Focus on what matters will continue for Broten’s NDP

Session is over, but NDP won’t stop pushing for action on seniors care, Lean and smart meters

The fall session of the Legislature ends Monday, but the NDP says the focus on the seniors care crisis, the government’s hugely wasteful Lean pet project and the smart meter fiasco that will cost ratepayers millions is far from over.

NDP pushes for action on seniors care crisis

“Seniors care is in crisis,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “Families have been coming forward and sharing devastating stories of very serious neglect in health and seniors care. The government’s elimination of minimum standards and chronic short-staffing means people in care throughout our province – urban and rural – are being subject to neglect, avoidable dangerous incidents and a poor quality of care. Families are worried for their loved ones.”

Sadly, several families came forward to say their loved one died prematurely because of the problems.

“The families of Margaret Warholm, Jesse Sellwood, Lorne Rowell and Fern Chingos don’t believe anyone should die the way their loved ones did. They came forward selflessly to help others. It’s not acceptable for this government to continue to fail to listen, and continue to dismiss the problems.”

Despite the government’s own CEO tour last summer which confirmed that disturbing and undignified treatment of seniors in care is wide-spread, the government continues to dismiss the crisis and refuse to take action to fix it. Its throne speech that began the fall session didn’t have a single new initiative or action to address the problems.

Broten said until the government recognizes the depth and widespread nature of the seniors care crisis and starts taking steps to fix it, the NDP will continue to push for improvements.

Broten’s NDP is proposing regulated minimum standards for residents in care and a seniors advocate to help families navigate the seniors care system. During the fall session, NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier re-introduced the Residents in Care Bill of Rights which would create minimum standards in care homes. That bill is expected to come to a vote early in the spring.

Lean pet project wastes millions, hurts care

Also at issue this fall, the government has been plowing ahead with the John Black version of Lean.

The government has been shoveling taxpayers’ money at the Lean project in health care, including $40 million for American consultant John Black’s contract, another $17 million every year for Kaizen Promotion Offices and millions more in travel and expenses. In addition to turning Saskatchewan into a cash cow for consultants, this government’s Lean initiative is making health care worse, according to workers, surveys and statistics.

Emergency room wait times are long. Doctors and health care workers say they don’t have the resources to deliver effective care, according to a province-wide survey. The government’s own statistics show health care is getting worse from pain control to death after major surgery. Last year, there were a record-high number of critical incidents – 195 times, a patient was seriously hurt or killed, or had a near miss, as a result of an avoidable incident or error. With money being taken away from the front-lines and given to the Lean debacle, health care is clearly getting worse.

“Senior leaders in the health care system describe a toxic environment created by the $40-million American Lean consultant, John Black,” said Broten. “He has created a culture of tattling on leaders who question his methods, undermining and gossiping. Internal correspondence from these senior leaders states it plainly: Saskatchewan will be better off when John Black is gone, but the government is keeping him around because of the optics of dumping him.”

This session, the NDP uncovered concerning new details, including the fact that John Black charged Saskatchewan taxpayers nearly $2.5 million in hotel, flight and travel expenses; that he had previously been paid to pitch his own services to province; and that the savings from Lean – at least from three health regions – totals about $40,000, hardly offsetting the untold millions spent.

“It’s time to dump John Black and his version of the Lean program,” said Cam Broten. “The untold millions this government is wasting on this toxic and harmful American consultant, his unbelievably expensive flight and hotel expenses and his $3,500 per day senseis – that could go right onto the front lines, giving us shorter wait times, cleaner hospitals and more front-line health care staff.”

Dangerous, expensive smart meter fiasco

Minister Bill Boyd was briefed in August 2012 about the fact that Sensus smart meters were causing fires, but the government plowed ahead with the program anyway. The government’s secret settlement with manufacturer Sensus will cost the province $23 million – a $5 million gift to Sensus for their future development of their products, and another $18 million which Saskatchewan can only recover as a store credit if its buys more Sensus smart meters.

Those facts were revealed this session as the NDP pushed for answers and a full refund on the smart meter fiasco.

“This government put Saskatchewan families and their homes at risk. It ignored and covered up the dangers. And, it signed a secret settlement with Sensus that will cost Saskatchewan ratepayers millions,” said Broten.

“The power bills of Saskatchewan families are at a record high. Utility prices have been raised again and again by this government, making it even harder for families to get ahead. This government just doesn’t get the reality for families right now. No one wants to and many can’t afford to see the fallout from this mismanaged smart meter fiasco on our power bills every month.”

Premier Brad Wall and Minister Bill Boyd both previously claimed repeatedly the $18 million will be recovered by Saskatchewan under its secret settlement deal, no matter what. SaskPower senior officials revealed the government’s lie under questioning by the NDP in a legislative committee in December.

A strong economy for everyone

The NDP will continue to push two private members bills it tabled this fall. The Buy Local Day Act encourages support for local companies while the The Fairness for Saskatchewan Businesses in Government Procurement Act would level the playing field for Saskatchewan businesses when it comes to bidding on contracts to supply goods and services.

"This government's current procurement policy is lazy and it's failing to get the best value for Saskatchewan taxpayers," said Broten. "Saskatchewan steel companies tell me they're in lay-off mode, in large part because the government keeps giving contracts to companies from Ontario, Quebec, California and Texas. It’s not right that local businesses are forced to cut back while the benefits of Saskatchewan’s economy are going to companies and workers from outside our borders."

Broten said Saskatchewan’s economy in general should be benefitting Saskatchewan people more than it is today.

“People should be benefitting more instead of just paying more in this economy,” said Broten.

“For me, politics isn’t just about the province doing well. It’s also about people doing well.”

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus