Throughout this spring’s legislative session, the NDP Opposition has brought a strong and consistent focus on putting people first, from standing up for students, teachers and parents against the cuts to education, to calling out Sask. Party cuts to social programs that hurt the most vulnerable, to pushing for action on mental health and addictions, emergency wait times, and climate change.
“This session has been about putting people first, whether it was our successful stand with students and teachers to save Cornwall Alternative School, or getting Nicole Sarauer’s bill passed to provide paid leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “While Moe and the Sask. Party were pointing fingers to distract from the ways their policies have made life harder for people, we brought forward bold ideas to tackle climate change while creating thousands of jobs with Renew Saskatchewan, and elevated the voices and concerns of Saskatchewan people by raising questions shared with us by members of the public.”
The NDP held the government to account for all the ways the budget was off-balance for people, from tripling the debt, to baking in the cuts of previous years, to failing to walk back the damaging PST expansion to construction labour.
“This was an off-balance budget that hurt families and workers throughout the province,” said NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon. “We saw a damaging hike in taxes on important economic drivers like the construction industry, which has led to job losses and a loss of projects. This budget simply doesn’t work for people who are just trying to get by.”
Students and teachers were also hit hard by the Sask. Party’s cuts to classrooms and lack of action on addressing rising class sizes.
“When per-student funding is down, and class sizes are up, you know there will be challenges in the classroom,” said Education Critic Carla Beck. “But what we heard from concerned teachers and parents was that this government is failing to recognize the growing complexities and needs in schools. The fact that the government isn’t even tracking maximum class sizes shows how out of touch they are.”
The NDP introduced bills to mandate a suicide prevention strategy for the province, strengthen the regulations governing lobbying of public officials in the province, bolster the province’s volunteer blood donor system, and designate the month of April Sikh Heritage Month. The NDP also succeeded in changing the rules to allow leave provisions for expecting MLAs, and to make it so infants are no longer considered ‘strangers’ in the house. The NDP also managed to put the Brandt build in Wascana on ice, at least temporarily while the auditor investigates, repeatedly raised concerns from Pinehouse citizens about government accountability, and tried to get the government to clarify their position on trailing royalties that would force farmers to pay agribusiness companies when saving seeds.
“We’ve asked repeatedly, but we still haven’t heard if the government will support farmers in their calls to be able to save and use their seed,” Meili said. “We also haven’t gotten an answer on whether or not the government will provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso, despite being the only province that doesn’t and a cost analysis that shows it being the most economic option. Nor have we heard a plan on how the government intends to tackle long ER waits. These things matter to people, people expect clarity from their government, and we’ll continue to push for answers.”
Meili emphasized that the work of reaching out and hearing people’s concerns and ideas will continue, as he and his caucus gear up for a season of person-to-person outreach around the province.