HUMBOLDT — The economy, health, education and were on the mind of the leader of Saskatchewan’s official opposition as he made a stop in Humboldt.
“While we're a place of great opportunity, and great wealth, there's also lots of people are struggling, and that those struggles are economic,” said Ryan Meili of the New Democrats.
In particular, the party has been saying the decision to apply the PST on construction labour has resulted in a decrease in new building permits and a loss of jobs.
The NDP leader said the governing Saskatchewan Party has been too focused on external factors, like equalization, the carbon tax and pipeline approvals.
“We're concerned that the Sask. Party largely points the finger elsewhere. It's the federal government's problem, it's Quebec, it's BC. We have to deal with external factors, but we also have to take some responsibility locally, to do everything we can,” he said.
The Saskatchewan Party has said the NDP is too quick to give up on issues like the carbon tax and that the opposition party should say how they would replace the revenue from the PST on construction labour if the tax was reversed.
“For us as New Democrats, it starts with investing in education, with investing in diversifying our economy including looking for opportunities in renewable energy sources, and making sure that healthcare is available and is of good quality when people need it,” Meili said.
Meili’s first stop in Humboldt on June 6 was at the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union’s convention, held at the Bella Vista Inn.
“The speaker before me was talking about mental health, stigma around it, and how much we need to talk about it more, which I think is really great – and is happening, but I’m wanting to see us moving on from talk to actually taking some action.”
The NDP leader then went to the hospital to talk to healthcare workers. The former rural physician said he knows that Humboldt hospital had made great contributions to healthcare in the Saskatoon region, especially with dealing with overflow surgeries, but that comes with added pressures on local workers and staff.
“I'm just going to be interested to hear how that’s working and what changes they'd like to see.”
Meili then wrapped up by talking to some people in the education sector. Faced with more expenses to maintain the 2018-19 school year status quo than new revenues, the Horizon School Division made some cuts to instruction while also taking advantage of savings that comes with not having to rent a central office for the 2019-20 year.
“There's been lots of spending pressures on school districts and really what you're seeing is a government that’s deciding to download costs, not invest and that means cuts,” he said.
The NDP leader said the province needs to reinvest in education.
“If you’re trying to think ahead in Saskatchewan, about our future economy and about our future health, there’s really nothing more important than investing in education.”
When asked about the projected $30 million cost for Humboldt to upgrade its sewage capacity, Meili said he’s been seeing similar needs across the province. He said the provincial government could help with those type of projects by exempting municipalities from having to pay the PST on construction labour.
As for a candidate to carry the NDP’s flag in the next provincial election, Meili said his party is looking at potential candidates.
“I never share anybody's name until they're ready to but there are some people looking at taking the nomination here.”