© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall smiles at supporters during his speech at the annual Premier’s Dinner, which took place on Thursday in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre.
Following his speech at the annual Premier’s Dinner on Thursday, Premier Brad Wall left the stage to the Elvis Presley song A Little Less Conversation.
The song’s chorus -- “a little less conversation, a little more action” -- aptly summarized the premier’s speech, a ringing endorsement of the Saskatchewan Party’s record since taking office in 2007.
“How did we get to this point in Saskatchewan, this completely new place, one … we've never been before frankly in terms of the population, in terms of the growth we’re seeing?” Wall asked his audience of Sask. Party supporters at the Art Hauser Centre’s Ches Leach Lounge.
“Well, I think a big part of it has been this simple proposition I offer tonight, and that is that all of you representing the people of the province of Saskatchewan recognized … that we ought to stop talking about what’s possible in the province, and we ought to start acting on what is possible in Saskatchewan.”
Throughout his speech, Wall returned to different issues that he said had been talked about for a long time in Saskatchewan, contrasting such talk to his own government’s record of taking action.
Reading from a letter he received from a 10-year-old girl noting that her family had moved back to Saskatchewan from Alberta since his party took charge, Wall ran through a list of changes since 2007 that might explain such shifts in perception of the province.
Where previous governments had bemoaned the problem of young people leaving Saskatchewan, Wall said, his government and its supporters had collectively worked to resolve the problem.
“First of all, you began to create economic opportunity for them here,” he told the audience. “There needs to be a job for them to stay in the first place … Then we campaigned in ’07 on the most aggressive graduate retention plan in the country, kept that promise (and) acted on it early on in that first term of government.”
He boasted that 50,000 students since 2007 had taken advantage of the graduate retention program.
Wall highlighted his government’s reduction of the education property tax to historically low levels and noted its success in helping reduce provincial debt, to the point where Saskatchewan now has the second-lowest debt per capita in the country.
When we announce these things, they get done. Premier Brad Wall
Aside from economic points such as a seventh consecutive balanced budget, Wall also discussed social issues such as the elimination of a wait list for residents with intellectual disabilities seeking a home.
“Never again in the life of this province, as long as we have anything to do with it in the Saskatchewan Party, will we substitute talk for action for those who just simply need the dignity of a residence, of a group home space,” he pledged, adding that such spaces were being built in Prince Albert.
Infrastructure was another major focus. The premier noted that his government had invested $16 billion in infrastructure renewal, including $3 billion in the last budget.
From a local perspective, the centrepiece of such efforts is the renewal of the Victoria Hospital, which Wall pointed out had experienced a record 1,533 births last year.
“Just in terms of what’s happening in terms of births, it’s exceeding what it was designed to accommodate,” he said.
“Our frontline staff are doing a great job here in Prince Albert dealing with these challenges. But it’s the next major capital project and when we announce these things, they get done.”
Regarding the perennial issue of a second bridge over the North Saskatchewan River, Wall said the government would monitor the success of a commuter bridge in Saskatoon based on a P3 (public-private partnership) and would be willing to converse with the mayor and city council should they choose that road.
“P3 Canada does not require the provincial government to be involved to approve a local project,” he noted. “In other words, Prince Albert can apply if they choose and then the funding is matched between the local level and the federal government.”