Education funding, lack of transparency top NDP concerns from auditor’s report

The Sask. Party has not been building and repairing schools responsibly, neither from a needs perspective nor from a financial perspective.

New schools and school repairs are not necessarily going to the schools and communities with the most urgent need, according to the independent Provincial Auditor Bonnie Lysyk, whose newest report evaluated education capital spending and several other topics.

She said that the Sask. Party government is making decisions on a division-by-division basis instead of province-wide and that no acceptable system is in place to make capital funding decisions.

“Saskatchewan needs a sustainable education system to maintain standards while the province grows,” said NDP Deputy Leader Trent Wotherspoon. “The NDP made pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 education a top priority because Saskatchewan is missing a big opportunity to do so much better for our kids and for our future while the economy is strong. The fact that the Sask. Party is struggling with education, despite the economy, is a real cause for concern.”

Lysyk also raised concerns about the way school construction is being funded under the Sask. Party’s new scheme. She said the ability to keep some of the costs off one of the government’s two sets of books is the motivation for its actions – not the lowest cost or best interests of students.

She reported that the Sask. Party has not evaluated the controversial methods it’s pursuing.

“The Sask. Party is forcing schools to borrow at a higher cost and stubbornly pushing forward on a more costly plan to let the private sector build and manage schools. The auditor’s report really shows that these controversial decisions are based on balance-sheet manipulation,” said Wotherspoon, who added that a bias towards privatization could also be causing the Sask. Party to push forward on private-public partnership school building without supporting evidence.

Several other issues were reported on by the auditor and are of concern to the NDP, including:

  • The premier and Sask. Party removed the right of the independent provincial auditor to view information related to incarcerated youth. With three times more Saskatchewan youth in custody than the national average, the NDP believes that the Sask. Party should welcome recommendations from the auditor, rather than trying to hide information from the auditor’s office.
  • The Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region does not have effective processes for efficient use of operating rooms. A number of shortfalls in the organization of surgical facilities within the region are resulting in longer surgical wait times. Wotherspoon said it’s time for the Sask. Party to admit it has made mistakes in RQHR and get to work on a more effective surgical system.
  • The auditor’s report noted that not only has the Sask. Party not budgeted for the cleanup of contaminated sites, but also the Sask. Party hasn’t even identified all contaminated sites. With public health and the environment at risk, the NDP is urging the Sask. Party to make identification and clean-up of contaminated sites, along with transparent budgeting on the cost of that mission, a top priority for the Sask. Party government.

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For further information, please contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus office