Ready for round two

All five Sask. Party lead­er­ship can­di­dates hit the stage in Melfort to talk health care, in­fras­truc­ture and how the prov­ince should move for­ward af­ter the can­cel­la­tion of the En­ergy East pipe­line.

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON KERR

Agri­cul­ture, in­fras­truc­ture fund­ing, health­care pri­or­i­ties and ed­u­ca­tion were just some of the top­ics up for de­bate as Saskatchewan Party lead­er­ship can­di­dates gath­ered in Melfort on Thurs­day.

Tina Beaudy-Mel­lor, Ken Chevel­day­off, Alanna Koch, Scott Moe and Gord Wyant all took the stage for the sec­ond of six lead­er­ship de­bates sched­uled to oc­cur be­fore party mem­bers votes in a new leader in Jan­uary.

Thurs­day’s de­bate was a re­spect­ful one, with most can­di­dates ar­gu­ing for a con­tin­u­a­tion of cur­rent poli­cies that helped the party win three straight elec­tions.

With only one minute to re­spond, can­di­dates had their hands full pre­sent­ing their poli­cies, with lit­tle time to punch holes in their op­po­nents’ views.

All five can­di­dates re­mained united on most ma­jor is­sues, like op­po­si­tion to the can­cel­la­tion of the En­ergy East pipe­line. Al­though none of the 10 top­ics specif­i­cally fo­cused on the pipe­line, that didn’t stop can­di­dates from tak­ing aim at the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion.

“Ob­vi­ously we are strug­gling against a fed­eral gov­ern­ment that doesn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the value of pipe­lines for the prov­ince of Saskatchewan, and frankly for Western Canada,” Beaudry-Mel­lor said. “It is a sig­nif­i­cant con­cern.”

Sev­eral can­di­dates even sug­gested the prov­ince play hard­ball with equal­iza­tion pay­ments to help get more pipe­line projects ap­proved.

Scott Moe called the En­ergy East de­ci­sion “prob­lem­atic,” and sug­gested that if the rules to ap­prove pipe­line projects changed, then per­haps equal­iza­tion pay­ments should change too.

“We are not able to ex­port our com­modi­ties to other ar­eas of the world (and) it’s lim­it­ing and im­pact­ing the ca­reers in our com­mu­ni­ties and our abil­ity to grow our com­mu­ni­ties,” he said. “Most im­por­tantly, it’s im­pact­ing the abil­ity of our chil­dren to chose a ca­reer in the com­mu­nity where they grew up, or an­other com­mu­nity in our prov­ince.”

“I think peo­ple need to be re­minded that Saskatchewan and Alberta are net con­trib­u­tors to equal­iza­tion, and the rest of the prov­inces ben­e­fit from the equal­iza­tion that comes from this prov­ince.” Gord Wyant, Saskatchewan Party lead­er­ship can­di­date

Saska­toon MLA Gord Wyant also sug­gested the prov­ince re­visit what he called an “un­fair” equal­iza­tion formula. The formula is due for rene­go­ti­a­tion in 2019.

“I think peo­ple need to be re­minded that Saskatchewan and Alberta are net con­trib­u­tors to equal­iza­tion, and the rest of the prov­inces ben­e­fit from the equal­iza­tion that comes from this prov­ince,” he said.

An­other Saska­toon MLA, Ken Chevel­day­off, took a more con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach to the is­sue. While dis­agree­ing with the de­ci­sion, he said western premiers needed to use a united voice to help the rest of the coun­try bet­ter un­der­stand their con­cerns.

“I think we have to ed­u­cate the Canadian gov­ern­ment and the Canadian pub­lic about our needs, and (let them know) that a win for Saskatchewan is a win for Canada,” he said.

Only one of the five de­baters is not a cur­rent sit­ting MLA, but that didn’t stop Alanna Koch de­fend­ing the party’s past work. As with the first de­bate in Swift Cur­rent, Koch em­pha­sized the need for the Saskatchewan Party to con­tinue build­ing on what was de­vel­oped un­der Brad Wall.

“The NDP left us with an in­fras­truc­ture deficit, so it’s been pretty amaz­ing to see what the Saskatchewan Party has done for the last 10 years with record in­vest­ment,” Koch said dur­ing a ques­tion on in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment.”

“Qual­ity of life” was a phrase that con­stantly popped up be­fore and af­ter Thurs­day’s de­bate, es­pe­cially when it came to in­fras­truc­ture. Most can­di­dates saw in­fras­truc­ture spend­ing as a key to growth in the prov­ince, and a way to help keep fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from leav­ing.

The third de­bate is sched­uled for Nov. 4 in Saska­toon as part of the Saskatchewan Party con­ven­tion. Ad­di­tional de­bates will be held on Nov. 16 in North Bat­tle­ford, Nov. 30 in Wey­burn and Dec. 7 in Regina.

JA­SON KERR/DAILY HERALD

From left to right, Saskatchewan Party lead­er­ship can­di­dates Gord Wyant, Ken Chevel­day­off, Scott Moe, Alanna Koch and Tina Beaudry-Mel­lor speak dur­ing a de­bate in Melfort on Thurs­day.

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