The official Opposition is setting its expectations for the provincial budget and outlining the priorities Cam Broten and the NDP MLAs will look for in the government’s budget on Wednesday.
“For me and my team, politics isn’t just about the province doing well – it’s about people doing well. That’s the lens through which we’ll be looking at this budget,” NDP Leader Cam Broten said. “Saskatchewan families aren’t benefitting enough from the strong economy, even though they’re working harder than ever. Families are being asked to pay extra far too often, these days, in an economy that already has a high cost of living. And, the basics we should be able to count on, like health care and education, are suffering cutbacks and getting worse while this government prioritizes things like spending millions on out-of-country consultants.
“I want to see a budget that uses the strong economy to make life better for the people of Saskatchewan. And, I want to see a budget that fixes the basics of health care, seniors care and education instead of blowing money on this government’s pet projects.”
The NDP’s must-haves list for the provincial budget includes:
- An end to contracts that are making Saskatchewan a cash cow for consultants, particularly a contract with an American Lean Kaizen consultant costing Saskatchewan taxpayers more than $40 million.
The government recently denied health-care facilities’ urgent requests for about $8.5 million in front-line staff, equipment and repairs – while spending far more than that amount on fat consulting contracts.
- Funding to set and achieve minimum quality of care standards and minimum staffing ratios in seniors care facilities, province-wide. Minimum standards and one-on-one care hours are called for in the NDP’s Bill 606 as a vital step to fixing seniors care.
- Rerouting of standardized testing money into teaching and one-on-one help for students, including increasing the number of educational assistants.
- A multi-year plan to reduce class sizes, including a plan to implement appropriate class-size caps, prioritizing early years.
Saskatchewan classrooms are overcrowded, and capping class sizes will help students get the attention every child needs and deserves.
- A transparent, cost-effective plan for Saskatchewan to build, own and operate its own schools, instead of an ill-advised, secretive P3 rent-a-school scheme.
- No increase to education tax.
The government said recently it may hike education tax and use the money to pay for bridges and overpasses. The NDP opposes both the hike, and any plan that diverts education funding away from the classroom.
- Action to address the high cost of living and increased out-of-pocket expenses for Saskatchewan families who have been paying more for fewer services from the government.
Families have been asked to pay extra for things like seniors care and more supplies for their kids’ classrooms and SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SGI bills are all getting more expensive. The government should stop dismissing the rising cost of living that families are facing, and take action to lower costs for Saskatchewan families instead of raising them yet again.
The NDP also demands the government deliver a transparent and honest budget.
“This is the first government in Canada to fail an audit on its central books,” said Broten. “Their last budget was blasted by the independent provincial auditor for a new shell-game accounting scheme that it used to hide a $600 million deficit. Financial games like that wouldn’t fly in a household or a business, and I don’t think Saskatchewan people want their government getting away with it, either.”
In the 2013-14 budget, the government's new accounting scheme caused the independent provincial auditor to call the books misleading. The government counted transfers from one account to another as income, refused to record all government debt on the books, hid general government debt on the books of school boards, universities and health authorities and counted unpaid-for shared projects as assets, but not debt.
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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus