After dozens of angry exchanges between the Opposition and the governing Saskatchewan Party during a feisty fall sitting of the legislature, politicians wrapped things up quietly by cancelling the final question period Wednesday afternoon.
The decision was made after the death of Sask. Party MLA Roger Parent on Tuesday night.
After years of riding high on resource revenues and Premier Brad Wall’s popularity in the polls, the legislative session, which began in the spring, has not been an easy one for the government.
“I think this is a government on the defensive,” said Charles Smith, associate professor of political studies with St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan.
“Not only are they facing unprecedented — for them — scandal in the Global Transportation Hub mess,” he said,”but all kinds of files, and I think the biggest one is obviously the deficit and dealing with a lack of revenue.”
Government ‘dishonest,’ says Opposition
The Opposition NDP raised the Global Transportation Hub land deal every day of the fall sitting.
Leader Trent Wotherspoon said the lack of answers he received suggest a government that is no longer committed to the transparency and accountability it once promised.
“We have a government that was dishonest with Saskatchewan people on so many fronts, and the costs of Sask. Party mismanagement, scandal and waste are piling up,” said Wotherspoon on Wednesday.
He offered the budget as another example, with the deficit more than double what was projected in June.
Wotherspoon said people who can least afford it are being asked to pay: “Cuts to mental health services at a time where they’re already inadequate, where we don’t have the supports that we need for mental health and addiction services; cuts in our classrooms; cuts in health care,” said Wotherspoon.
Goal: Balance budget
The government says it is dealing with two years of low commodity prices, which are outside its control. It says despite that, it continues to invest in priority areas such as health and social services, as well as investing in capital projects such as roads, schools and hospitals.
Wall said the government will work “really, really hard” in the next few months to balance the budget “without destroying important programs, quality of life programs, and without massive tax increases.”
“Will we have to look at some cuts? Yes, we’ve seen that already. Will we have to look possibly at some small revenue measures that we don’t think would be harmful to the economy? Absolutely, that’s on the table,” he said. “Everything will be on the table, within reason.”
The premier said the government’s accomplishments this sitting include tougher rules for impaired drivers and coverage for workers who suffer from psychological injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Opposition notes it was the NDP that initially proposed both of those ideas, but it supported the government to make the changes happen.
The premier has said the government will be working on its spring budget from now until March. Politicians return to the assembly for the spring sitting on March 6.