Throne speech promises anti-poverty strategy

By Frank Flegel

REGINA — A Poverty Reduction Strategy will be developed for Saskatchewan according to the Oct. 22 throne speech delivered by Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.

“We are very pleased,” said Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry’s Peter Gilmer. “It’s something we and others have been advocating for many years.”

The announcement comes just days after the Oct. 17 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in which several anti-poverty groups held news conferences, demonstrations and the Regina archdiocese Social Justice Conference Light a Spark, Set a Fire held Oct. 20, in Moose Jaw focused on social justice and poverty (see related article).

The throne speech offered no details but it expressly thanked Poverty Costs and three individuals — Dr. Ryan Meili, Dr. Cory Neudorf and Alison Robertson — for their work on what the speech called “this important issue.”

Meili is the founder of Upstream, which bills itself as a non-partisan research organization focusing on healthy living, social concerns and poverty. Meili is a Saskatoon medical doctor with a practice in Saskatoon’s Riversdale area, one of the city’s poorest districts. Earlier this year Upstream published a study that claimed poverty and all its effects cost the Saskatchewan economy $3.1 billion a year. More details are expected to be released later during the fall legislative session.

While Gilmer was pleased and thanked both the government and Poverty Costs for its work, he said he would wait to see what the strategy would contain. “We’ve for decades advocated for certain elements to be contained in an anti-poverty strategy and we will wait to see if they are part of the process.”

The throne speech focuses on the economy and steps the government will take to maintain what it calls its strong foundation and promises an eighth balanced budget.

Mental health services will be reviewed by the Commissioner for Mental Health and a 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan is to be released in the coming months. The comprehensive review of the child welfare legislation will continue with the objective to strengthen The Child and Family Services Act and the Adoption Act.

Pharmacists will get an expanded role in the medical field with amendments to The Pharmacy Act; an options paper on the future of private liquor stores will be released and feedback sought from the public, and while the speech contains no reference to private MRIs, Premier Brad Wall said the day before the speech was delivered there likely will be discussion of that concept at some point in this session.

Throne speeches generally give a broad outline of the government’s intentions with details in legislation later in the session. The budget, where the rubber hits the road, is expected sometime in late March or early April 2015.

 
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