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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NDP wants internal reports on seniors care released now

The NDP wants all reports released immediately from the seniors care home tours taken by the government's health region CEOs during the spring and summer.

The annual CEO tours were put in place in 2013 after Cam Broten and the NDP MLAs revealed a crisis of chronic low staffing levels and a lack of care standards in Saskatchewan seniors care facilities.

NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier said the reports from the most recent tours should be complete by now, and Saskatchewan people have a right to see the results.

“Seniors in care facilities should be treated with dignity and respect, but we know that far too many are not getting the care they deserve due to serious problems like chronic short staffing and the elimination of minimum care standards. We've even heard of numerous premature deaths of seniors like Margaret Warholm, Lois Rein and Elaine Chingos,” said Chartier. “We're hearing from families all over the province that fixing seniors care is a priority for them – and New Democrats share that priority. We’ll keep pushing the Sask. Party to take this seriously, and take urgent action, and that includes releasing their latest unedited internal reports.”

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