‘I’m happy with Scott Moe’
Mayor gives warm reception to Sask. Party candidate
Mayor Greg Dionne stopped just short of endorsing Scott Moe for Saskatchewan Party leader, after meeting the candidate during a campaign visit Monday.
During their talk, Moe reiterated his support for fully funding a new regional hospital in Prince Albert – as soon as the province gets its finances back in order.
Dionne was obviously pleased with that commitment. He declined to officially endorse Moe, but said he’s strongly leaning in the former environment minister’s direction.
“It’s always best to support the person in your backyard,” Dionne said of the Rosthern-Shellbrook MLA. “I’m happy with Scott Moe.”
The mayor said that Moe is the only one who has made such a strong pledge to fund the hospital. He also has a soft spot for Gordon Wyant, who he said “hasn’t ever done me wrong.” But Moe has an “advantage” over the other candidates, since he frequently attends meetings to discuss local issues.
“He’s well versed on our city,” Dionne said.
Moe again raised the hospital issue during a stop at the Daily Herald offices, saying people across the region are pushing for a new hospital. He said patients from his home community of Shellbrook, and from the province’s north, rely on Prince Albert for health care.
“What we’re committing to is not a timeline, but an effort to ensure the provincial government would fund 100 per cent of that facility here in Prince Albert,” Moe said. “Now, the province has some work to do to ensure we get back to balance and get ourselves in good fiscal health, so we’re able to make investments.
“It would be what I would advocate for as premier.”
Moe wasn’t prepared to come down as firmly on Prince Albert’s other big infrastructure debate: a second bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. He said the current bridge is now in good condition. He would prefer to minimize disruptions and keep all four lanes open as often as possible.
“Nevertheless, as we grow as a region and as a city we always have to have those discussion about infrastructure, such as another bridge in the future,” the candidate said.
On the economy, Moe argued that his focus on export-driven growth will benefit Prince Albert. The city is still lagging behind the nascent recovery creeping across the rest of the province. But Moe said he sees bright spots in new projects around Prince Albert and other “forest fringe” communities.
“There are all sorts of opportunities in the forestry industry,” he said. “We’ve seen a major expansion at the plant over in Carrot River in the last year.”
He said a Moe government would carry on the Saskatchewan Party’s commitment to open markets, creating a minister of export and trade to seek out opportunities all over the world. He acknowledged that commodity prices have sunk in recent years, and hoped for a return to “stability.”
The Trump administration could present a challenge to Moe’s free-trade credo, especially as NAFTA negotiations continue to hit roadblocks. Moe said Saskatchewan is “always paying attention” to trade negotiations. But he said the province is seeing success in diversifying its export partners, selling billions of dollars in products to places like China, Indonesia and the European Union.
“Our industries can compete with anyone around the world,” he said. “We’ve been proving that.”
Moe admitted that people often say the five Saskatchewan Party leadership candidates “agree too much.” And Moe seemed to agree wholeheartedly with the tough-on-Ottawa tone that’s reared up throughout the campaign. He began by lambasting the feds’ proposed carbon tax, before lending a nuanced endorsement to Gordon Wyant’s recent critique of Canada’s equalization formula.
“Saskatchewan people are generous, and we will share our wealth when we’re able to,” he said. “But we’re not foolish, and it is time for us to have a discussion about how we share that wealth with the rest of the nation of Canada.”
Like Wyant, he blames the provinces who receive equalization for blocking Saskatchewan’s development. He said our landlocked province is “beholden” to port provinces, like Quebec, who’ve stood in the way of pipelines that could expand Saskatchewan’s energy exports.
“That’s not the way Canada was intended to operate,” he said. “We need to be able to transfer our energy out through pipelines, because, quite frankly, we need our rail capacity for other products.”
Wyant has suggested the pipeline impasse could threaten national unity. Moe held back a bit on that, saying that no province should start by raising the national unity question. He said diplomacy should come first, then “action.”
“We need to have a conversation about how we share our wealth with the rest of the nation,” Moe said. “If we’re not able to come to an agreement with the federal government, then we have to have further action on that.”
“Saskatchewan people are generous, and we will share our wealth when we’re able to. But we’re not foolish.” Rosthern Shellbrook MLA Scott Moe
Scott Moe at Thursday’s leadership debate in Melfort.