POLITICS

Saskatchewan throne speech has plan to put brakes on construction zone speeders

10/25/2012 04:03 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST
REGINA - The Saskatchewan government says it will triple the penalty for speeding in construction zones and introduce a legislative amendment to allow police to use photo radar in those areas.

The measures were announced Thursday in the throne speech, which maps out the government's course for the next year.

"What prevents death in the orange zone is people not speeding, people obeying the laws," said Premier Brad Wall.

"We're open to further ideas, but I think enforcement is key because we have to influence behaviour in the orange zone. People have to slow down. So, bigger fines and we're hoping the realization that in the orange zone through photo radar, you're going to get caught, is a help."

The change comes after Ashley Richards, 18, was struck and killed on her first day as a highway flag person in August.

Richards' fiance, Ben Diprose, was also working at the highway construction site and saw the crash. Diprose said Thursday that he's glad something is being done about people speeding through construction zones.

"It's just very upsetting," Diprose said after being invited to hear the throne speech by Wall.

"People have no cares, no thought. They think they can just speed by you. Your job is to make it safer for them and they're making it dangerous for you."

There were few other new initiatives in the speech. It largely recapped the long-term growth plan Wall released last week. The premier said that was deliberate.

"Our objectives around growth will never be complete," said Wall.

"And so while there might not be a long list of ... more specific points in this speech from the throne, what there are is some big, I think, sea changes in how we do things."

The growth plan and speech both call for the creation of a new Crown called SaskBuilds to help build roads, bridges and other infrastructure. It also calls for lowering the corporate business tax rate to 10 per cent from 12 per cent to compete with Alberta and British Columbia.

The government also plans to introduce a Saskatchewan Employment Act as it overhauls 15 separate pieces of workplace-related legislation into one labour law. The government has said most of those acts have not been comprehensively reviewed in at least 20 years and it's time for an update.

"With this legislation, Saskatchewan will have the most modern, competitive, fair and balanced labour and employment environment in Canada," reads the speech.

The changes concern the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) West.

"Just the fact that the consultation process was three months over the summer months and that it's lots of legislation that's been long-standing, all supposedly bundled together. I'm just hoping nothing gets missed in the process, important legislation that protects the workers in the province," said union treasurer Janice Platzke.

"I just don't want to see that disappear."

Other items in the speech include expanding a program that forgives up to $120,000 in student loans for new doctors and up to $20,000 for new nurses or new practitioners who agree to work in rural or remote communities for up to five years.

The change will see the province forgive part of the student loans for doctors who help cover temporary shortages in those communities.

The Opposition NDP slammed the throne speech for being a rehash of the growth plan.

"Unfortunately, there isn't anything more," said interim NDP Leader John Nilson.

"It doesn't improve on what was there last week, so people are left wondering what it is that we're going to do to accomplish some of the things that we need here in Saskatchewan."

The NDP also warned people to brace themselves for things that weren't in the speech. Nilson noted some things announced over the past year weren't in previous throne speeches, such as the addition of three more members of the legislature, the possible privatization of Information Services Corp., and the elimination of a film tax credit.

"We're concerned with what's not in the throne speech because we may get surprised with some of these things."