Meili pleased with NDP ef­forts dur­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTHWEST BOOSTER

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili was pleased with the show­ing of his team dur­ing the re­cently con­cluded fall leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“We were re­ally happy with the way things went,” he ad­mit­ted dur­ing a year end con­fer­ence call on De­cem­ber 17. “We went into the ses­sion with a fo­cus on four key is­sues, one of which was the econ­omy. We heard in our con­ver­sa­tions all around the province the way in which the econ­omy has slowed down, and how some of the de­ci­sions - in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of PST on con­struc­tion labour and on restau­rant meals - had re­ally ex­ac­er­bated that slow­down.”

Meili said an­other key fo­cus was rais­ing a con­cern over de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health out­comes and the fact peo­ple are fall­ing through the cracks be­cause of cuts to ser­vices.

“We have the worst health out­comes in the coun­try in fact, tied with Nova Sco­tia. And when peo­ple are need­ing care it’s just not there in a way that it should be,” he ar­gued.

The Saskatchewan NDP also con­tin­ued their fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion cuts, the prob­lem of class­rooms be­com­ing more com­pli­cated and more crowded, and stu­dents strug­gling as a re­sult.

“So all of those go to­gether to re­ally slow down fur­ther our econ­omy, as we’ve seen this aus­ter­ity ap­proach make things harder. And as we try to keep the govern­ment ac­count­able to those de­ci­sions, we also end up talk­ing a lot about and ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency. With the GTH scan­dal, what went on with the ehealth and the ven­dor spon­sored jun­kets that were con­nected to con­tracts, and some of the other scan­dals, it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we point out those is­sues in order to make sure that the govern­ment’s ac­count­able both for their de­ci­sions as well as the ethics of how they run their day to day op­er­a­tions.”

Dur­ing the ses­sion the NDP tabled a pri­vate mem­bers bill in the leg­is­la­ture in hopes or rais­ing Saskatchewan’s min­i­mum wage, the sec­ond low­est in Canada, to $15 over the next few years.

In Oc­to­ber, Saskatchewan’s min­i­mum wage went up by 10 cents to $11.06, while in neigh­bour­ing Al­berta it went up by $1.40 to a na­tion lead­ing $15 per hour in an econ­omy that is out­per­form­ing Saskatchewan.

“It’s also im­por­tant for the econ­omy,” Meili stated. “When you have lower wage work­ers gain­ing a de­cent wage, they stick around, their pro­duc­tiv­ity in­creases, but also they spend that money lo­cally. So I think it’s a real dis­ser­vice that the Saskparty doesn’t, and in fact some­what con­trary to what should be their val­ues as a con­ser­va­tive party, they should want fewer peo­ple re­ly­ing on so­cial ser­vices, fewer peo­ple re­ly­ing on so­cial pro­grams. But by keep­ing the min­i­mum wage so low they ac­tu­ally force more peo­ple to rely on wel­fare and other so­cial sup­ports.”

He also tied in low wages and poverty into the is­sue of grow­ing crime rates.

“When you’re talk­ing about crime rates in North Bat­tle­ford, you’re re­ally talk­ing about poverty rates,” he said of grow­ing crime in that com­mu­nity and across the province. “You’re talk­ing about how many peo­ple are not get­ting the ed­u­ca­tion they should, not get­ting ac­cess to em­ploy­ment, find­ing them­selves in des­per­ate sit­u­a­tions and en­gaged in des­per­ate ac­tiv­i­ties. So if we re­ally want to keep peo­ple safer and re­ally want to re­duce crime, we need to look at how do we make sure more peo­ple have a chance to suc­ceed, fewer peo­ple are in poverty, as well as re­duc­ing the preva­lence of ad­dic­tions through ad­dic­tion sup­port and de­cent polic­ing to de­crease the avail­abil­ity of crys­tal meth and opi­oids and other drugs that are also fu­elling ru­ral crime.”

Meili also ar­gued the govern­ment did not uti­lize thor­ough enough process while en­act­ing changes to Saskatchewan’s tres­pass­ing leg­is­la­tion.

Tres­pass­ing leg­is­la­tion has sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts for the lives of First Na­tions and Metis peo­ple in the province, how­ever the province re­fused to have dis­cus­sions with those com­mu­ni­ties be­fore tabling their leg­is­la­tion

“That to me sends a sig­nal to the rest of the province that this govern­ment doesn’t have the in­ter­ests of ev­ery­one in the province in mind. And that they’re even, in some ways, di­vid­ing the province and po­si­tion­ing peo­ple as against each other rather than try­ing to work for solutions to im­prove life for ev­ery­one.”

Meili also raised a con­cern re­gard­ing the func­tion­al­ity of posted land.

“The way this is de­signed poses some sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges for lots of folks, in­clud­ing land own­ers them­selves in terms of hav­ing more peo­ple com­ing down their lane, knock­ing on their door, or phon­ing if they’re able to get the phone num­ber, and ask­ing when they might not oth­er­wise would have wanted that. Also it poses risks for hunters and other peo­ple who use the land in a safe way, but now won’t be feel­ing com­fort­able or feel­ing like that’s some­thing they’re able to do. So I think there’s a lot of work that needs to go into mak­ing this ques­tion a ques­tion that’s well re­solved. Fig­ur­ing out ex­actly the right bal­ance in terms of tres­pass­ing leg­is­la­tion and the de­ci­sion of this govern­ment to just forge ahead with new leg­is­la­tion with­out any sig­nif­i­cant con­sul­ta­tion, and with­out re­ally think­ing through all of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the choices they’re mak­ing, is just an­other ex­am­ple of a govern­ment that isn’t will­ing to do their home­work.”

He also felt Premier Scott Moe’s han­dling of the car­bon tax file was bun­gled, and he has con­cerns that the Sask Party’s Prairie Re­silience strat­egy is ex­pen­sive and not ef­fec­tive.

“We shouldn’t have some­thing im­posed by Ot­tawa. How­ever, what Scott Moe et al have failed to do is come up with a back-up plan. And so as a re­sult, start­ing April 1, there will be a car­bon pric­ing plan that’s de­signed in Ot­tawa and it will be ap­plied to Saskatchewan. And that won’t have farm lead­ers, in­dus­try lead­ers, experts right here at Saskatchewan at the ta­ble as part of the de­sign. So it won’t be sen­si­tive to the eco­nomic needs spe­cific to our lo­cal in­dus­try. And I think that’s a real fail­ure on the part of Moe. He’s been point­ing fin­gers else­where and stomp­ing his feet, but re­fus­ing to ac­tu­ally come up with a Plan B. And as a re­sult all of us are go­ing to be fac­ing a plan that isn’t ideal.”

He added there is lit­tle in the plan to change the fact Saskatchewan is Canada’s per capita leader in Green­house Gas Emis­sions.

“They in­tro­duced a price on car­bon for heavy emit­ters, and that’s a rea­son­able model. It’s in fact some­thing that they had passed leg­is­la­tion on in 2009, and then never fol­lowed up on.

“The big ques­tion for us go­ing for­ward, as you see that as a pat­tern where this govern­ment will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion but not nec­es­sar­ily pur­sue it or pur­sue it in a mean­ing­ful way. That’ll be some­thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant for us is to look at that seg­ments of the emis­sions pro­file of Saskatchewan whether they’re suc­cess­ful work­ing with those in­dus­tries to re­duce emis­sions in a way that al­lows those in­dus­tries to main­tain their com­pet­i­tive­ness.”

“Now the ques­tion re­mains about the rest of the emis­sions pro­file, the other in­dus­tries that are con­tribut­ing to Saskatchewan’s na­tion lead­ing emis­sions, and what is this govern­ment go­ing to do to ac­tu­ally de­crease those in a way that’s in ac­cor­dance with the com­mit­ments that we’ve made as a province.”

Meili said the NDP strat­egy on cli­mate change puts a fo­cus on tak­ing ad­van­tage of Saskatchewan’s nat­u­ral ad­van­tages.

“Saskatchewan has the best en­vi­ron­ment in the coun­try for the pro­duc­tion of en­ergy from so­lar power, we also have great op­por­tu­ni­ties in wind, in biomass, in geo­ther­mal. And yet we’re far be­hind other ju­ris­dic­tions in terms of the per­cent­age of our elec­tric­ity that’s com­ing from re­new­able sources, or in the amount of en­ergy we’re los­ing be­cause of lack of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.”

The NDP’S own Re­new Saskatchewan plan puts a fo­cus on re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to take ad­van­tage of those op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“It’s a fo­cus on the op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness own­ers, farm­ers, home own­ers, smaller com­mu­ni­ties, and even larger mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, to par­tic­i­pate in a tran­si­tion into re­new­able en­ergy in a way that low­ers their bills, em­ploys a lot of Saskatchewan peo­ple, and also al­lows peo­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to make money by sell­ing power back to the grid.”

Meili said that up front costs are pre­vent­ing peo­ple from get­ting in­volved, even through peo­ple know they would re­coup that ini­tial investment through the money they save over a num­ber of years.

“Through Re­new Saskatchewan, we have a pro­gram where we’d pay the money up front and then it’s paid back through the bills that peo­ple are pay­ing.”

“Re­new Saskatchewan is our idea to em­ploy thou­sands of peo­ple in the province, re­duce our power bills, all while mov­ing us down the road to­wards sus­tain­able, re­new­able en­ergy.”

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