POLITICS

Getting with it: modernization key in fall sitting of Saskatchewan legislature

12/06/2012 05:26 EST | Updated 02/05/2013 05:12 EST
REGINA - The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan legislature saw new liquor rules, big changes for labour and a plan to privatize the Crown corporation that handles land and personal property registries.

Premier Brad Wall said the changes are about common sense.

"We think there's some modernization that's represented in those changes," Wall said Thursday after the fall sitting wrapped up.

The province announced more than 70 new liquor regulations, including the move to allow alcohol to be served at striptease performances and wet clothing contests — as long as there isn't full frontal nudity. The new rules also allow movie theatres to serve alcohol in age-restricted areas.

Saskatchewan is also adding three private liquor stores to its retail mix — two stores in Saskatoon and one in Regina. Wall said new liquor stores are needed because of population growth.

The labour changes are part of a new Saskatchewan Employment Act, which consolidates 12 workplace-related pieces of legislation into one omnibus bill.

Among other things, the legislation indexes the minimum wage and says people with disabilities can't be paid a lower minimum wage. It also says if a contract can't be reached, the parties must take a 14-day cooling off period before a strike or lockout can happen.

The government also introduced legislation that will allow it to sell 60 per cent of Information Services Corp. (ISC).

"Here's a company that has a chance to take the next step, probably needs a little capital to do that. The government doesn't want to invest in these out-of-province ventures, so the best way to do it is for that company to get capital from the market," said Wall.

"I think that's a modernization of a company that has a very bright future ahead, but a brighter future if it isn't limited necessarily by government ownership."

The Opposition New Democrats said they were pleased that the government changed labour rules to better protect late-night retail workers from violence. NDP Leader John Nilson also liked that the government agreed to an NDP suggestion to make public a list of government buildings that contain asbestos.

But not everything made Nilson happy.

"We're quite disappointed with the numbers of things that they are selling or disposing of to get dollars to fund their budget," he said.

"They're selling off land that was purchased many years ago for Sask Housing. They're selling ISC."

Nilson also said there are still many unanswered questions about the labour legislation and he would have liked more time in the fall sitting to review that bill.

The legislation that was introduced this fall is expected to be passed in the spring sitting, which starts in March.