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Friday, 27 October 2017 04:29

Saskatchewan Party leadership candidates want to continue Brad Wall’s legacy

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All five Saskatchewan Party leadership candidates emphasized the need to continue Brad Wall's legacy at their first debate in Swift Current, Oct. 19.

Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Ken Cheveldayoff, Alanna Koch, Scott Moe and Gord Wyant had their first opportunity to speak to party members at the first of six debates.
The event was attended by Saskatchewan MLA and Premier Brad Wall, who will be retiring from politics after party members elect their new leader at a leadership convention in Saskatoon on Jan. 27, 2018.
Wall offered greetings at the start of the meeting and he received a standing ovation from party members. His name came up regularly throughout the evening, with leadership candidates referring to his role during the past 10 years and their commitment to continue his legacy.
“I think we’re all indebted to Brad Wall for what he’s done for us for the last 10 years,” Koch said in her concluding remarks. “We need to be focused on growth, the path that we are on, build on that path, keep us strong.”
The leadership debate started with opening remarks by the leadership contenders. Thereafter the moderator asked 10 questions, which were submitted by party members, and the candidates had an opportunity to respond to each question. The candidates were not told in advance what the questions were going to be.
These questions covered a variety of topics. Candidates were asked if they would continue the provincial sales tax on insurance premiums and how they would deal with the provincial deficit.
Moe, Wyant and Beaudry-Mellor said they will reinstate the PST exemption, while Koch is committed to doing an immediate review of the PST on insurance if she becomes premier.
“It's something that I think had unintended consequences,” she noted. “I'm not sure that there was enough analysis done before the decision was made to proceed with it.”
Cheveldayoff said he will appoint a commission to do extensive consultations on all the taxes in the province.
Moe, Wyant, and Cheveldayoff expressed their commitment to the government's current three-year plan to balance the budget.
Koch considered a balanced budget to be a priority, but she felt it is also important not to shock the economy too much with the changes that are made to the provincial budget.
She therefore favours a plan to take an additional year to balance the budget.
Beaudry-Mellor said she wants to change the budget process as part of her platform to move towards performance management government. She favours a two-year budget planning cycle instead of an annual one, and she will consider a longer back to balance plan that will be no longer than five years.
Candidates were asked for their views about funding to provincial parks. All of them expressed a willingness to consider changes to the management of parks to contract out services and to allow a larger role for the private sector.
Another question asked candidates about their vision to achieve inclusion of indigenous people into the mainstream of society. Everyone agreed it is a crucial issue. Beaudry-Mellor felt the underlying issue is a lack of economic opportunity for indigenous people.
“More money is not going to fix the problem,” she said. “What is going to fix the problem is a clear pathway into a job and into an opportunity, and that's where we need to focus our energy and resources on those issues in the north.”
Wyant mentioned that greater engagement of indigenous people in the economy will help to continue to grow the provincial economy.
“I think the premier of Saskatchewan needs to take a leadership role on this, and my sense of it is, after talking to chiefs, that this is a role that I would take on as premier and bring the responsibility for First Nations and Métis engagements right into the premier's office,” he said.
The candidates were asked what they would do to combat the problem of impaired driving. They agreed it is an issue that needs ongoing government attention, that more can always be done, and that education can make a real difference.
They were asked for their views on the legalization of marijuana. There was consensus that the federal government is moving too fast and provinces need more time to be ready for the implementation of the legislation.
“I take great exception to the federal government making these decisions and then hoisting them on the province and for us to deal with,” Cheveldayoff said. “I am very concerned about marijuana entering our school system, entering our workplaces.”
Candidates were concerned about the test for marijuana impairment, the legal age for using the drug and the need for a greater provincial share in tax money from marijuana sales.
Beaudry-Mellor emphasized her zero tolerance stance on impaired driving, but she also hopes a non-criminal marketplace for marijuana will reduce people's exposure to harder and less safe drugs.
“I'm going to advocate for this,” she said. “We are a free enterprise party. I want to see a private, centralized wholesale distribution model.”
Candidates were asked for their position on allocating more funding in support of children and teenagers with mental health and disability issues. Wyant said he will increase the money in the health budget from five to seven per cent. Beaudry-Mellor felt mental health is a serious issue, but it is not always about more money.
“I think it is about thinking strategically about how people access prevention services before we need to treat them in crisis,” she said.
Koch will implement the recommendations from the 10-year mental health and addictions action plan.
“We also need to look at how we're going to particularly address the challenges of mental health in the north,” she said.
They were asked how they will approach the provincial government's relationship with the federal government. They felt there is a positive relationship with the federal government, but it is also the premier's duty to stand up for the province.
Each candidate was asked to identify their top three core values, and what skills they bring to the table to ensure party unity after the leadership race.
The debate concluded with closing remarks by each candidate. Wyant felt the leadership race is a great opportunity for renewal within the Saskatchewan Party. Party members have to decide who can best unite the Saskatchewan Party voters to defeat the NDP.
“We now have a NDP government in Alberta and a NDP government in B.C.,” he said. “We cannot forget that the NDP remains a political force with a long history in this province. We need a Sask Party leader who can keep the coalition strong, keep the tent open, and keep the base broad.”
Cheveldayoff felt this leadership race is the launch of the future of a renewed Saskatchewan Party.
“Have we made errors as a party,” he asked. “Are there any perfect parties? What is important is, have we learned from our mistakes so we could be even better at leading.”
Moe and Beaudry-Mellor emphasized the need to look ahead to the challenge of defeating the Saskatchewan NDP in the next provincial election in 2020.
“The leadership race is round one in the playoffs, but the general election in 2020 is our Stanley Cup final,” Moe said. “I believe it’s my team that puts us in the best position in that general election in 2020.”
Beaudry-Mellor referred to the recent by-election victories of the Saskatchewan NDP in two Saskatoon ridings.
“Your next premier needs to turn this momentum around and it won’t be easy,” she said. “We need someone who know how to win the election in 2020 and 2024 and how to take back and keep our urban seats. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your leadership ballot question.”

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Matthew Liebenberg