Health minister denies life-saving treatment for kids using wrong information

The Sask. Party government denied three children the only treatment that could stop the progression of their painful disease, and now it’s clear it used completely false information to justify that decision.

Sask. Party Health Minister Dustin Duncan denied the Akhter children, aged 8, 10 and 12, their only hope to stop the disease. In explaining his decision, Duncan claimed the drug Vimizim hasn’t been proven effective in treating children older than five. However, Duncan had it completely wrong – the drug is intended for patients over five years old. It’s only patients under five for which Vimizim has not yet been fully tested.

On Monday, Duncan spoke at length about saying no to the life-saving treatment because the kids are older than five. To reporters, he said: “the common drug review process had indicated that there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that the efficacy of this drug, and there doesn’t seem to be, especially when you get over the age of five in this case, that, the longer that it takes for this drug to be administered, the disease progresses to a point where it just becomes a question of whether or not there is efficacy to administering this drug.” He also said: “the outside expert out of our province that did recommend that because these children are over the age of five, it just, there isn’t the evidence that suggests that there would be efficacy involved in providing this drug.”

“The health minister's whole spiel was made up and dead wrong,” said Danielle Chartier, NDP Health critic. “It's bad enough to deny life-saving treatment to kids, but basing that decision on blatantly wrong information is being reckless with three children’s lives. This government needs to get its facts right, and allow these kids to start treatment immediately.”

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Clear message on farmland ownership: loopholes must be fixed

The results of a recent government survey show it has had the wrong approach to farmland ownership, and more needs to be done to prevent foreign and institutional ownership of Saskatchewan farmland.

Loopholes in The Saskatchewan Farm Ownership Act allowed a massive sale of Saskatchewan farmland to an institutional investor, and concerns remain that foreign dollars may still back farmland purchases.

The survey released Tuesday by the Government of Saskatchewan shows that the vast majority of Saskatchewan people do not want foreign ownership of Saskatchewan farmland, large institutional investors buying farmland, or foreign money backing farmland purchases. The survey also showed that 85 per cent of people want the government to do a better job enforcing that.

Yet, the Sask. Party watched and took no action while Assiniboia Farmland sold 115,000 acres that produces wheat, barley, canola and other crops to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. That deal closed in early 2014. Assiniboia’s co-founders are the Sask. Party’s former executive director and a former senior advisor to Brad Wall.

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Saskatchewan lagging on minimum wage

The NDP believes Saskatchewan’s minimum wage shouldn’t be lower than Alberta and Manitoba’s, yet Saskatchewan’s 30-cent minimum wage change on Oct. 1 will keep Saskatchewan behind Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec and the territories.

“Housing, school fees, power bills, tuition and all the things we pay extra for these days has made the cost of living in Saskatchewan harder for everyone,” said NDP Labour critic David Forbes. “Someone who works two jobs shouldn’t have to use a food bank to put food on the table. Too many parents are forced to choose between food, school supplies or the power bill, and that’s not good for their families, or for building healthy communities as a whole.”

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NDP is ready for fall session

Cam Broten and the New Democrat MLAs are ready to meet the Sask. Party at the legislature for the fall session and they plan to put the focus on things that matter most to Saskatchewan families – including the NDP’s strategy to address crowded classrooms in schools, wait times in emergency rooms and for specialists and the ongoing seniors care crisis.

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P3 maintenance price on North Battleford Hospital outrageous

The Sask. Party is contracting out maintenance of the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford to a United Kingdom-based conglomerate as part of its P3 rent-a-hospital scheme – and the price is outrageous.

Of the whopping $407 million price tag for the hospital, $185 is payment for the United Kingdom corporation to handle maintenance of the facility. That amounts to more than $6 million per year for maintenance on a brand new facility.

“In 2014, the entire Prairie North Health Region spent $3.1 million on repairs and maintenance on all hospitals and facilities combined,” said Danielle Chartier, NDP Health critic. “To shovel $185 million, which is more than $6 million every year, into a foreign corporation’s pockets for just one facility is mind-boggling. It's a new building that should be saving money when it comes to maintenance."

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