A hallmark of the spring session of the provincial legislature, which wrapped up Thursday, was the NDP’s challenges to the Sask. Party to lay out its stand on critical social issues.
"Through the course of the spring we were surprised to discover that Sask. Party MLAs resisted common sense ideas like providing information on gay-straight alliances to students, teachers and parents who want it," said David Forbes, NDP critic for diversity, equality and human rights issues.
On the national Day of Pink, NDP Leader Cam Broten raised the common sense idea of putting information on gay-straight alliances on the Ministry of Education website. Gay-straight alliances are student-initiated clubs formed to give gay students a safe space, combat gay-bashing and dispel stereotypes. The idea was immediately rejected by Premier Brad Wall, who instead turned to rhetoric about religious freedom.
Danielle Chartier, NDP critic for the status of women, and the NDP MLAs were also disappointed to discover the truth behind the Sask. Party’s report on women appointed to Crown and agency boards. Sask. Party MLA Jennifer Campeau was given a year to look into why the Sask. Party appoints disproportionately far more men to the province’s boards – but the NDP discovered that the result of her work was a simple list of 61 names of women, only a handful of whom have since been appointed.
"The Sask. Party proved they just don’t get it," said Chartier. "A list of women, collected at an expensive lunch event or two, is not a solution to the fact that women make up less than 30 per cent of those the Sask. Party chooses to give important appointments to. The people of Saskatchewan expected a full report and an honest discussion. A piece of paper with a few names on it is insulting to the many thousands of intelligent and capable women of the province."
The Sask. Party was also out of step with Saskatchewan people on the issue of standardized testing in schools. While other jurisdictions in Canada and world-wide move away from the old-fashioned notion of standardized testing in every grade, the Sask. Party unveiled a massive, multi-million dollar plan to test every student and release the results.
"The Sask. Party government is decades behind in its thinking on education," said Forbes, who is also the NDP’s education critic and a teacher. "Shelling out millions for testing and data collection so that third parties can compare schools and classrooms – that’s not helping students."