Despite controversial start, government says Saskatchewan ‘on track’ as fall sitting ends

Despite the controversy that surrounded the appearance of convicted killer Colin Thatcher on throne speech day, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said her government “accomplished a lot” in the legislature over the past five weeks.

On the topic of Colin Thatcher, Harpauer said him being invited to the throne speech “was a mistake”, but that she thinks her government got back to its agenda “very quickly”.

She said she doesn’t feel the sitting presented any other surprises.

“Obviously as finance minister, with the strength of our budget I’m very pleased that it’s on track with what we predicted in the first quarter,” she said Wednesday as the fall sitting concluded.

“But we also have committed additional dollars in the plan for health care recruitment and retention. We also addressed stresses in education by providing additional dollars for inflation for our school divisions. There were significant in-year dollars committed to agriculture. We introduced the Saskatchewan First Act.

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“So yes, I think we were quite busy.”

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More recently, the government has faced criticism over a bill introduced Monday with just two days left in the fall sitting.

The Saskatchewan Revenue Agency Act aims to establish a framework for taking control of provincial corporate income tax administration.

Opposition Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon has called the initiative a “boneheaded exercise” that will create unnecessary costs for the province.

“There’s always legislation that people may or may not agree with but we think this is a priority,” Harpauer said.

“This is a very high-level piece of legislation that won’t come to fruition for a few years but at some point we do want to explore it and this lets the public know what our agenda is.”

Other bills introduced in the fall included The Saskatchewan Firearms Act , which aims to expand provincial influence over gun control regulations, and a bill to amend the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act which will give municipalities and park authorities the discretion to allow drinking in outdoor spaces like public parks, and the Income Tax Amendment Act which provides for the distribution of the $500 affordability tax credit cheques introduced earlier this year.

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Opposition Leader Carla Beck, meanwhile, says she’s satisfied with the work her party did to critique the government on its response to issues like health care and affordability.

“The reason we chose those priorities is because that’s what people described to us as their main priorities when we were out the month prior to session,” said Beck at the conclusion of her first sitting as party leader.

“We’ve raised those issues consistently. We’ve had people wanting to come in to talk about how their challenges with affordability and health care are impacting their lives.”

On the Saskatchewan First Act, Beck said the bill has “political motivation behind it” and “materially wouldn’t have that much of an impact on the people of this province.”

“It reasserts rights that already exist and where there are very real concerns is around the lack of consultation with Indigenous and Métis communities.”

And, on Thatcher’s appearance, Beck said it shows a government that is “out of touch.”

“The fact that they did not see a problem inviting a convicted wife killer to the legislature on throne speech day and then took five days and international embarrassment to table the weakest of apologies shows this is not a government that has its finger on the pulse of what people care about,” she said.

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“This sent a terrible message in a province that has twice the rate of domestic violence as the rest of the country.”

In Washington on a trade mission, Premier Scott Moe was unavailable Wednesday for further comment on the fall sitting.

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Inviting a convicted wife killer to Sask. throne speech an ‘error in judgement’: MLA

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