10/22/2013 05:55 EDT | Updated 12/22/2013 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan Legislature Fall Sitting: Education, Seniors Care Top Priorities In Session

Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly

REGINA - Growth, education and long-term care are expected to top the agenda during the fall sitting of the Saskatchewan legislature.

The sitting starts Wednesday with a throne speech that Premier Brad Wall says will "candidly admit that in the areas of the challenges around growth ... we have more work to do."

"I think you'll see the speech from the throne focus on an update on where we are, on the growth side, but also what we can be doing better in terms of meeting the challenges of growth," Wall recently said.

For one thing, the premier said the government will focus on getting "more schools, more quickly."

Wall didn't wait for the throne speech to announce that nine joint-use schools are to be built in a public-private partnership to deal with a surge in student enrolment. There are about 11,000 more elementary school students now in Saskatchewan than in 2007.

The premier said Tuesday that four schools will be in Saskatoon, three in Regina, one in Warman and one in Martensville.

Wall said the throne speech will also talk about overcrowding in emergency rooms and acute-care beds in hospitals.

"Part of this is driven ... by a lot of seniors who are in acute care where they should be in appropriate long-term care or, even better, home care, and I think you're going to see the throne speech move in that direction," he said.

"These are also pressures that are challenges related to growth that we can do a better job of."

A recent review of long-term care in Saskatchewan raised concerns that patients are not getting enough baths and residents are soiling themselves because there aren't enough aides to help them get to the toilet. Findings in the 311-page document released Oct. 1 were based on tours of long-term care facilities by CEOs in each health region.

The premier also said long-awaited legislation is to be introduced this fall that would set up a registry of people who lobby politicians on behalf of companies and groups. Wall said in December 2011 that a registry was long overdue and a committee tabled a report with recommendations in May 2012.

The government is also expected to move forward with traffic safety measures and Wall said "some of it might be legislation" based on recommendations from an all-party traffic safety committee.

The 26 recommendations released in August included stiffer fines and penalties for impaired drivers.

Education and care for seniors also top the Opposition's priorities this fall.

"With growth, we have known for some time that we need new schools in many neighbourhoods, but we haven't seen this government take that seriously and come forward with a plan to actually allow communities to have the schools that they need," NDP Leader Cam Broten said Tuesday.

Broten, who pushed the long-term care issue in the spring sitting, also said more needs to be done to help the older population. He said seniors that he met with recently in Melfort, Sask., are concerned about their future.

"A woman looked across at me and she said, 'If it gets to the point where I need to go into long-term care, I want them to hit me over the head with a shovel.' And she wasn't saying it as a joke," Broten said.

"It was a dead serious statement because of the experiences that she knew about and experienced with her family.

"Those types of stories really are what ring in my ears as we go into the session. That's why we'll have a very strong focus on seniors care and the poor response that we've seen from this government to actually fix the root problems."

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