Final sitting day before Christmas a lively one

John Cairns' Leg Watch

Dec. 5 marked the final day of the fall sitting of the legislature, and also the final sitting day for the Legislature this decade.

It was one last chance for members to get their questions in before the break. With Christmas approaching, members also had an opportunity to reflect on the coming holiday season. 

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The remarks on the topic by Lyle Stewart, MLA for Lumsden-Morse, were particularly moving and are reproduced here from Hansard.   

Mr. Stewart: —... A year ago I was lying in a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Mr. Speaker, wondering what the future might hold for me. Now I’m not sure why God gave an undeserving old cowboy like me a second chance, but I’m very thankful he did, and I’m going to make the best of it.

God gave me so much more than just extra time, Mr. Speaker. This season I’m reminded that he gave his son for me and for you. I figured, after all he’s done for me, the least I could do is give myself to him. Turns out some changes are in order, Mr. Speaker. As we say around here, a lot has been done but there’s more work to do.

So this Christmas season, I want to thank God for Jesus and wish the very best in 2020 for you all, your families, and the people of this great province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a place where we share a lot of barbed words and we have a lot of moments of conflict, but we also come together in moments like that. I want to thank the member opposite for those words. You’ve touched all of our hearts. I want to thank you for your service, and all the members in this House for their service.

In much more of a fighting mood was the member for Indian Head-Milestone, Don McMorris, who reminded the NDP of the times that they opposed the Regina Bypass.

Mr. McMorris: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Regina bypass has officially been open for just over a month now. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? An average of 5,630 vehicles go over that bypass a day, Mr. Speaker. That’s 1,230 heavy trucks that use that bypass every day.

Mr. Speaker, I want some of the members to play along here. Does anybody remember a member saying, get heavy-haul trucks off of Dewdney Avenue, Mr. Speaker? Who was that? That was the member from Rosemont. He said it so many times, Mr. Speaker, I believe the Pages even at the time got sick of those words, Mr. Speaker. Over 80 times did he put those petitions forward.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP [New Democratic Party] never miss a moment to be on the wrong side of an issue, and this is another one, Mr. Speaker. They’ve opposed it since the day the bypass was announced and they oppose it as 1,230 heavy trucks are taken off of the streets of Regina, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, once again the opposition has bypassed a great project.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, that member sure knows how to get rid of the Christmas spirit real quick, doesn’t he.

With those barbs out of the way, Question Period got started. Among the topics that came up was health care, with opposition leader Ryan Meili once again grilling Premier Scott Moe over the issues faced in hospitals in the province.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This session has made it clear once again that this government is failing Saskatchewan people when it comes to health care. We have brand new hospitals with major issues. We have crumbling, old hospitals with major issues. We have people waiting in hallways for days for care. We have numbers on the walls in the halls because they’re basically being used as rooms. Understaffing, overcrowding. The Premier would rather point fingers and float random trial balloons to distract from his disastrous record on health care.

To the Premier: isn’t it time that he and his government stop dreaming up ways to fulfill the dream of Saskatchewan people to fill out another tax form, and actually get serious about addressing what matters, admit the problems in health care, and get to work to fix it?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, if we go back just a short number of years to, let’s say, maybe the election in 2007, Mr. Speaker, and the conversation that we were having in this province with respect to access to our medical professionals, with respect to access to our health care facilities across this province, Mr. Speaker, this was top of mind of each and every family in this province, Mr. Speaker. …

It’s through record investments in health care that we have, thankfully, have been able to invest in over 900 physicians now, Mr. Speaker, and make pathways for them to access careers in our communities in this province, most notably, 70 specialists operating, Mr. Speaker, providing services to — services that we never previously had — to families out of a brand new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in the city of Saskatoon, Mr. Speaker.

This is the record of this government. The record is new hospitals. The record is more physicians. The record is more nurses. The record, Mr. Speaker, is investment in health care infrastructure, and the people that are offering the services to our family in this province.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, the record of this Premier is hallway medicine. The record of this Premier is crumbling hospitals, hospitals where you can’t drink the water, Mr. Speaker...

On that latter point Meili was referring to the water issues at Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. Opposition critic Vicki Mowat raised those issues later on in Question Period with Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff.

Ms. Mowat: —... Mr. Speaker, in May we raised concerns about significant issues at Sask Hospital North Battleford. And the Deputy Premier made assurances that internal promises would catch anything we needed to worry about. Since then there have been leaks, ward closures, and the water has been undrinkable for over a month. The persistent, ongoing issues at this hospital should have spurred government to act a long time ago.

In October the government finally called an infrastructure audit, but we still haven’t heard anything on the findings. To the minister: what is the status of that facility audit? And will he commit today that those findings will be made fully public?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Minister of Central Services.

Hon. Mr. Cheveldayoff: —Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member opposite for the question. Most recently, test results indicate water in all areas of the facility is within the acceptable water quality standards. Further water testing is occurring to ensure that results are consistent over time. So we are making progress, but again through an abundance of caution, we’re making sure that everything is looked into.

The local medical health officer has indicated that there is not an immediate health hazard at all. And again, out of an abundance of caution, we continue to ensure that patients and staff have potable water that is available for their use at this time, out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Speaker.

McMorris’s remarks on the Regina Bypass did not go unnoticed by the opposition. Saskatoon Nutana MLA Cathy Sproule raised the bypass in her exchange with the Premier to wrap up Question Period.

Ms. Sproule: —Mr. Speaker, despite crowing from the other side of the House, we’re starting to see that the traffic on the bypass isn’t even a fraction of what was planned. But, Mr. Speaker, we’d like to go back, way back to 2014, because in 2014 the government skipped an environmental impact assessment for the bypass because, according to a 2014 reason for determination from the Environment ministry, there will be no substantial use of province resources. But, Mr. Speaker, documents shared by the bypass say that a lot of material was taken from provincially owned pits, gravel pits, near Indian Head.

So my question is this, Mr. Speaker: why was that environmental assessment skipped, and why was provincial gravel and construction material taken from the Indian Head gravel pits for the bypass when they promised back in 2014 there would be no substantial use of provincial resources?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, a fair question. Fair questions with respect to the bypass, Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford. One thing the people of this province can rest assured of is under the NDP, Mr. Speaker, there would be no Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford replacement. There would be no Regina bypass, Mr. Speaker . . .

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —Order, order. I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —And I think this sets up, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this . . . the very clear difference between the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP, Mr. Speaker.

We have always and continue to have a plan for growth in this province, a plan to expand our economy, a plan to expand the jobs in our communities across the province. The NDP have no plan, Mr. Speaker. They have a plan of decline, a plan to close hospitals, a plan to never build infrastructure like we are seeing here today, Mr. Speaker. ...

Mr. Speaker, the other day we delivered our mid-year balanced budget, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite went out into the rotunda and quickly said that they would run a deficit budget. This is the difference, Mr. Speaker, that the people of the province will have the opportunity to make a decision on over the course of this next year, Mr. Speaker. And I’m confident that the people will . . . [inaudible] . . . stand up for Saskatchewan rather than giving in to Trudeau and the NDP. They will choose balanced budgets over deficit budgets, Mr. Speaker, and they are going to choose growth over decline, and they will choose the Saskatchewan Party over the NDP any day, Mr. Speaker.

The legislature now stands in recess until March 2, 2020.

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