Sask Party releases full party platform for 2020 election
Plan shows return to balanced budgets by 2024
October 10, 2020, 3:28 pm
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
After over a week of making piecemeal policy announcements, the Saskatchewan Party released its complete policy platform in Saskatoon on Oct. 9.
Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe cited new jobs number released earlier that day, saying, “Just this morning, the new job numbers from Statistics Canada show that Saskatchewan created 8,700 new jobs in September. Our unemployment rate fell to 6.8 per cent, the lowest in the country, for the second month in a row. That’s thanks to you, Saskatchewan. Thank you.
“You're shown that we can reopen our economy. You have shown that we can bring back jobs. You have shown that we can control the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the very same time. Saskatchewan now has one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country. And at the same time, we have one of the strongest economic recoveries underway in Canada.”
Moe said, “Our economic recovery is now underway. And the question in this election is. Who do you trust to keep that recovery going well? The Saskatchewan party has a plan for a strong Saskatchewan. It's a plan for a strong recovery. It's a plan to make my life more affordable for everyone. And it's a plan for growing Saskatchewan. It's a plan for strong financial math, and a balanced budget by 2024.”
The 50-page document will be sent to all voters in Saskatchewan, Moe said.
The Sask. Party platform has emphasis on a strong recovery from the economic hit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, affordability for Saskatchewan citizens, growth and strong fiscal management.
When asked about how the province will return to balanced budgets, which is projected in 2024, Moe pointed out that several of the measures are short-term – like the home renovation tax credit or the 10 per cent cut in SaskPower bills.
Several major points were announced in either the lead-up to the election, or in the first days of the campaign.
Prior to the election, urgent care centres were promised for Regina and Saskatoon at a cost of $15 million each, meant to take the burden off hospital emergency rooms there. A new crystal methamphetamine treatment centre opened in Estevan and $1.2 million in suicide prevention funding was announced.
Numerous new school or school renovation projects were announced, as was $51 million from the education COVID-19 contingency fund for pandemic support. Several of the education, health and highways announcements fell under the broader $7.5 billion two-year capital investment plan.
When the campaign fired up officially, the Saskatchewan Party promised SaskPower would provide a 10 per cent rebate for one year on power bills, as part of a pandemic relief measure. Small business taxes would be reduced from two per cent to zero until 2022, then come back to one per cent in 2023 and two per cent in 2024.
The Sask. Party would add 750 licensed home-based childcare spaces, and grants for childcare providers would be boosted. Tax credits for children’s activities would be restored.
They would expand financial support for the treatment of children with autism and diabetes, and remove the age restriction for insulin pump coverage.
Seniors would see a 50 per cent reduction in ambulance fees, and no fees for inter-hospital ambulance transfers. They would also see an increase in the Seniors Income Plan from $270 to $360 per month, phased in over three years. Long-term care and home care would see an additional 300 continuing care aides hired.
Community rinks and the Royal Canadian Legion would see support. The Saskatchewan Advantage scholarship would be increased to $750 per student per year.
Trade offices would be opened in Tokyo, Singapore and New Delhi, focusing on agricultural exports.
While the platform noted ongoing support for the energy and resource sectors and pandemic relief measures from earlier in the year supporting the oilpatch, there were no specific new promises made.
Under “20 Actions for 2020,” were points like “growing Saskatchewan’s oil, gas and natural resource economy,” reducing interprovincial trade barriers, and “growing Indigenous participation in the economy through the growth of Saskatchewan’s natural resource industries and labour market development.”
On the climate change front, reducing carbon emissions in electricity production and developing small modular nuclear reactors using Saskatchewan uranium were mentioned.
The platform includes “30 Goals for 2030.” These include growing the population to 1.4 million people and creating 100,000 new jobs. Growth in exports and their value were emphasized. Increased processing of canola and pulse crops within the province was mentioned. Irrigation is to be expanded. Oil production hitting 600,000 barrels per day, up 25 per cent from current numbers, is a goal. Increasing the annual value of potash and uranium sales were also listed, as well as doubling the growth of Saskatchewan’s forestry sector. Tripling the growth in Saskatchewan’s technology sector and increasing tourism expenditures by 50 per cent were other goals. Surgical wait times to be reduced to a three-month target was another goal. Building and upgrading 10,000 kilometres of highways was also included.
All of this is built within a framework of reaching a balanced budget by 2024. The platform noted, “Prior to the pandemic, Saskatchewan was on track for balanced budgets in 2019-20 and 2020-21.” One-time expenses from dealing with the pandemic are the reason for the deficits, the platform said.
“The total cost of the Saskatchewan Party platform is $93 million in the current fiscal year, $345.3 million in year 2021-22, $205.3 million in 2022-23, $123.6 million in 2023-24 and $81.6 million in 2024-25,” the platform said. By far the largest portion of that is the one-year SaskPower 10 per cent rebate, totalling $261.6 million out of the $848.8 million in additional spending, going out to 2024-25.
Moe said, “We want to compare the Saskatchewan Party's record of growth to the NDP record of the decline. We want to compare our record of building hospitals, building schools, building long term care homes to the record of the NDP who closed 52 hospitals, 176 schools and 1,200 long-term care beds in our communities.”
He said the NDP didn’t have a plan to balance the budget, saying they have a plan to make a plan to balance the budget. Moe said, “A plan to make a plan is not a plan at all. It's an utter nonsense. The election is on, now. Voters deserve to see your plan, now.
“Our plan is fully costed and you will see Saskatchewan’s budget returned to balance in 2024, as our economy grows as our economy recovers, so will our provincial revenues. Which will mean a balanced budget by the year 2024, while continuing to invest in important public services like health care, like education and public safety. That's a far cry from the NDP’s reckless unaffordable plan that will drive up the deficit, it will drive up your taxes. And you will still never see the budget back in balance,” Moe said.
"The question in this election is – who do you trust to lead a strong economic recovery in Saskatchewan?" Moe said. "If you compare the Saskatchewan Party's plan and our record to the NDP's, the answer is pretty clear.
"Since the Saskatchewan Party was first elected, Saskatchewan has had the second-best rate of job creation in Canada. When the NDP was in power, Saskatchewan was dead last in new jobs – dead last.
"Since 2007, Saskatchewan has grown by almost 170,000 people – the biggest jump in our population in nearly a century. From 1996 to 2006 under the NDP, Saskatchewan's population dropped by 26,000 people.
"Our government has built and is building new schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities. The NDP closed 176 schools, 52 hospitals and 1200 long-term care beds for seniors.
"So that's the choice in this election – the Saskatchewan Party's record of growth or the NDP's record of decline. The Saskatchewan Party's plan for recovery or the NDP's plan for reckless spending, deficits and higher taxes. The Saskatchewan Party's Plan for a Strong Saskatchewan or a weaker Saskatchewan under the NDP.
Moe said over the last two weeks of the campaign, Saskatchewan Party candidates will be talking to voters about the party's Plan for a Strong Saskatchewan.
"I encourage everyone to take a close look at our plan, and on October 26th, vote to keep Saskatchewan strong."