Film controversy, balanced budget highlights of spring session

A cancelled film subsidy program, the addition of three more MLAs and a proposed major revamp of the province's labour laws were three of the things that kept politicians talking this spring.
The spring sitting of the legislature has wrapped up, Adam Hunter reports. 1:29

A cancelled film subsidy program, the addition of three more MLAs and a proposed major revamp of the province's labour laws were three of the things that kept politicians talking this spring.

The three topics were favourites of the Opposition NDP during the spring session that ended Thursday.

On the government side, meanwhile, Saskatchewan Party MLAs wanted to talk about a balanced budget that included a number of campaign promises, including a new scholarship program for high school graduates.

It was the first spring session since the 2011 election and the first with John Nilson as interim Opposition leader.

The Legislative Building was the scene of several protests involving anti-nuclear activists, immigrants upset about changes that could limit how many family members can come to the province ... and filmmakers, lots of filmmakers.

The government's cut of an $8 million film tax credit program turned into one of the more contentious issues of the session.

The government said film subsidies had cost taxpayers $100 million over the years and insisted the current program wasn't working very well.

But the NDP said ending the credit would be the final nail in the coffin of the Saskatchewan film industry.

The government also took some heat from the NDP over Bill 36, which will increase the number of MLAs from 58 to 61.

The New Democrats said expanding the legislature would cost $700,000 a year. The government later said it would find "efficiencies" elsewhere in government so there would be no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Finally, the government's announced overhaul of the province's labour legislation also fueled some debate during Question Period.

Among the more controversial sections of a "consultation paper" on labour changes was a series of questions asking people about exempting certain workers from having to pay union dues.

The government said it's just asking questions, although Premier Brad Wall said he didn't see what was wrong with giving teenagers a break on union dues.

Outside the legislature, Wall took to the airwaves and Twitter to criticize federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair. Wall was upset over Mulcair's suggestion that Western Canada's booming oil industry is connected to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Eastern Canada.

MLAs were streaming out of the legislature late Thursday morning, but many of them may be back before long. Wall has hinted a cabinet shuffle may be in the offing in a few weeks.

The fall session, which will include a speech from the throne, begins Oct. 25.