The Sask. Party’s provincial budget cuts health care, fails students and schools and relies on short-sighted privatization schemes.
In health care, the Sask. Party’s budget features a $54 million shortfall for health regions and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, and no new long-term care facilities for seniors – only recycled announcements.
In K-12 education, the Sask. Party will spend money on testing instead of teaching. Millions of dollars are budgeted to administer new standardized testing and to cover the cost of pension obligations – with no money left to fix crowded classrooms or a shortage of resources in schools.
To deal with the pressure of 4,500 new students in the province, the Sask. Party has budgeted for a maximum of only 40 relocatable classrooms, falling well short of the NDP’s calls for a cap on classroom sizes, the reinstatement of educational assistants and an accelerated capital plan for school building and repairs.
“Short-changing education is a short-sighted decision by the Sask. Party,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP finance critic. “Without a smart-growth plan to make our school system sustainable, the Sask. Party is asking kids to pay for its tough budget.”
Wotherspoon added that kids will still be paying for the Sask. Party’s budget years from now, thanks to expensive and risky privatization plans.
P3 privatization plans
New schools, at least one hospital and highways projects will be built by the private sector as P3s – an expensive form of privatization in which the private sector can build, own and operate public services or facilities. Taxpayers pay for it over the long life of a high-interest contract and take on the risk.
“This is a credit-card budget. The Sask. Party is kicking responsibility down the road by pushing ahead with a buy now, pay later plan that will catch up to Saskatchewan before long,” said Wotherspoon.
In the case of the Saskatchewan Hospital at North Battleford, the privatization plan represents a broken promise, since a publicly-built hospital has been repeatedly promised by the Sask. Party.
The Sask. Party will also increase debt by another $835 million this year. In the 2012-13 budget year, the Sask. Party added $1.1 billion to the total provincial debt.
Despite a strong economy, it appears the Sask. Party will drain the rainy day fund, raid Crown corporations and fail to set aside any long-term savings.
The Sask. Party continues to ignore calls from the NDP and the independent provincial auditor to use a single set of books. The auditor has called the Sask. Party’s use of two sets of books misleading and wrong.
“The Sask. Party is stubbornly holding on to an outdated accounting practice that allows it to manipulate the books for PR and self-promotion purposes,” said Wotherspoon. “Saskatchewan people want the straight goods on how their money is spent and the full, true state of our finances.
“Saskatchewan people deserve investment into the long-term sustainability of education, health care and the middle class.”
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus office
(306) 787- 6349