Government’s budget: only cuts and crumbs for Sask. families

$52 million cut from health care, $23 million from education, nothing for seniors care homes

The provincial government’s 2014-15 budget squeezes families and the services they count on, ensuring for another year that the strong economy will benefit government, not people.

Despite having over 50 per cent more revenue coming into government’s coffers, the budget cuts health care, offers not a single new dollar to address the seniors care crisis and heaps financial strain on municipalities, schools and universities.

Six out of seven budget must-haves laid out by the NDP have not been met.

“The message this budget sends everyday families is to brace themselves – the things they count on and really need improvements to are going to get even worse,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader and finance critic. “Saskatchewan people are working harder than ever right now. They deserve a budget that uses the strong economy to benefit them – now and in the long-term. They deserve for the strong economy to translate into better hospitals, smaller classrooms and a better cost of living.”

“Instead, the government invests in pet projects, leaving just crumbs for real families and the things that matter.”

Saskatchewan families have raised concerns over the high cost of living while the basics they count on – like education, health care and seniors care – get worse.

  • The budget calls for another $51.9 million to be cut from health care.

    The NDP called on the government to end contracts that are making Saskatchewan a cash-cow for consultants, including one contract with an American Lean Kaizen consultant costing Saskatchewan taxpayers more than $40 million. Additionally, this government disregarded concerns of many front-line health care workers and professionals who say the program hurts patient care instead of helps.

    The budget does not redirect any of the millions being spent on consultants into better health care or front-line services.

  • The budget re-announces $3.7 million already allocated to address urgent needs in seniors care homes, and directs not a single new dollar to address deplorable conditions largely caused by a lack of staff and the government’s removal of minimum standards.

    The NDP called for action to address the seniors care crisis, including minimum standards and enough staff to properly care for seniors living in care homes.

  • The budget allocated millions more to pay for the software required to plough ahead with an old-fashioned and outdated standardized testing regime.

    The NDP had called for funding for standardized testing to be redirected to teaching and more one-on-one help for students, including increasing the number of educational assistants.

  • The NDP had called for a plan to reduce and cap class sizes, but the budget does nothing to address the number of students crammed in crowded classrooms.

    While classes are bursting at the seams and adding more kids, the dollars are stagnant – leaving kids without the learning environment and one-on-one attention they need and deserve.

    Despite the desperate need for more classrooms and smaller class sizes to relieve the overcrowding, the government cut the education capital budget by nearly 20 per cent this year, taking $23.4 million away from school building and repair needs.

  • The NDP called for Saskatchewan to build, own and operate schools itself – built more cost-effectively and quickly. The government’s P3 rent-a-school scheme will only receive a small amount of funding in the 2014-15 budget year – $3.3 million – for some work on schools designs, guaranteeing at least another year before shovels could be in the ground on the ill-advised plan to have the private sector own and operate schools.

  • The NDP demanded action to address the high cost of living. While Saskatchewan families are being asked to pay extra far too often, the government is ploughing ahead with another budget year that does nothing to relieve families’ financial pressures.

    By giving municipalities less this year, more financial strain is dumped on residential property tax payers – at a time when the government is also increasing the price of monthly bills from SaskTel internet, SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SGI.

  • The one and only of the NDP’s seven priority must-haves to be satisfied by the budget is a welcome flip-flop on a plan to raise education tax to pay for bridges and overpasses.

    The NDP believes education tax should only be for education, and that the 50 per cent increase in government revenue since 2007 should be more than enough money to get the job done without raising taxes.

“Six out of seven of the NDP’s priority must-haves were not met by this disappointing budget. How many Saskatchewan families have had their needs ignored by the government?” Wotherspoon asked.

“People tell us the government hasn’t been listening to them – this budget really shows the government is absolutely not listening, and doesn’t understand what families are dealing with today.”

Sadly, the budget reveals the government will not build a Heritage Fund anytime soon. Both the NDP and independent advisor Peter MacKinnon advocate a plan to start thinking long-term and putting money away in a savings account, but the government stubbornly refuses to contribute a dime to Saskatchewan’s future until the debt is paid off – and, unfortunately, the government is moving quickly in the wrong direction, racking up debt.

In an unprecedented jump, the government will add $1.5 billion in debt in this budget year alone. The overall debt is up $4 billion since 2009.

The NDP is pleased to see the shift to the summary budget focus it had called for. With some reorganization of the budget, the NDP will continue to track the implementation of the new system of reporting to ensure Saskatchewan people have honest books they can trust. The government’s last budget failed its audit – the NDP made it clear the official Opposition and Saskatchewan people will not accept another set of improper books that can’t pass an audit.

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus
306-787-6349
emorrison@ndpcaucus.sk.ca