Sask. NDP leader feels vot­ers will have a clear choice in pro­vin­cial elec­tion

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­berg@prairiepos­

Saskatchew­an NDP leader Ryan Meili feels vot­ers will face a clear choice when they cast their vote in the 2020 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

He spoke to lo­cal me­dia about his party’s plat­form and pri­or­i­ties dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Swift Cur­rent, Oct. 3.

“It's a choice between Scott Moe's plan of aus­ter­ity, which we know means more cuts, more pri­va­ti­za­tion, more back­room deals for the old boys club, and our plan to put peo­ple first by in­vest­ing in the things that mat­ter most, in health care, in ed­u­ca­tion, and in keep­ing jobs here in Saskatchew­an,” he said.

He re­ferred to the staffing level at The Mead­ows long-term care fa­cil­ity in Swift Cur­rent as an ex­am­ple of where the NDP’s in­vest­ment in health care will make a dif­fer­ence.

“We know that the staff at The Mead­ows is over­worked, be­cause that fa­cil­ity, like so many fa­cil­i­ties in Saskatchew­an, is un­der­staffed,” he said. “The staff are do­ing every­thing they can to serve the needs of res­i­dents. They're just over­whelmed and the frus­tra­tion and the chal­lenges that it presents for res­i­dents to get the care they need are ex­treme. That's some­thing we will change. We'll make in­vest­ments in long-term care with min­i­mum care stan­dards, but we're also go­ing to bring in the best home care in the en­tire coun­try.”

The NDP’s elec­tion plat­form in­cludes a com­mit­ment of $50 mil­lion to hire 700 ad­di­tional home care staff, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mately 200 cer­ti­fied care aides, 100 li­censed prac­ti­cal nurses, 70 reg­is­tered nurses, and 60 oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists.

Meili used the ex­am­ple of the con­struc­tion of the Chi­nook Power Sta­tion to con­trast the NDP’s Saskatchew­an First pro­cure­ment pol­icy with the ap­proach of the Saskatchew­an Party.

“You got the Chi­nook power sta­tion, you had pipe fit­ters sit­ting un­em­ployed here in Swift Cur­rent and area while there were work­ers driv­ing by with li­cense plates from Al­berta and Texas and Mis­souri on the job site there,” he said. “Our ap­proach is that when we build our power plants or our schools, our hos­pi­tals, we make sure that's build with our work­ers and our com­pa­nies. It's our tax dol­lars, it's our peo­ple that we should be putting first.”

He there­fore felt the key choice for the elec­torate will be to de­cide between an NDP plan with an em­pha­sis on in­vest­ment and a Saskatchew­an Party plan that he be­lieves will re­sult in aus­ter­ity and pri­va­ti­za­tion.

“We're go­ing to in­vest in the peo­ple of Saskatchew­an, we're go­ing to make the de­ci­sions that im­prove our econ­omy,” he said. “We have a plan to fix health­care, to in­vest in our schools and to cre­ate jobs right here in Saskatchew­an ver­sus their plan of aus­ter­ity with cuts and pri­va­ti­za­tion that will choke the econ­omy and hurt the peo­ple of Saskatchew­an.”

Meili was ac­com­pa­nied by NDP can­di­dates in the re­gion, in­clud­ing two with a teach­ing back­ground. Ste­fan Rumpel is the party’s can­di­date in Swift Cur­rent and Roger Mor­gan is the NDP can­di­date in the Wood River con­stituency. Meili noted the party’s can­di­date list in­cludes 14 teach­ers.

“The way that this Sask. Party has cut ed­u­ca­tion, cut our per stu­dent fund­ing made it far more dif­fi­cult for kids to get the sup­port they need to suc­ceed,” he said. “We need to turn that around with the gen­er­a­tional in­vest­ment in our schools.”

The NDP’s ed­u­ca­tion plan in­cludes a com­mit­ment of $125 mil­lion to re­duce class­room sizes and to hire more teach­ers, ed­u­ca­tion as­sis­tants, and sup­port staff. The party has made an ad­di­tional com­mit­ment of $3 mil­lion to­wards a rural ed­u­ca­tion strat­egy, which will be de­vel­oped by a rural ed­u­ca­tion task force with in­volve­ment from teach­ers, par­ents, and lo­cal lead­ers to un­der­stand the chal­lenges in each school divi­sion.

“We know the chal­lenges in Chi­nook are not the same as in Prairie Spirit,” he said. “We need to un­der­stand the re­al­i­ties of each com­mu­nity. Some places it's over­crowded class­rooms with too many kids in one grade, other places its three grade splits or it's bus­ing is­sues. We're go­ing to put those dol­lars into a rural ed­u­ca­tion fo­cus.”

This pro­vin­cial elec­tion takes place dur­ing un­cer­tain times due to a global pan­demic, but Meili felt Saskatchew­an vot­ers will be will­ing to vote for a change of gov­ern­ment.

“If you've got a bad gov­ern­ment dur­ing a pan­demic, you should get a good one, and that's what we have right now,” he said. “We got a gov­ern­ment that was not ready, didn't do the plan­ning for the pan­demic, com­pletely failed on the re­turn to school, and they've told us what they're about to do. They've said the word aus­ter­ity, we know what that means – cuts and pri­va­ti­za­tion. That is a bad idea at any time, but right now it's an ab­so­lutely dan­ger­ous idea. It's the worst route we can go down.”

He em­pha­sized the prov­ince needs a gov­ern­ment will­ing to sup­port the re­cov­ery of the econ­omy through tar­geted gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

“Now is the time to in­vest in peo­ple,” he said. “That's how we get our econ­omy mov­ing, that's how we sup­port peo­ple through this dif­fi­cult time, and that's how we in­crease our eco­nomic growth and al­low that rev­enue to come in so that we can bal­ance the bud­get. … If we in­vest in peo­ple, get our econ­omy mov­ing again, sup­port peo­ple through this time, we'll bal­ance our bud­get much more quickly and we'll do so with a lot less pain, but that's not the route the Sask. Party will take us down.”

He felt vot­ers are look­ing for change in this pan­demic elec­tion and that they are will­ing to con­sider chang­ing their vote.

“Now we've got a lot of peo­ple who are telling us on the doorstep I have voted for the Sask. Party the last few years, maybe I liked Brad Wall, but Scott Moe is no Brad Wall,” Meili said. “There's a lot of frus­tra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment. A gov­ern­ment that's had the ben­e­fit of the doubt from peo­ple for a cou­ple of terms is now get­ting a pretty hard look as peo­ple are feel­ing the pinch. We were in a re­ces­sion be­fore COVID-19. Peo­ple have been stretched and stretched and struggling, and what they hear from the gov­ern­ment is it's fine, don't worry about, we've got this.”

Ste­fan Rumpel, the NDP can­di­date in Swift Cur­rent, said his cam­paign has been go­ing well with many re­quests for lawn signs and a good re­cep­tion at doors.

“I'm talk­ing to peo­ple, and they're like you know what, I'm tired of the way things are go­ing, tired of the sta­tus quo, I want change, you can put a sign up on my lawn, we need to do bet­ter,” he said. “It's been re­ally en­er­giz­ing and we have a great team.”

He has been talk­ing to Swift Cur­rent res­i­dents about se­nior’s care, the need for long-term care im­prove­ments and the im­por­tance of min­i­mum stan­dards, his party’s ed­u­ca­tion plan, and the Saskatchew­an First pro­cure­ment plan.

“And it's re­ally in­ter­est­ing, be­cause usu­ally they go ‘Oh yeah, that's every­thing I care about,’ and that's what is so ex­cit­ing about this cam­paign,” he said. “So when I'm talk­ing to peo­ple, we un­der­stand that times were tough be­fore the pan­demic and to put more strain on health care and to put more strain on ed­u­ca­tion, to prom­ise aus­ter­ity down the line, that's dan­ger­ous. That's not what we need. We need to take care of peo­ple right now and we need to in­vest in peo­ple, and that's what we're go­ing to do.”

Saskatchew­an NDP leader Ryan Meili speaks to lo­cal me­dia dur­ing his cam­paign stop in Swift Cur­rent, Oct. 3. NDP can­di­dates from the re­gion are stand­ing be­hind him. From left, are Roger Mor­gan (Wood River), Kelly Gen­ert (Cy­press Hills), and Ste­fan Rumpel (Swift Cur­rent).

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg/Prairie Post

Saskatchew­an NDP leader Ryan Meili (at left) walks with lo­cal can­di­date Ste­fan Rumpel in down­town Swift Cur­rent, Oct. 3.

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