REGINA - It’s unusual to see New Democrats anywhere say any good things about Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.
But that’s exactly what Opposition Leader Carla Beck was doing in the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday afternoon, on the heels of Smith delivering a province-wide address to Albertans the previous night pledging affordability relief.
The measures Smith announced Tuesday include $600 over six months to parents of each child under 18 and every senior with household incomes under $180,000;suspension of the provincial fuel tax for at least six months; and $200 in rebates for consumer electricity bills, among others.
In Question Period, Beck pointed to the measures announced out of Alberta. “It sure sounds a lot like what we’ve been calling for for months,” she said,
Beck called the measures “common sense” and asked Premier Scott Moe if he would “listen to the Premier next door.”
In response, Moe praised Premier Smith for her actions.
“We saw the announcement yesterday in Alberta,” said Moe, “and I credit Premier Smith, and the UCP party, on taking action on affordability in Alberta like we have here in Saskatchewan a number of weeks ago.”
Moe then proceeded to stand up in favor of the measures his government had previously taken. He again pointed to Saskatchewan’s Affordability Tax Credit, and provided a new update to the Assembly on the amount of cheques that have gone out.
According to the latest update from that day, Moe said there were 450,000 cheques now out, with 375,000 still to go out.
“About $225 million is in the hands of Saskatchewan people as we speak,” said Moe.
Beck fired back that Premier Moe had promised back in August that the cheques would be out by fall.
“By his own admission yesterday, and we’ve heard an update today, hundreds of thousands of those cheques will likely not be delivered until December,” Beck said.
That came as a surprise to Moe, who maintained the cheques would be out by the end of November. “It’s the first I’ve heard that they might be later than that, people are working feverishly to ensure they’re out.”
Moe then spoke on energy bills, pointing out that Saskatchewan had the second lowest utility bundle across all of Canada. He acknowledged there was an increase being seen in Saskatchewan.
But Moe also noted “part of that is due to Federal policy that is being implemented as well, Mr. Speaker, federal policy that has a cost attached to it, which we identified in our White Paper as precipitous for Bill 88 the Saskatchewan First Act that is on the floor of the Legislature. And I would ask earnestly Mr. Speaker, I would ask earnestly Mr. Speaker for the members opposite to give that a read, stand up for Saskatchewan and pass it unanimously and send it to the federal House for the necessary constitutional changes.”
“Mr. Speaker, you know he’s struggling when he reaches back to that terrible White Paper,” said Beck.
Moe cites positive response to $500 cheques
In speaking to reporters, Moe defended the approach Saskatchewan was taking to send the $500 cheques.
“It was the fairest way that we could see as well as the quickest way that we could see to get that affordability dollars out to as many families as we could across the province. So it touches more people and we were able to administrate it very, very quickly.”
When asked what the feedback he had gotten was to the $500 cheques, Moe said it was “even more positive than I anticipated.”
He pointed to positive responses from “young families, facing fuel and grocery pressures.” He said $500 or $1000 in a household “could go a long way” in paying for such things as sporting fees and fuel to get there. Seniors that Moe talked to have also responded positively, he said.
Moe also reiterated to reporters that he was not considering pausing the provincial fuel tax, something the Opposition had called for.
In speaking to reporters, Beck pointed out the impact of a pause would be 15 cents a litre. She pointed to the impact that would have on families paying for such things as sports for kids.
“I remember talking to a mom who was really excited to have her kids in hockey,” Beck said. "But even though both her and her partner work, they're finding it more and more difficult to put gas in the van after paying for school supplies and groceries to continue her kids in hockey. These are the decisions that people are making.”