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NDP to focus on jobs, paycheques in spring sitting

NDP Leader Carla Beck enthusiastic about spring sitting, but faces challenges from new Sask United Party as well as internal changes within the NDP.
Opposition Leader Carla Beck, with critic Aleana Young behind her, announce plans for the spring sitting of the legislature.

REGINA - A focus on jobs and affordability will be front and centre from the Official Opposition NDP in the spring setting of the legislature.

Opposition Leader Carla Beck and Critic for Jobs and Economy Aleana Young outlined the priorities in a media availability at the legislature Wednesday, in advance of the return of the Legislature next week. They say the Opposition will focus on issues of job creation, healthcare and the cost of living.

The NDP accused the government of being last in Canada in job creation, last on economic growth and second last on wage growth. They also pointed to health care being in a “shambles” as well as high taxes and higher power bills. Beck said this will be their focus going into the next election.

“Healthcare, the outrageous cost of food and fuel, and good-paying jobs,” said Beck. “These are the issues my party will be focussed on addressing in the upcoming session.”

At the media conference, both Beck and Young were also stepping up their portrayals of the Saskatchewan Party government as one that is out of touch and long in the tooth -- also a precursor to what to expect when the session resumes.

“The SaskParty government has been in power for over sixteen years,” Beck said. “It’s time that they own their own record. No more pointing fingers to a government that was around when I was just leaving high school. Yes, it was a little while ago.”

Beck also pointed to the outreach efforts done by her party in reaching out to people in communities across the province, while accusing government MLAs of not listening and of being “continually missing in action.”

She accused the government of becoming “insular” and spoke of complaints from mayors, frontline workers and businesses of “not being able to get a meeting, to not being able to get calls returned, to having input when it is given ignored by this government.”

Meanwhile, Young pointed to examples of events where Sask Party cabinet ministers didn't show up, citing the recent Food, Fuel and Fertilizer show, a recent gathering of 500 Indigenous business owners at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon and an event held by Economic Development Regina the previous day.

“This arrogant bunch are making important financial decisions about the future of the province in a vacuum,” said Young. “They’re making these decisions without input from people who actually have skin in the game. Local voices deserve a seat at that table. How are you supposed to deliver for people in this province if you don’t even give a damn about showing up.”

The NDP media availability came just a day after the Saskatchewan United Party held their launch event in Saskatoon in front of 1,000 supporters at Prairieland Park -- a number that reporters pointed out was higher than for the NDP's own leadership convention last year. 

Notably, new Sask United leader Nadine Wilson attended and observed the NDP’s media conference at the legislature. When asked about other parties gaining in membership, Beck said “I think it’s not surprising given the level of frustration that we are hearing out there.”

“We’ve heard this right across the province, people who have said they voted for the Sask Party since their inception, and they’re done. There is an increase in frustration out there.”

While the NDP voiced enthusiasm about their plans for the upcoming sitting, they were also asked about how the Sask Party government has typically responded to NDP attacks in the past, with provincial ministers often responding by turning around and blaming Trudeau government policies — and by extension the federal NDP for propping the federal government up.

When asked about that, Beck added that another familiar Sask Party tactic was to blame the previous NDP government. 

“I’m hearing from people that they are increasingly frustrated by those tactics being employed by the current government. It’s time that this Premier stood on his own record,” said Beck.

“I don’t think people are going to tolerate from this government pointing fingers, pointing to 30 years ago.”

Other questions from the media Wednesday focused on happenings behind the scenes within the party.

This past week Warren McCall, former NDP cabinet minister, started as the new Chief of Staff replacing Katherine Norton. 

Also, there were questions about the recent departure of Sheila Whelan as NDP party president, with some pointing to her departure as an indication of rising tensions within the party.

When asked whether the NDP was being bogged down by internal issues, Beck downplayed that notion.

“In politics, change happens, good people going out, good people coming in,” said Beck. 

The NDP leader also pointed to the recent departure of Sask Party MLA Mark Docherty from Regina Coronation Park. “It is not unusual for there to be change in political parties.”