Back to school shouldn’t break the bank

Parents and teachers are covering off more and more in the classroom, and the NDP says the extra costs have to stop.

“The start of the school year should be about excited kids getting new opportunities, but, increasingly, for parents and teachers it’s about opening their wallets to pay extra time and time again, replacing things the government no longer helps with,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader and critic for education.

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Government fails to submit report on child protection system

NDP wants to know if government is taking its foster system problems seriously

The government has failed to hand in its first report on the activities of the Social Services Ministry when it comes to caring for foster children.

The reports, due every three months, were called for by the Children’s Advocate after six-year-old foster child Lee Bonneau was murdered by another child, a 10-year-old also receiving services from the ministry. Bonneau was killed one year ago, and the Children’s Advocate released recommendations in response on May 14. One of those recommendations required reports from the ministry – the first due Aug. 14.

“Is the government taking its problems with child protection seriously?” asked David Forbes, the NDP critic for social services.

From 2010 to 2013, 81 children in the care of the government died. That number does not include a number of foster children who died from natural causes.

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Ailing seniors being turned away from seniors care homes

95-year-old Roy Armstrong has bone, bladder and prostate cancer and struggles to walk and feed himself after two heart attacks – but the government says Armstrong is too fit to take up a space in a seniors care home.

The situation is familiar to too many Saskatchewan families, and is a result of the government continuing to ignore the seniors care crisis, according to the NDP.

After suffering a second heart attack, Armstrong is in Royal University Hospital with nowhere to go.

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Who demanded the exemption to use unqualified workers to install smart meters?

The NDP is calling on the premier and ministers to reveal where the push to use unqualified workers to install smart meters came from.

Responding to reporters’ questions Friday, a SaskPower spokesperson indicated the Crown corporation was told by the government to apply for the exemption, and didn’t know why. The spokesperson also indicated SaskPower was directed by the government to request an end to the exemption just weeks ago.

The exemption from the government permitted the smart meter project to use a temp agency to hire people with no experience rather than use electricians as the law requires. Experts had warned the government this could result in fires.

“I’m sure the premier and his cabinet want to throw SaskPower under the bus, and have them take the fall,” said NDP Deputy Leader Trent Wotherspoon. “But it’s becoming clear that Wall’s government directed SaskPower to apply for the exemption with the American company, and this government has been pulling the strings on this fiasco since the beginning. The buck stops with Mr. Wall and his cabinet.

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Government has known using non-electrical workers made smart meters dangerous

Government’s exemption to use unqualified workers for smart meters secretly cancelled

The government was aware of the danger caused by using unqualified workers to install smart meters, and a government exemption to do so was cancelled on Aug. 1, according to documents obtained by the NDP Friday.

The documents also indicate the program went ahead despite eight incidents being reported during a trial period with the unqualified workers ending Aug. 27, 2013.

“The government has knowingly been putting people, homes and millions of ratepayer dollars at risk, ignoring direct warnings,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader.

Government documents show that exemptions from a law requiring that only qualified electrical workers remove and install power meters were given to both SaskPower and American smart meter company Grid One Solutions in July 2013. The government’s exemption allowed them to skirt the law and use less-qualified workers, hired through a temp agency, instead of electricians or electrical workers to install smart meters throughout the province.

Shockingly, the decision to hire 150 unqualified workers was made despite the fact that 50 qualified electricians had already applied to do the work, plus additional qualified power line technicians, according to the documents, which were obtained by the NDP under Freedom of Information laws. Electricians can also supervise electrical apprentices who have completed post-secondary education, which would have rounded out the number of qualified electrical workers for the job.

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Saskatchewan NDP Caucus