Carr reflects on a budget packed with good news for Estevan

Estevan MLA Lori Carr said the budget announced on Tuesday brought a lot of "exciting" news for the Estevan area.

The budget, whose theme is to Protect, Build and Grow Saskatchewan, had several expenditures specific to Estevan.

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It includes funding for a police and crisis team (PACT). Carr explained that PACT will be a partnership between the Estevan Police Service (EPS) and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and is aimed at helping create a better outcome for individuals and families struggling with mental illness.

This project will see an EPS officer paired with a registered social worker to attend and defuse crisis situations.

"That's pretty exciting for the Estevan Police Service to be able to get additional funding for that," Carr said.

She added that these teams are placed in communities that have a need for these services. The Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, Christine Tell, wanted one to be placed in the Estevan-Weyburn area, and Estevan was chosen to have it.

The budget also has money allocated for planning for the new nursing home in Estevan.

"We're building Saskatchewan by investing in long-term care facilities, which is why we have placed $275,000 in this year's budget for planning dollars for a new long-term care home to replace our aging Estevan Regional Nursing Home," Carr said.

"I'd really like to take this opportunity to thank the chair of the committee Mr. Don Kindopp, as well as the committee as a whole. Without their successful fundraising campaign, we would likely not be at the point we are today. This committee worked very hard to secure donations from a very generous community. And to all the surrounding communities and rural municipalities that have supported this committee, I truly do say thank you."

Now that the first move on the provincial level is done, Carr said the SHA will reach out to the Estevan Regional Nursing Home committee, and they will start going through what that project is going to look like, discussing how many beds it will have and what the timeframe for the project will be.

"That's all the stuff that takes part in the planning process. So that's what they'll be doing over the next year," Carr added.

Saskatchewan also saw a record health budget. It is aimed at ensuring that people in the province are protected through the pandemic, but it also has money allocated to continue to build on record investments in mental health and addictions initiatives.

"I'm excited to be able to say that we will be expanding services at the addictions treatment centre we have at St. Joseph's Hospital. We will be adding $850,000 this year to add 12 additional addiction treatment beds as well as two new pre-treatment beds," Carr said.

This addition will increase the total number of beds for the Estevan facility to 32 treatment beds and six pre-treatment beds.

"Addictions have always been a part of what we have had to deal with in our province. And unfortunately, COVID-19 has only highlighted the need for more addiction services in our province," Carr said.

She reminded that the first-class addiction treatment centre Estevan used to have was closed by a decision made by the former NDP government, but when St. Joseph's Hospital suggested bringing back the services, as they saw a need for it, the Saskatchewan Party supported it.

"Over the past few months, a new service has proven successful. Therefore, we're going to build upon the successes and add this new build to the facility."

Estevan will also see record revenue sharing this year. The City of Estevan will get about $2.3 million. And as revenue sharing extends through all municipalities, including towns, villages or rural municipalities, all of them will also be getting a higher amount compared to last year.

The South East Cornerstone Public School Division, as well as Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division, will be receiving operating increases and preventative maintenance dollars.

The new budget also will see the passing lane project on Highways 39 and 6 from Estevan to Regina completed this year.

"That would be really exciting for the people that travel that road on an ongoing basis. And we can already see the safety benefits that have happened from the lanes that are there and the ease of use of them. So I'm just really excited to see this project come to fruition this year also," Carr said.

While the budget had a lot of good news for Estevan, nevertheless, it came with a deficit of $2.6 billion, a lot of which is due to the pandemic. And it won't be balanced until at least 2026-27. Carr said that they deliberately planned for gradual balancing not to paralyze the province.

"It's going to take that long to balance the budget, because between now and then we want to ensure that we are still providing the services that people in the province deserve and expect, while at the same time growing our economy. So we are not doing huge cuts to ensure that we balance the budget quicker," Carr said.

 

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