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Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion

Click to play video 'Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion' Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion
WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announces a stimulus package for the province’s economic recovery – May 6, 2020

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said his government is adding $2 billion in additional capital spending over the next two years to aid businesses and municipalities following the economic fallout from COVID-19.

“We need to invest in businesses to operate and build, that’s how our economy is going to recover. That’s how we’re going to create new jobs and return to our existing jobs,” Moe said.

The $2 billion will serve as “a booster shot” to the $5.5 billion that was announced by the government on March 18.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s 2020-21 spending plan aims to serve as stimulus package during coronavirus pandemic

The new capital spending will be invested into schools, hospitals, highways, municipal infrastructure projects and public utility enhancements.

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“It’s going to create jobs, it’s going to inspire hope, it’s going to encourage private sector development and it’s really going to lay the conditions for future growth across our province over the next few years,” said Mark Cooper, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association.

“This is a signal from the province that they believe the construction industry can deliver for them, and we will.”

Large infrastructure projects will benefit the most from the aid, with $1.37 billion invested toward them. This includes $103 million for health care and over $110 million for education.

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More than $300 million will go toward highway spending, including $46 million to upgrade municipal roads and airports.

Over 10,000 jobs are expected to be created through new capital spending, says the government of Saskatchewan.

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The province is also reviving its 2009 Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) by spending $150 million to support infrastructure projects in municipalities across Saskatchewan.

“This is significant,” said Regina Mayor Michael Fougere.

With MEEP, the City of Regina is expecting to receive up to $30 million with money pouring in as early July 17 for shovel-ready projects including wastewater, transportation and recreation.

“This money is very flexible and allows us to spur economic development,” Fougere said.

The City of Saskatoon says it will receive $32- to $34-million for infrastructure projects from MEEP.

“The intention for us will be to stretch these dollars as far as we can, and make the most of it in terms of improving investment in our community, in terms of getting people back to work,” said Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, agreeing the money will “be significant”.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan projects up to $3.3B in lost revenue due to COVID-19

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili also praised the funding, but said he would like the money to remain in Saskatchewan.

“It’s the time to build,” Meili said. “When we build our roads, our power plants, our schools with our tax dollars we should absolutely be doing that with our companies and our workers… so dollars stay in our province and support local businesses.”

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With the legislature not in session, Meili also called for the opportunity to scrutinize the spending.

“There is a need for transparency,” Meili said. “When we talk about $7.5 billion, how is that accounted for?”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.