POLITICS

Spring session ends at Saskatchewan legislature with talk of major changes ahead

05/17/2012 03:20 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
REGINA - The spring session of the Saskatchewan legislature has ended with Premier Brad Wall talking about big changes.

Wall wants to release the second phase of the Saskatchewan Party's long-term vision for the province this fall.

"In order to do that we're looking at a major restructuring of government and that's going to come in days — well, in weeks not months," Wall told reporters at the legislature on Thursday.

"And it will be a significant change in terms of how government is organized.

"It won't be just a (cabinet) shuffle for the sake of a shuffle. We're going to restructure government so it actually can deliver on this long-term plan for growth that we want for the province. And it will include the opportunity for a number of new ministers to come into cabinet."

The government's first phase was released in 2004.

As for the cabinet shuffle, it is already known that Wall will have to replace one veteran minister.

Bob Bjornerud, who is a founding member of the Saskatchewan Party, announced in March that he plans to step down as agriculture minister to spend more time with his family. He has been agriculture minister since the party first came to power in 2007.

Bjornerud and other politicians left the assembly Thursday after passing 44 pieces of legislation during the session.

One of the most debated bills was the Constituency Boundaries Act. It adds three more constituencies to the province, bringing the total number of seats in the legislature to 61. The extra seats will probably be added in Regina, Saskatoon and one rural area.

The bill also changes existing laws to ensure that every constituency has roughly the same number of voters — meaning people under 18 won't be counted.

It will cost $225,000 per year for each new member of the legislature, but Attorney General Don Morgan has said the change will be funded through savings on government communication and travel expenses, not through higher taxes.

Opposition NDP Leader John Nilson said the move to add more MLAs and cut a film tax credit in the budget took people off guard. The film tax credit cut prompted the industry to hold rallies at the legislature during the session.

"The premier is wearing many of these decisions," said Nilson.

"It's very important in an election that you tell people what you're going to do and then you go and do it. He came and surprised us all in the last few months."

Wall said the government kept promises made during the 2011 election to add more child care spaces and roll out more money for highways. He also said the census triggered the redrawing of boundaries so it should not have come as a surprise that constituencies are being changed.

Wall said the highlight of the session was the budget, which is the only balanced budget tabled in the country.

"That's required some choices that were difficult choices, but it's put us in a good place moving forward," he said.

"We see what's happening around the world now with even increased economic turmoil. And I think the importance of fiscal responsibility, the importance of competitive taxes, of the economic fundamentals being maintained in our province is huge. That really underscored the session for us and the budget."