POLITICS

Budget, seniors care the focus of spring sitting at Saskatchewan legislature

02/26/2014 03:39 EST | Updated 04/28/2014 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Premier Brad Wall says the budget will form the basis of debate during the spring sitting of the Saskatchewan legislature.

Wall says there will be initiatives on long-term and seniors care, as well as details on a fund for future development using non-renewable resource revenues.

The spring sitting starts Monday and the budget is set to be tabled March 19.

"It's going to be a balanced budget. It's going to represent the fact that the government's made a lot of difficult choices because that balanced budget ... is really at the basis of our growth agenda," Wall said Wednesday at the legislature.

The top issue in the province right now, he suggested, is a grain backlog, and that may influence the spring sitting too.

Transportation delays have left a record crop sitting in bins across the Prairies and grain-handling companies have told the province that it may be well into 2015 before the backlog is cleared. Saskatchewan wants the federal government to oversee negotiations on performance agreements between grain and rail companies.

The spring sitting is also when legislation that was introduced in the fall is passed.

Thirty-four bills were introduced last falling, including proposed traffic safety laws with tougher penalties for impaired driving and changes to the essential services labour law.

Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten said his party will push for improvements in schools, hospitals and seniors care facilities in the spring sitting. The NDP focused on those issues in the last sitting, but Broten said they're what people are talking about.

"We aren't religiously glued to those themes. We talk about many items, but this is what has been expressed to me over the past months as we've travelled (the province)," he said.

"When we hear news of the premier looking at raising education property taxes — not to put those resources into the classroom but to pay for bridges and overpasses — every parent I've spoken to, municipal leaders that I've spoken to, teachers that I've spoken to, think that's ridiculous."

Wall mused after the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention earlier this month that money for infrastructure projects could come from higher school taxes. He said there are big infrastructure needs in cities and one out of three towns has water or sewer issues.