REGINA - The opposition New Democrats claim the affordability measures brought in by the government this week are still too little, too late.
“What we see here today is inadequate and too late,” said Official Opposition Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon in response to the first quarter financial update on Tuesday.
Wotherspoon was unimpressed with the $500 affordability relief announced by Premier Scott Moe and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer.
“We see a little bit of one time relief where with one hand this government is giving Saskatchewan people back some of their own money. But then with the other hand, they continue to pile on with the new taxes, power bill hikes and the energy bill hikes, for the long term, into perpetuity…
“They’re treating people in a way that’s rubbish, and not rising to the challenge that people are facing.“
He also pointed to inequities in how the $500 is being distributed. He said that families with three kids will get less than those with no children, and said kids were shut out from the rebate. It’s “really wrong”, he said.
Weatherspoon also accused the government of not addressing education challenges in the classrooms, and also pointed to the health side with ERs closed and hospitals on bypass. He also pointed to the province receiving nearly $62 million more from the federal government funding to address surgeries, but “they’re not even deploying those in health. They’re pocketing that cash and not addressing that challenge.”
He accused the government of dishonesty about the numbers presented in the budget this spring.
“They presented a budget back just a few months ago that was wrong from the get-go. This was a government that was not honest with Saskatchewan people at budget time and certainly didn’t step up to address of generational cost-of-living challenge, crisis Saskatchewan people were facing — and instead of course piled on in a nonsensical way, new taxes, hikes to power and energy, no break on the fuel tax, making things worse for Saskatchewan people.“
Wotherspoon reiterated the NDP had been calling for affordability relief for months, and accused the Sask. Party government of sitting on windfall resource revenues and of “hoarding cash and misleading Saskatchewan people” and “making Saskatchewan people pay the price.”
Wotherspoon said they would have spent the surplus differently. “We would have honest with Saskatchewan people at budget time, we would have talked about the revenue being way up, and we Would have risen to the occasion on the generational cost of living challenge. We would’ve offered a rebate to Saskatchewan people that would’ve included all Saskatchewan people, including children…And we would’ve done that months ago.” He also said they would have scrapped the energy and power hikes.
Wotherspoon also questioned the timing of the announcement right before what is expected to be a byelection call in Saskatoon Meewasin, “as opposed to when Saskatchewan people really needed some relief,” he said.
In speaking to reporters prior to Wotherspoon’s comments, Finance Minister Harpauer addressed the accusation that the $500 announcement was timed to coincide with a byelection call. She made it clear they had long indicated relief would be announced when Q1 numbers were in.
"We did not force a byelection. The NDP did, their timing was their choice," said Harpauer.