The Saskatchewan NDP have a long list of issues to raise during the spring legislative session which began Monday.
NDP Leader Cam Broten outlined a series of concerns during a media conference call on Feb. 26. Topping his list of concerns was the fact that while the provincial economy has done well over the past year, that same prosperity is not trickling down to families.
"There's a concern among many families that that isn't translating into making life better for them on a day to day, and a month to month basis."
The NDP will have a focus on concerns from families across Saskatchewan who are being squeezed by the increased cost of living in the province.
"We know that families are being asked to pay extra on so many fronts, whether it's the municipal front or utilities through crowns. Or even we hear the recent musings from Mr. Wall about increasing education property taxes, not to pay for education but to pay for bridges and overpasses."
"It's not simply about the province doing well on a big level, but that things are translating into making life better for families."
A key area of concern for the NDP during the spring legislative session will be healthcare, and especially seniors care.
"I still hear far too many stories of a quality of care that just isn't good enough. And this is because of the decisions that this government has made around staffing levels being decreased and minimum standards being eliminated," Broten said, pointing out the province needs to establish minimum care standards and the government needs to make proper decisions to ensure our loved ones get the care they deserve.
"This government is more than happy to shell out $40 million to have American consultants come to the province and tell us how to run our healthcare system, but they can't find enough dollars to actually ensure there that are enough Care Aides to give baths to our loved ones who are confined to a bed. To me that's mixed up, and that's a sign of priorities in the wrong place."
"We have seen a little bit of movement from the government, but sadly they still have an approach of having their head in the sand, especially when it comes to healthcare. When we raised concerns from people about senior care, this government's response was that 'everything's fine', 'nothing to look at here, keep moving'. We continue to voice the stories and the concerns that we heard. Forced the government to do a Seniors Care Tour, which really just confirmed the things that families had already been saying. But unfortunately the government's response was just a one-time payment fund, which even the Saskatoon Health Region CEO says is a drop in the bucket and actually won't address the causes of the problems that are being experienced."
The grain transport backlog was also another key focus point, but Broten said solutions to this problem should have already been addressed.
"This is really frustrating for producers in the province and for all of the rural and urban communities that rely on the shipment of grain to port," Broten said.
"This provincial government has been late to get into the game and to take a strong stand on this."
Broten noted he had raised some constructive suggestions about the transportation crisis, including joint running rights and non-performance penalties to the rail companies, but his suggestions were quickly brushed off by government.
"That is not the kind of approach that we need to solve this crisis for producers. And I think that's really telling why we've seen such a weak response by this government in dealing with the federal government, who Minister Ritz has been horrible in addressing with this. The other day he said that he's loath to regulate and step in. Well this is about Saskatchewan producers. This is about supporting the economy. And for the Federal Ag Minister to take that sort of approach, is, well it's offensive I think to producers. And it shows how poor of a read the federal Conservatives have on what's needed when it comes to agriculture in Saskatchewan."
"So we need faster action. We need some clear steps that can be taken. It is the government's roll to legislate and regulate rail. And they need to ensure that producers aren't held hostage by a couple of companies. And that's what's happening right now. And this not only has implications and poses a threat to this year, but there can be downstream effects for the following growing season and a backlog and a bottle neck that can occur. So this needs to be solved quickly with some real determination."
With a provincial budget to be released later this month, Broten said the NDP will be rolling out some specific "must-haves" that will need to be included in the budget, as well as raising concerns over current spending decisions.
"This government has more resources available now than ever before. Revenue to the province has gone up about 50 per cent since 2007. So there are more dollars available. The question is how these dollars are being spent, whether the best decisions are being made, and whether municipalities are being treated in the best way."
Ultimately, he hopes the SaskParty government will resume listening to the electorate.
"They have a bit of a pattern here where they'll pretend to listen to what people are saying on any number of topics, but people get the sense that their agenda is already determined and they're not listening to what people are saying."