Regina– There was nothing normal about this past spring, with COVID-19 upsetting the economy and government. On July 3, the Saskatchewan Legislature rose from its high-unusual spring session, where members sat widely spaced apart and the issues were anything but routine.
On that day, Leader of the Opposition, NDP Leader Ryan Meili, said it was “the last day of a session that the premier didn't want to happen. His big plan was to take us through the summer to an election with no scrutiny on his future plans, no plan to introduce a budget. And it was only because of public pressure that he finally agreed to do that. And we could see more as we saw the budget why it was that you didn't want people to be looking at this.
“The budget itself, (a) very unambitious document, really missed the opportunity to make important investments in areas like long term care, long term care, childcare, and broader investments in people that will help grow our economy and failure to commit to a Sask-first approach to procurement to make sure that when we're building public projects, we're building them with Saskatchewan companies and Saskatchewan workers.
Meili said what was more interesting was what wasn’t in the budget. “Traditionally, always standard issue is the projections for revenue and expenditure in the years to come. That was very deliberately missing this time around, as it gives less of a sense, without those numbers of what this government's future plans are. We've heard the finance minister say, three to four years to balance a budget but there's been zero indication what steps will be taken to achieve that.
“We know with the economy as it is, with a deficit of $2.4 billion this year and the challenges ahead, the chance of balancing a budget without deep cuts, tax hikes or sell off of crown assets, there's no way that's going to be achieved. And by failing to include those projections, what the government is really doing is hiding their true plans, and what they will do, if re-elected, and the damage that will cause to Saskatchewan people and through those cuts and sell offs if they get a chance to introduce another budget.”
Meili said the NDP focused on “the failings of this budget as well as what was left out and what that means for the future.”
Earlier in the week he had called for the premier to call a September session, but Premier Scott Moe instead spoke of the scheduled election on Oct. 26.
Asked on July 3 if there would be a September session, Moe said, “There's no need. We have passed the budget in in the province. We have completed our legislative agenda. There will be a new legislative agenda by a somewhat new government either the Saskatchewan Party or likely the NDP, maybe someone else that I don't see coming at this point in time, but that they will have a new legislative agenda to introduce in a new legislative sitting. So the debate that we're going to have in the months ahead is not going to happen in the legislature. It's going to happen in the communities on the doorsteps and in front of the people of this province. And they will ultimately choose who will form the government on October the 26th.”
He noted there’s a lack of clarity globally, for the economic fortunes post-pandemic. “That’s the lack of clarity that we globally share right now. No one knows for sure where our global economy is, how it is going to come back, how robust it is going to come back, and to what level it is going to come back to.
“We feel our fortunes in Saskatchewan are strong and being a part of that global recovery, because of the products that we have, in potash and uranium, in agrifood products, in the manufactured goods that we have. That's where the uncertainty is and we share that uncertainty with everyone across Canada and around the world.”
Asked about the NDP’s assertions of a hidden agenda, he responded, “There's going to be no selling off For crown corporations, there's going to be no cuts. We have a pandemic deficit here. We may have a couple of pandemic deficits, albeit some of this is going to fall off into next year, hopefully and for sure. For certain, we will see some of the expenses that we have to support businesses and self isolation support that will fall off on next year. The revenue lines is where the uncertainty lies.
“So the what the people can count on seeing from the Saskatchewan Party government, if we have the honour to form government once more, is more of the same. Investment in schools, investment in hospitals, investment in our highways, investment in our communities across this province through the municipal revenue sharing program, as well as most recently, in this $2 billion infrastructure stimulus. The Municipal and Economic Enhancement Program, which has only happened twice, both times under this government. That's what the people of this province can expect.
“What they can expect is a government that is striving to answer the question that is on many people's minds in this province: Who is best to who is best to assist in recovering the economy here in Saskatchewan? That's why we made the infrastructure investment. That's why we've made the investments in people and in small business post-COVID. That is the question that is on people's mind. And that is the question that we are looking at as we make the decisions in the days ahead,” he said.
Moe said it was always his intention to hold a spring session and passing a budget.