REGINA - Premier Scott Moe has seemingly settled on a new tag line for the Sask Party in the run-up to the 2024 election.
Premier Moe used the words “protect” and “protecting” often during his keynote speech at the Saskatchewan Party’s Regina Premier’s Dinner fundraising event at Viterra International Trade Centre on Thursday.
While a provincial election is still over a year away, it seemed the large and mainly partisan audience at the fundraising dinner were getting a sneak peek to what to expect on the campaign trail, and an introduction to the party’s messaging in the lead-up to next year's vote. Moe looked to be laying out the choice voters will face between the Sask Party and the NDP:
“Now we need to protect this attitude. We need to protect this pride that we share. We need to protect this confidence and optimism that we have in Saskatchewan today. We must protect the quality of life that we have now realized, the expectation to continue to grow. Growth has and will continue to build Saskatchewan, the province that we know we could be. But growth is simply not enough. We must and we will protect all that we have built, as well as protecting that opportunity to continue to grow.
“We must protect our economy from electing a party to government whose policies would quite simply destroy what we’ve built. That’s a fact. We must protect these things that guarantee the quality of life and opportunity for not only what we’re doing today but for that next generation and generations after that.”
It’s a change from the “growth that works for everyone” slogans that have been used over the last term by the government. But speaking to reporters, Moe made clear growth was still wrapped in with the emphasis on “protect.”
“We’ve been traditionally over the last 16 years very much a growth-focused government,” said Moe.
“What we need to protect is exactly that, to protect the growth of that economy, because that ultimately is the currency by which we continue to invest in our communities. So when the government is not focused on government expanding the value of what they produce, or in this case, sell to over 150 countries around the world, you do put at risk your ability to invest in those services, and invest in the great communities that you serve.
“So that would be the protection. We need to continue to grow and build and protect what we have built, and protect that opportunity into the future for future growth, for future building of the things that we ultimately expect our provincial government to be investing in.”
In his address Moe pointed to a host of investments the government was making, including in Regina. He noted the government would be making the “largest investment that this province has ever seen in a long term care facility in the city of Regina.”
He pointed to efforts in health care, including efforts to cut wait times and that in the first three months of 2023 health care providers had set a new record for the number of surgeries, just under 25,000.
Moe again pledged “we’re not going to shut down our power plants” in response to Ottawa’s Clean Energy Regulations requiring net zero by 2035.
He also defended his party’s economic record. Moe lampooned the NDP’s economic critic for writing a letter to the federal finance minister “lamenting that Saskatchewan’s economy was shrinking.”
“Last year, our economy expanded faster than any other province, and it’s projected to lead the nation again this year,” said Moe. “The NDP cannot be trusted to protect the economy that you built, when they don’t even understand how it works!”
Moe urged the party not to be complacent and pointed to the fork in the road that voters faced in 2024. He compared the choice as similar to the 2007 election, when the soon-to-be Premier Brad Wall focused on a growth agenda.
“In many ways, this is a flashback to the choice we made, the crossroads we faced in this province in 2007,” said Moe to reporters.
“The people of Saskatchewan, heading into an election, had a choice to make between what was a growth-focussed government and ultimately using that growth to invest in communities, versus a party that had a different idea.”
Parental consent policy is applauded by audience
Premier Moe’s speech also touched on the new parental consent policies in schools, which including the controversial policy requiring consent for name and pronouns changes.
Moe called it an “inclusionary” policy, and got applause when he spoke of how the government planned to respond to the “criticism we’ve heard from special interest groups” on the policy.
“Are (we) going to pause or change this policy, and exactly how serious is the government in implementing this education policy? Well, given the importance of parent’s involvement in their child’s life, and specifically in this case their child’s education, we’re very serious. Serious enough to introduce legislation to protect parental rights when we return to the Legislature.”
Moe said to reporters later that what he meant by those remarks was “what you can expect is for that policy to be implemented, and we would use all the tools available to the government of Saskatchewan to ensure that is the case.
“It’s a policy that parents have asked their MLAs for across the province, and certainly it’s a policy that’s designed to be inclusive by its very nature by including parents and their children’s school, their children’s classroom and ultimately their children’s education. So all I would read into that is the expectation of the government that the policy will be implemented, and we will use any of the tools and all of the tools we will have available to ensure that’s the case.”
In remarks the next day at the Legislature, Opposition Leader Carla Beck made clear she was unimpressed by the Premier hinting at legislation on parental consent.
“I wish I could say I was surprised by that,” said Beck, who called this “more of the same of the style of politics that we’ve seen from this government.”
Beck said this was a government that “seems content to try to inflame divisions in this province. And that’s not going to improve learning for kids.”
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