Saskatchewan and Manitoba called out in federal budget

The federal government released their 2022 budget, which highlights some of the unique challenges faced by Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Hello Flatlanders,

Last week, the federal government released their 2022 budget.

And I saw an interesting point made by CBC Travis Pederson on Twitter. He pointed out that Manitoba was only mentioned five times in the federal budget. To which someone replied, “should we expect multiple references to individual provinces in a federal budget?”

This got me wondering how many times Saskatchewan was mentioned.
 
I shared Pederson’s Tweet on the Flatlander Twitter and got a similar question from a different person. “Why would specific provinces be mentioned as all federal programs apply to ALL provinces…dental, prescription s, housing etc.”
 
So why did Manitoba and Saskatchewan get specific callouts in the budget this year? It’s a question worth looking at, because it highlights the challenges and successes the two provinces have had. 
 
But before we get to that, I thought I would take a moment to talk about how The Flatlander’s grown and its short-term plans.
 
When I launched this newsletter back in November, I wasn’t entirely sure if there would be interest in people coming along with me on a journey to explore the issues impacting Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as looking at stories about our unique history and landscapes. But the newsletter quickly grew to an audience of 2,000 people in a few short months.

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Now that I know there is an interest, the next step is to start looking a little deeper into the topics we’ve already covered.
 
What will this look like?
 
I like to think we’ve been looking at various issues from the crow’s nest of a ship—the place high on a mast that’s used as a lookout. We’ve been getting an overview; the lay of the land. But what we now know of the subjects we’ve explored together is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, it’s time to go a little deeper and see what’s below.
 
A reader Ray wrote in this week regarding the silica mining issue – Fracking – Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Poison in the lungs. He pointed out that I hadn’t interviewed anyone or looked at the positive side of industry, like the jobs it creates. And he’s right. The benefits to the economy from industry are important.
 
Even before Ray’s email, I’ve been thinking about this since the peat moss mining issue. Industry is important to the local economies of various municipalities. In addition to jobs, the non-residential property taxes companies pay to the towns and cities they’re based in are significant and if these businesses went away tomorrow, it would be, us, the regular citizens who would see our property taxes increase to make up for the difference. That’s the side of the issue we haven’t looked at yet and I haven’t started doing interviews yet because I’ve been learning about these issues myself. And you guys are on that journey with me.
 
That said, over the summer, I thought I’d drive up to La Ronge, north of Prince Albert, to do some on-the-ground reporting. La Ronge is a community that’s been at the centre of this conflict between industry and environment as silica and peat moss mining is being proposed in the area, which a number of local citizens are against. La Ronge also has commercial forestry and a declining moose population. And I’ve been researching and working on a story about animals protected by the species at risk act whose habitat is right in the centre of all this.
 
I also want to look at Carrot River that already has peat moss mining and has commercial forestry and a declining moose population and see how those industries have, to Ray’s point, benefited from industry.
 
A comparable area in Manitoba would be around Lake Winnipeg. I just haven’t pinpointed it down to a specific community yet.
 
So that will be the first big project coming up.
 
In the immediate future, I’ll be circling back to some of the earlier stories. For instance, I have some stuff in the can that goes a little deeper into the Prairie dance halls with video and interviews, which I wrote about back in December.
 
The Flatlander will also be increasing its publishing frequency to two times a week and eventually to three. I just haven’t decided if that content will be on the website or be released as a second email or both.
 
What does it cost to produce The Flatlander?
 
There are various costs associated with producing The Flatlander. For instance, Mailchimp, which I use to send these emails is $80/month. Web hosting is $35/month. Eventually, the plan would be to begin paying myself for my work, so my first milestone to reach would be to pay myself the equivalent of CERB, so $2,000/month to start.
 
Therefore, I launched the founding members campaign to help with some of the costs of producing this newsletter each month and to assist with the costs of doing on the ground reporting this summer to get at the heart of some of these issues I’ve started to write about.
 
If just 2.5 per cent of this audience decides to help with The Flatlander, that would cover the cost of this reporting as well as the production costs of this newsletter.
 
So, if you’d like to help The Flatlander start going deeper on some of these issues, you can hit the button below.

The federal budget

Now onto the federal budget. If you haven’t looked at it, I’d recommend doing so. What’s released to the public isn’t a huge sprawling spreadsheet. It’s a very readable document. It’s just very long, at 304 pages; but you can skim through the table of contents and read the parts you’re interested in. I always encourage people to look at primary sources when they can.

As said above, Manitoba got mentioned five times in the budget. Saskatchewan received a shoutout 10 times. And, as a point of interest, Quebec gets mentioned 27 times, Ontario 15 times and Nunavut twice.

Infrastructure spending

Manitoba and Saskatchewan both get mentioned in the budget under the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. Basically, in 2018, the federal government announced it would spend $33.5 billion over 11 years for public infrastructure across the country.

Some of the projects currently on the books are decommissioning a landfill in Rosetown, SK and airport improvements up in Sandy Bay, SK.

Over in Manitoba, some of the projects are the Neepawa Multi-Use Trail Park and a wastewater lagoon in the Rural Municipality of Alexander.

You can visit this website to look up if there is a particular project going on in your community.

Many of the infrastructure projects have been delayed because of the pandemic. And some provinces have been better than others about submitting their projects for funding before the March 31, 2023 deadline.

Manitoba has already spent most of its money and has about one per cent of its spending envelope left, which is worth about $13.6 million.

Saskatchewan, on the other hand, still has 42 per cent of its money left to spend ,or $375 million. If they don’t get around to committing that money, the federal government will allocate it to other priorities.

Construction doesn’t have to be completed until October 2033.

Municipalities in Saskatchewan are saying the money is no longer enough because of supply chain issues and inflation. They say it’s the local governments that will likely have to pay for the increase in costs.

Natural disasters

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also noted as being the site of recent climate disasters, specially referring to drought and wildfires last summer. To address such disasters, the government promises a National Adaptation Strategy will be published later this year.

Modular reactors

Saskatchewan has three coal power plants that have to be phased out to meet federal carbon emissions guidelines.

To help provinces, like Saskatchewan, move away from such carbon heavy fuel burning, Canada will be bringing in small modular reactors.

What’s a small modular reactor?

They are small nuclear reactors that are supposed to be safer and more contained than a larger nuclear plant.

A 300-megawatt small modular reactor could supply enough power for an estimated 300,000 homes. 

CTV Regina did a pretty good explainer on what a small modular reactor would look like, which you can find here. And CBC did a story that talks about the mixed reaction these reactors have been getting.

The federal government will be providing $120.6 million over five years to work towards implementing this technology. 

National childcare program

Canada has been working towards providing $10 a day care in hopes of giving more women the ability to participate in the workforce.

This program will help Saskatchewan parents save $5,220 a year per child annually, and, in Manitoba, parents will save $2,610 by the end of 2023.

Over 20,000 new day care spaces are supposed to be created in both provinces, along with roughly 5,000 new childcare jobs in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Sustainable Jobs

The budget brings up Saskatchewan again when it mentions the federal government has committed to skills training in the province to help workers in the oil and gas industry get different jobs as the world moves towards clean energy initiatives.

Implementing Indigenous Child Welfare Legislation

The government has been working on addressing the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care. In 2020, the government passed the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

The hope of the act is to keep Indigenous children and youth connected to their families, their communities, and their culture

The budget notes how last year, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan became the first community to sign a coordination agreement, reclaiming jurisdiction over their child welfare system and the right to make decisions about what is best for their children and families.

Jordan’s Principle

Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson,  from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.

He was born in 1999 with multiple disabilities and stayed in the hospital from birth.

When he was two years old, doctors said Jordan could move to a special home for his medical needs. However, the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who would pay for his home-based care, so Jordan ended up staying in hospital until he died at the age of five.

In his memory, the House of Commons passed a motion in support of Jordan’s Principle in 2007.

It’s a commitment that First Nations children would be able to receive the services and supports they need, when they need them and that the governments would sort out the payments later.

Since 2016, the government has committed nearly $2.4 billion towards meeting the needs of First Nations children through Jordan’s Principle.

This year’s budget will provide $4 billion over six years.

New judges

Saskatchewan gets another mention in the budget when it comes to the courts.

The federal government plans to amend the Judges Act, the Federal Courts Act, and the Tax Court of Canada Act to add 24 new Associate Chief Justices for the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatchewan.

Adding the new judges is meant to help speed up the court system.

Climate Action Incentive Programs

The federal government plans to increase the Climate Action Incentive payments.

This means a family of four will receive $832 in Manitoba and $1,101 in Saskatchewan.

What is the Climate Action Incentive Payments Program? 

CAIP is a tax-free amount paid to help individuals and families offset the cost of the federal pollution pricing.

It’s only available to residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario because these provinces haven’t met the federal benchmark for carbon pollution pricing.

In the 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update, the government announced its intention to return a portion of the proceeds from the price on pollution to small and medium-sized businesses in these provinces beginning this year.

The federal government is also planning to rebate $100 million from the carbon tax to farmers in provinces where the federal system applies, including Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some, however, don’t feel this is enough.

If you’re interested in reading more about how the budget will affect Saskatchewan and Manitoba, here is a round up of some articles that go more in-depth.

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Winnipeg committee recommends ending ban on ‘bully breed’ dogs
  2. Veterinarian shortage weighs heavily on Manitoba livestock farmers
  3. Hospitals grapple with ‘historical’ staff absences, burnout amid 6th COVID wave
  4. Some areas of Thompson General Hospital don’t have hot water
  5. Manitoba slows a tax cut, offers some additional health-care spending

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. USask researchers receive funding to examine impact of peer advocacy in coping with addiction
  2. Surge capacity forces Saskatoon hospital to expand ER into waiting room
  3. Demand for Indigenous potash workers leads to tailor-made training program at Cowessess
  4. Sask. loses 4.5K jobs as national unemployment rate falls to record low
  5. Responsibility taken for water release into Nesslin Lake

Photo of the week

Mammatus storm clouds over a Prairie dirt road in Saskatchewan. GETTY IMAGES.

Ray wanted it noted that the Canadian Premium Sand project, which wasn’t really mentioned in the fracking issue because it’s been delayed, has shifted away from providing silica sand for fracking and will instead be putting it to use in manufacturing solar glass in Selkirk.

Although the CPS technical report released in mid-October makes it unclear if Manitoba silica sand is appropriate for solar glass and if it is, it would only be a fraction of the silica sand these companies are proposing to extract. 

According to the report, it was “theoretically possible “for CPS to produce patterned solar glass, but “that the batch calculation result is preliminary and additional test sets are required on a bulk sand sample (e.g., 500 kg) with the actual raw materials.”

Their technical report also noted “while the emphasis in this report is on the definition of a sand resource intended for glass manufacturing (7.2 million tonnes total), the 2020-defined frac sand resource/reserve (25 million tonnes total), which pertains to hydraulic fracturing in the energy industry is still material to CPS.”

The nearby First Nation is in favour of the CPS mine and the glass making facility because it could create 150 jobs for their band members.

But again, the newsletter didn’t go into this particular case, because the project seems to be delayed until they can line up investors and financing.  

Ray’s point, however, was that not all silica sand is used for fracking, which is true.

I try to stay neutral on issues when writing these newsletters, so if it seems like I took a side on the fracking issue that wasn’t my intention.

Another reader Bruce wrote in to request a comment section on The Flatlander website, which I will look into adding, so people can share different ideas and discuss issues. In the meantime, I have posted the fracking story near the top of The Flatlander Facebook page, so if people want to discuss the topic they can do so there. I only ask that people be polite to each other if they don’t agree, because as we all know Facebook can get ugly.

On that note, there is some interesting discussion on the Facebook page about the SGI/MPI article as a driver instructor weighs in.  It is also close to the top of the page, so feel free to check that out as well.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

Important work at a critical time.

Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond,  local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.

 

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