© Daily Herald
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback.
Despite a fall session plagued with controversy from the ongoing Senate expense scandal, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback says that he is satisfied with the achievements the government has made throughout the past year.
“We’ve truly stayed focused as a government on jobs and the economy and what we can do to benefit families,” Hoback said, noting that the government is projecting to have a balanced budget by 2015.
One of the government’s largest achievements this year according to Hoback was the signing of a free trade agreement with Europe, something that he says will benefit both the province and Prince Albert.
“It’s amazing how that trade deal will have an impact all through little towns and communities across Saskatchewan,” Hoback said. “CETA opens up markets for wheat and barley that weren’t there before, or were there but with really high tariffs. For barley, the tariff was about $129 a ton and on wheat it was up to $190 a ton. Those tariffs will be gone once (the free trade agreement) is fully radified in 2015. There will be that much more volume going into Europe and that’s going to have a big impact on our local community.”
Hoback says the CETA agreement will hopefully help rejuvenate the city’s once-thriving forestry sector.
“Forestry products are another item that’s going to be open to the European Union’s reduction in tariffs,” Hoback said. “So you will start to see the forestry sector come back and I’m looking forward to seeing that become strong like it used to be. It may not ever be what it was, but it’s still a very strong sector in our economy.”
Looking at the P.A. area, Hoback says that the bumper crop experienced by local farmers was of great economic benefit to the region, but the larger than usual amount of harvested grain has caused some hiccups within the industry that he would like to see resolved.
“There’s been some challenges this year,” Hoback said. “We had a huge crop, and we are having some challenges getting it all moved to port and getting the grain to the right terminal out on the West Coast. These are growing pains that we are going to have to work through and figure out ways to become more efficient within the handling system. The reality is that we’ve got to get better at it. It was huge crop to move, and it’s been cold right from October on, so it’s been a challenge for sure.”
During the next year, Hoback hopes to look for different ways to obtain funding for various projects in the area.
“We are always trying to turn rocks over to see if there is funding for different projects that are going on,” Hoback said. “We’ve got consistent, stable funding going to municipalities now in the GST tax credit that a lot of people don’t talk about, but it adds up to serious dollars for the city of Prince Albert and the other municipalities within the riding. We will start looking at different infrastructure projects that will have to be funded as well and we will move forward on that.”
The Senate was an issue that dominated the fall session, and Hoback says that the government will focus on reforming the Senate in the coming year, though he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of getting rid of it altogether.
“We would prefer to see a reformed Senate, one that has accountable people,” Hoback said. “Having said that, if that’s not doable then I think the only other action is abolishing the Senate.”
The year 2013 also saw Hoback appointed as chair of the Saskatchewan Conservative caucus, something he says has caused him to be busier than usual.
“I enjoy the position, but it’s also brought a lot of work for me throughout the province,” Hoback said. “It allows me to be a lot more involved in the day-to-day activities of what’s going on in the party and what’s going on with other MPs throughout Saskatchewan.”
The next year will be a busy one for Hoback and his colleagues as the Conservatives head into their third year of a majority government with hints at tax breaks, continued focus on a balanced budget, and senate reform.
“I really look forward to 2014, and there’s going to be some challenges for sure,” Hoback said. “But Saskatchewan is probably one of the best places in the world when it comes to looking for jobs and raising a family and I’m happy to be a part of it.”