opportunity for individuals and families across this province and ensures a robust set of public services in Saskatchewan.
And, Mr. Speaker, I see this vision so clearly articulated in the 2021-2022 budget. I’m proud to second the motion made by the member from Humboldt-Watrous and I will be supporting the motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.