REGINA - The fall sitting came to an end Wednesday, with MLAs now headed back to their constituencies for both the Christmas break and for the next three months, with the Legislature session due to resume in March.
Members tried to be in a holiday mood, as they brought holiday greetings and looked to end the sitting on an upbeat note compared to a tense previous couple of days in the legislature.
Unfortunately, the good intentions seemed to go straight into the trash bin again once Question Period started, as NDP MLAs grilled Sask Party ministers one last time before the winter break.
Opposition Leader Carla Beck led off by raising some of the sitting’s lowlights in an exchange with Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, as recorded in Hansard.
Ms. Beck: — “Mr. Speaker, this session has been about priorities, and it’s clearer than ever that this tired, out-of-touch Sask Party government isn’t focused on the priorities of Saskatchewan people.
“Right from day one when a senior member of that government invited Colin Thatcher, a convicted wife murderer, to attend the Throne Speech, we’ve seen an old and tired government with no respect for regular people and no respect for the struggles that too many families in our province are facing.
“My question is this: why is the Sask Party government ignoring reality and raising fees, taxes, energy and power bills when so many people in this province are struggling just to get by?”
The Speaker: — “I recognize the Deputy Premier.”
Hon. Ms. Harpauer: — “Mr. Speaker, it’s disappointing that every day the NDP come into this House talking gloom and doom and running down Saskatchewan. Yes, there are challenges. There are challenges here, across our country, and globally. And there’s more that needs to be done and more that we have done within our budget.
But here is what else is happening in our great province.”
Harpauer then pointed to numbers including a population of 1.2 million people for the first time, the fastest growing economy in the country, the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country, billions in private sector investment, more nurses and doctors, and other positives.
“And we balanced the budget, Mr. Speaker. We paid down $1 billion in our debt, Mr. Speaker, and we just finished sending everyone a cheque for $500, something that the NDP supported. And that’s growth that works for everyone.”
The Speaker: — “I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.”
Ms. Beck: — “Mr. Speaker, the Finance minister seems offended by us bringing forth the reality that Saskatchewan people are facing, but this is the concern that we hear right across this province. And leadership, Mr. Speaker, is about making choices. Every step of the way that’s a government that seems dead set on making the wrong ones. In an affordability crisis, they’ve slapped a tax on just about everything — Agribition, curling games, Rider games, people just trying to have a little fun this winter, Mr. Speaker. Yet here again comes the Sask Party nickel-and-diming regular folks again and again.
“Now you’d think that the cupboards were bare the way that this conservative government threw taxes on everything. But no, Mr. Speaker, they’ve lost the plot, sitting on billions of windfall revenues while people fall further and further behind. Again why is this government making life so much more expensive when people are struggling just to get by?”
The Speaker: — “I recognize the Deputy Premier.”
Hon. Ms. Harpauer: — “Mr. Speaker, if I sound offended, it’s because I’m offended by the negative attitude that the members opposite have to this great province, the fact that they are not proud of the province of Saskatchewan. And she talks about leadership. And we do have leadership in this province. That’s why our Premier in this province has a 56 per cent approval rating.
“So the NDP can keep running down our province. They can keep saying that there’s nothing to be proud of here. We on this side of the House are very proud of Saskatchewan. We know there’s work to do and we are up to doing it, Mr. Speaker. And we are extremely proud of the province of Saskatchewan and the people that live here.”
Harpauer was again calling out the NDP's gloom again during an exchange later with Opposition Critic Trent Wotherspoon, who repeated his call for an investigation into supply chain issues and then went on to criticize the province’s move to create a Crown agency to collect corporate income tax.
Mr. Wotherspoon: — …Instead of focusing on what matters to families — like the cost of living, being able to feed your kids, fairness for producers — they’re focused on themselves, playing to their base, starting a costly provincial police force, spending tens of millions of dollars hiring tax collectors, bigger government, red tape for small businesses that’ll be forced to file twice.
“It makes no sense. Why won’t the Finance minister scrap this foolish, backwards plan to create a Saskatchewan revenue agency before more money is wasted?”
The Speaker: — “I recognize the Finance minister.”
Hon. Ms. Harpauer: — “Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And more bluster from the member opposite, which he does regularly quite frankly, and the gloom and doom and the assumption that no matter what we do, he needs to criticize it, Mr. Speaker.
“If he had a business . . . And I did have a business in the past. Doing additional schedules varies from one business to another, depending on what business you have. And this would indeed . . . When this happens, should it happen, which will be a few years in the future, there may be an additional schedule or two, something that is done in Alberta. We’re not inventing a wheel here, Mr. Speaker.
“What I don’t hear that member opposite talk about is what’s actually happening in our province for the economy. He doesn’t actually talk about the fact that we now have over $14 billion of private sector investment committed to our province, which is going to create thousands of jobs, Mr. Speaker, and generate taxes for our province. That is growth that will work for everyone.”
Speaker Randy Weekes responded to that last exchange with the words “it’s Christmas.”