The Sask. Party government's refusal to fix deteriorating schools throughout the province is putting children and educators at risk of potential asbestos exposure.
Last week, the Opposition New Democrats revealed information about three of the schools the government has refused to fix. All three are listed on the province's asbestos registry:
- Rosthern Elementary School's "structural pad is sinking, causing large gaps in the walls and concerns of plumbing line failure." According to the asbestos registry, it has asbestos in tiles and pipeline fitting compound.
- Rosthern High School's roof is "leaking, rotting and in danger of collapse" and "drywall is falling from the ceiling in the library." It has asbestos in cement board and tiles.
- Colonsay School has "structural damage to roof/walls of the gym." It has asbestos in cement board and tiles in the gym.
The government's latest financial statement confirms that its net debt went up by $937 million last year, which is 105 per cent higher than the government had budgeted.
"Saskatchewan people are increasingly frustrated when they keep hearing about this government adding more and more debt," said NDP Deputy Leader and Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon. "This government has had record revenues for eight long years, yet it's blown through all that money and hasn’t saved a dime for the future.”
The government claims “pre-existing conditions” as grounds to refuse to fix schools
The Sask. Party government refuses to do emergency repairs on school roofs that are “leaking, rotting, and in danger of collapse” because it deems them to be “pre-existing situations.”
Documents obtained through access-to-information laws show the government said no to emergency repairs of dangerous structural issues at multiple schools in at least one school division, Prairie Spirit, which is in the Saskatoon area.
“It is absolutely ridiculous for this government to use legalese and red tape to weasel out of fixing school roofs that are rotting and in danger of collapse, and schools that have major structural damage,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “This is about the safety of children and this is about providing a good space to learn. To say no to these emergency repairs on the grounds that these are pre-existing conditions defies common sense and it says a lot about this government's misplaced priorities.”
Last week, I called on the Government of Saskatchewan to apologize for Saskatchewan’s role in Canada’s Adopt Indian Métis program, also called the '60s Scoop. Today, the government responded positively. I’m pleased, and ready to work together with all members of the Legislative Assembly and First Nations and Métis leaders and community members on this process.
NDP supports update to information and privacy laws
The annual report of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner paints a picture of a government that lacks transparency.
When the government wants to withhold a document that may be accessible under access to information laws, the commissioner reviews the case and issues a report. According to the commissioner, his reports were ignored beyond the deadline to respond 25 per cent of the time in 2014-15.
He also points to a number of examples in the health ministry in which an application to access documents was stonewalled for hundreds of days, violating access laws.
“What we are seeing is a problem with government transparency,” said NDP Justice critic John Nilson. “The records the government continues to withhold are about things like the condition and inspection of hospitals and seniors care homes. This is important information that patients, families and health professionals have a right to know.
“I do not think Saskatchewan people want their government spending its time and taxpayers’ money playing games with public information. A government committed to transparency would make information accessible and be more proactive about releasing information.”