Monthly Archives: April 2019

Redford adamant no provincial money for new Edmonton arena

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford has once again said there will be no direct provincial funding of a new NHL arena in downtown Edmonton.

Redford told a meeting in the Alberta capital that her government restricts itself to creating level playing fields for business.

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She made the comments following news reports that the province might come through with $107 million still needed to pay for the $480-million rink. She emphasized that provincial support – even in the form of using gaming dollars to establish a fund that all municipalities could access – was not on the horizon.

“No, it’s not,” she stressed.

Redford says the idea shouldn’t even be discussed given that the province is rolling back or holding the line on spending and on salaries for doctors, teachers and nurses.

She says the city – and all municipalities – has the option to use its infrastructure grant money from the province. Edmonton is receiving $170 million in such funding this year.

Finance Minister Doug Horner, however, didn’t dismiss the possibility so quickly.

Wednesday, Global News asked if the government was still looking at using a lottery or gaming option for arena funding.

“I’m always looking for ideas,” Horner replied.

“We’re still working on a number of different options where we can try to help municipalities throughout the province and we’re going to continue to do that,” he explained. “Obviously, we are going to live within our means – we’ve made that commitment – so anything that happens would be in the future.”

The Opposition says the PCs need to get on the same page.

“It’s been bizarre,” said Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. “It’s almost like there are two conversations going on, and I wish the government would clarify it because it seems quite clear that the Mayor thinks something is coming, and it seems quite clear from the premier that nothing is coming. I think that people need to understand what exactly is the plan,” she added.

“Everyone has reason to be quite confused about where the government is going with this one.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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More money for schools in Saskatchewan budget

REGINA – More money is on the way to schools in Saskatchewan to help deal with increased enrolment.

Enrolment has increased by more than 4,500 in the last two years and school divisions are feeling growth pressures.

Education Minister Russ Marchuk says investing in education is important to the future of the province given the rise in population.

“This is especially challenging now, with school enrolments increasing for the first time in many years,” said Marchuk.

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The provincial government announced funding to schools will increase by 6.7 per cent in the upcoming year.

School operating funding, which includes money collected from the education property tax, will increase by $40.6 million, up 2.3 per cent to $1.775 billion.

Capital funding has also been increased by 6.4 per cent to $119.6 million, up $7.2 million.

That includes $18.7 million for the construction of major projects in Martensville, Hudson Bay and Leader and $1.9 million to begin planning new school projects in Langenburg and Gravelbourg.

Up to 40 new relocatables are scheduled to be in place for this fall.

Money is also being investing in early learning and child care.

Nearly $600,000 will go towards the expansion of 15 new pre-kindergarten programs along with $1 million in capital support.

Another $2.3 million in operating funding will go towards the creation of 500 new child care spaces, including eligible school-based sites.

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Health spending increases, health regions tasked to find millions in efficiencies

REGINA – Health regions in Saskatchewan have been tasked to find millions in efficiencies as the government increases health spending in the 2013 budget.

The health budget is increasing by 3.5 per cent, going up $162 million to $4.8 billion to make up almost 42 per cent of total expenses in the provincial budget.

Of that money, $3 billion is going to the health regions, up $132 million.

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At the same time, health regions have been told to find $54 million in efficiencies this budget year through administrative savings, increased use of shared resources along with efforts to reduce time lost due to injuries, premium pay and sick time.

“Every health care decision we make is through a patient-first lens, to help us provide improved access to quality health services that make a meaningful difference for patients and their families,” said Health Minster Dustin Duncan.

An area the government is focusing on is reducing surgical wait times and is earmarking $10 million more to the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative (SSI) to meet the goal of reducing waiting times to three months.

The Health Ministry says increasing the amount going to the SSI by 16.5 per cent to $70.5 million will result in up to 7,000 more surgeries being performed in the upcoming year.

The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency will also receive more money, with its budget up 8.6 per cent to $150.7, an increase of $12 million.

Another $3.7 million will go towards the operation of a new PET CT scanner at Royal University Hospital, which is scheduled to be operational later this spring.

Money is also going toward capital investments, with $50 million tabbed for the replacement of the Moose Jaw hospital and $70.6 million for co-owned long-term care facilities in Biggar, Kelvington, Kerrobert, Kipling, Maple Creek and Prince Albert.

The government is looking to save $20 million through initiatives to lower prices on generic drugs.

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Balanced but controlled highlights Saskatchewan’s budget, NDP calls it a credit card budget

REGINA – Calling it balanced with controlled spending, Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister Ken Krawetz tabled the 2013-14 provincial budget in the legislature today.

Krawetz is calling for a pre-transfer surplus of $64.8 million in the general revenue fund and a summary surplus of $149.8 million.

Total revenue is projected to be $11.61 billion while expenses are estimated at $11.54 billion.

Spending increase is capped at 3.1 per cent.

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“This budget balances continued growth with meeting the challenges of that growth,” said Krawetz.

“It balances economic progress with social progress. And it balances the need to control spending with the need to make important investments in key areas.”

One of those areas is health, with spending up $161.7 million to $4.8 billion, an increase of 3.5 per cent.

Education spending is up 6.7 per cent, increasing by $107.5 million to $1.7 billion with another $59.8 million being added to the capital budget for schools, hospitals and roads, bring the total budget to $847.5 million, an increase of 7.6 per cent.

As previously announced, the education property tax rate is being reduced to off-set the increase in property value which will keep it revenue neutral.

There will be increases in tobacco and alcohol prices.

The tobacco tax will increase by four cents a cigarette at midnight tonight, increase the cost of a package of 25 by one dollar. There is also a corresponding increase to the price of cut and loose tobacco.

On April 1, the price of liquor will go up an average of 3.0 per cent.

The Saskatchewan resource credit is also being reduced by a quarter point.

Krawetz also said the reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent is being deferred until it is deemed sustainable to make the cut.

The government is still targeting 2015 to have the rate down to 10 per cent.

There is also a reduction of $60 million in the amount of debt servicing, with the public debt forecast to remain at $3.8 million on March 31, 2014.

The opposition NDP quickly denounced the budget, calling it a “credit card budget.”

“This is a credit card budget. The Sask. Party is kicking responsibility down the road by pushing ahead with a buy now, pay later plan that will catch up to Saskatchewan before long,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP finance critic in referring to proposed public-private partnerships.

Wotherspoon also took aim at the government’s education plan, saying it fails to fix crowded classrooms and resource shortages.

When it comes to health, the NDP says the $54 million in efficiencies the health regions have been asked to make is in reality a shortfall.

“Saskatchewan people deserve investment into the long-term sustainability of education, health care and middle class.”

Not so, said Krawetz.

“This budget not only balances the books, it balances the priorities of Saskatchewan people.”

“It ensures Saskatchewan will continue to grow while meeting the challenges of that growth.”

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Outlawing assisted suicide akin to ‘torture,’ B.C. Appeal Court hears – National

VANCOUVER – Forcing sick patients to suffer through painful, agonizing deaths without the ability to ask a doctor to help them end their lives is akin to “torture,” a lawyer told the British Columbia Court of Appeal on Wednesday as he argued for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

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Joseph Arvay, who represents several plaintiffs in a case that saw the law struck down last year, said the ban on assisted suicide leads some patients with terminal illnesses to end their lives early, because they know they won’t be able to seek a doctor’s help if they become debilitated later.

He said the federal government is forcing those patients to make a cruel choice between suicide and suffering.

“The choice for those people is, if they comply with the law, they will suffer, and for some of the people the suffering could be tantamount to torture,” Arvay told a three-judge appeal panel.

“So they’re given the choice: torture or early death. And some people will take the early death, because they were driven to that choice by the law.”

The appeal stems from a landmark decision out of the B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled last year that the federal law banning doctor-assisted suicide is unconstitutional.

The federal Conservative government appealed, arguing allowing doctor-assisted suicide would undermine the sanctity of life and put vulnerable and disabled patients at risk of being coerced to kill themselves.

The plaintiffs have argued the ban on doctor-assisted suicide violates the charter and discriminates against people with disabilities, because suicide is legal for people who are physically able to end their lives but assisted suicide for debilitated patients is not.

The B.C. Supreme Court case heard from witnesses who said their ill family members ended their lives but would waited if assisted suicide was an option.

Arvay rejected the federal government’s argument that legalized assisted suicide, even with strict regulations in place, would put vulnerable people at risk of being coerced to kill themselves or doing so in moments of weakness or depression.

He said there was no evidence to support that claim, and instead he said other jurisdictions where assisted suicide is legal have provided models of effective safeguards.

Canada effectively faults people for choosing not to stick it out

Arvay said the federal government is essentially arguing life must be preserved at all costs, regardless of the quality of that life or whether the person living it actually wants it to continue.

“Canada effectively faults people for choosing not to stick it out, but in doing so, it is making a judgment about what kind of life someone wants to have,” said Arvay.

“Canada says so long as you are breathing, so long as your heart is beating, so long as your brain is emitting the necessary signals, that’s life and you have to just accept it.”

The case was launched by several people, including Gloria Taylor of Kelowna, B.C. Taylor suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, and the B.C. Supreme Court granted her an immediate exemption to seek assisted suicide. Taylor, 64, died last fall of an infection that was unrelated to her ALS.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled the law must allow physician-assisted suicide in cases involving patients who are diagnosed with a serious illness or disability and who are experiencing “intolerable” physical or psychological suffering with no chance of improvement.

That decision has been suspended at least until the Appeal Court renders its decision.

The case is widely expected to end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, which last examined this country’s assisted-suicide ban two decades ago.

In 1993, the court upheld the law in a case involving Sue Rodriguez, who nevertheless died with the help of a doctor the following year.

Ottawa has also argued the B.C. Supreme Court was wrong to even consider the issue of assisted suicide because, the government says, the Rodriguez decision was final.

Arvay addressed that issue on Wednesday, telling the Appeal Court the interpretation of the charter has evolved significantly since the Rodriguez case, allowing the courts to have another look.

Several significant court decisions in the past two decades have concluded the charter prohibits laws that are “overly broad” and “grossly disproportionate,” Arvay said, and those issues weren’t considered by the top court in 1993.

He said society has changed, as well. There is growing approval for assisted suicide among the public, he said, as well as a growing number of jurisdictions around the world, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and two American states, that now allow the practice.

“Society 20 years ago is different than society today,” said Arvay.

“The world has changed in this area of physician-assisted dying in the last 20 years.”

©2013The Canadian Press

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