Regina – Saskatchewan New Democratic Leader Ryan Meili was out in front of the cameras at the Legislature in Regina before Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe formally announced the election was underway on Sept. 29.
The NDP platform is under the banner “People First.” Meili reinforced a theme he’s been hammering for many weeks now, namely that another mandate under a Saskatchewan Party government will lead to “austerity,” and that the New Democrats will not be making similar cuts to government spending. The implication is spending on people is the priority over reigning in deficits.
Their opening press released noted, “Meili launched the provincial election campaign today with a promise to invest in people and stand against Sask. Party cuts to health care and education.”
“In the last six months, Saskatchewan families have been through a lot, fighting the COVID crisis together,” said Meili. “But even before the pandemic hit, life here was getting harder. People are stretched and stressed and finding it more difficult to make ends meet. Scott Moe and the Sask. Party are satisfied with the way things are – and willing to make things worse with deep cuts and austerity. That’s just wrong. It’s time to put people first.”
On the opening day, Meili outlined a five-point plan which “would act immediately to stop the Sask Party’s cuts and invest in the things that matter to families.”
To that end, the NDP promised “Health care that’s there when you need it – without American-style user fees.”
Also on the health care front, the NDP will focus on long-term care and expanding home care to help seniors stay at home.
They pledged “safer schools and smaller class sizes to ensure the best chance in life for our kids.”
On the labour side, the NDP reiterated another frequent talking point, a “Sask-First plan to use our companies and workers to build our infrastructure projects and a raise to $15/hour for minimum-wage workers.”
Political finance reform, promising to get rid of corporate and union donations to political parties, was the final point.
Highlighting what is appears to be a consistent theme in the NDP campaign, the release noted, “The Saskatchewan Party under Scott Moe has promised, if re-elected, to run austerity budgets for the next four years, which we all know means deep cuts to health care and education.”
The current emphasis against “austerity” is in stark contrast to the NDP policies of the 1990s, which dramatically cut program spending, including closing 52 hospitals across the province. Those cuts were made as the province’s finances were in a shambles from high deficit spending during the Grant Divine-led Progressive Conservative administration of the 1980s. It was also part of a trend across the country where governments of all stripes, federal and provincial, strove to eliminate deficit spending. Asked on Sept. 23 week where the money would be coming from, Meili explained that interest rates are a lot lower now, so borrowing is easier.
“Where we’ve seen cuts, it hurts people and it slows down the economy. We know more about that than we did in ’92. The other thing is we’re not facing the interest rates that we were facing in the early 90s. We actually can borrow quite cheaply now. And if we put that money in the right places, use those dollars to grow more quickly, then the interest we’re paying,” he said Sept. 23.
“The choice facing Saskatchewan voters couldn’t be more clear. A commitment to invest now in health care and education – or the Sask. Party’s plan for dangerous cuts during a pandemic,” said Meili on Sept. 29. “We will take this choice to every voter in Saskatchewan.”
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury