The spring term of the second session of Saskatchewan’s 29th Legislative Assembly begins Monday.
Interim Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said for his party the session will be an opportunity to critique the government’s record on the pandemic and health care while bringing new approaches to improving care healthcare in Saskatchewan.
“A lot of work needs to be done to point out what’s wrong and come up with ideas to fix healthcare,” Meili told Global news on Friday, adding that the cost of living is another topic likely to come up in the news. question period exchanges.
“We also know that people are struggling to make ends meet. We need to look at how this government can help.
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Meili said, in particular, voters in Saskatchewan can expect to see continued NDP scrutiny of trends in COVID-19 deaths, cases and hospitalizations, as has been frequently seen during the fall session. The government’s spending plans ahead of the next budget will be scrutinized.
“We had one of the deadliest months on record due to COVID-19. We receive periodic information, and no regular updates on what is happening with COVID. Access to testing is not what it should be. So we will continue to demand responses and appropriate actions to those responses,” Meili said.
“We have seen commodity prices increase. This will give us the opportunity to have more money to invest. I want to make sure those dollars are invested in the right places.
NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat said in an interview Sunday that with more than 30,000 people waiting for surgery in Saskatchewan, she will push for a more ambitious plan to reduce the back.
“They’re talking about getting there in nine years. This is completely unfeasible for people struggling today who are waiting for knee or hip surgery,” Mowat said.
She added that understaffing issues are also a major concern.
“It’s about having a global strategy. We have been calling for a roundtable on health human resources for some time that would bring together people from post-secondary institutions, relevant ministries, so from Education and Health, as well as unions to develop an overall strategy,” said Mowat.
“How many nurses will we need?” Do we have the places to train these people and do we have a plan to place them in these jobs. Do we have good full-time jobs for people across the province, and once they get into those jobs, is it within their reach? Are they framed and set up to succeed? It’s about making sure that the training is there, that the recruitment is happening, and that we can retain those people.
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As for specific ways to make life in Saskatchewan more affordable, NDP spokesperson for SaskPower, Aleana Young, said she would urge the government to consider using its Crown corporations to cut costs. costs for residents.
“When it comes to the cost of living, although not everything is under government control, there are a few things that are. We have been consistent in our calls for SGI rebates and rate rebalancing for policyholders,” she said.
“On top of that we have SaskPower offering what will equate to an 8% increase for owners over the next 18 months. We will push them to ensure they are accountable to the people they serve and to keep the cost of living low for the people of Saskatchewan.
Jennifer Bowes, who is serving as labor critic and deputy House leader this sitting, said she hopes to pass her bill on paid sick leave for MPs by the end of session.
The bill was first introduced in the fall and would mandate 10 days of paid sick leave for all Saskatchewan workers (and 14 during states of emergency due to communicable diseases).
“The plan is to make it a priority again. It’s something our caucus has identified as a major need for Saskatchewan,” Bowes told Global News.
“Less than half of Saskatchewan workers have paid sick leave, and many of the workers who don’t have paid sick leave work in some of Saskatchewan’s lowest-paying occupations. The people who need paid sick leave the most are often those who don’t have it. »
Debate on the bill, which received its first reading in November, was adjourned.
“There have been studies, particularly in British Columbia, that have identified that 10 paid sick days would not have a significant effect on employer profitability,” Bowes added.
“It’s also a very good advantage for recruitment and retention. Paid sick leave should be a basic part of the job for all workers. This is something that is, in my opinion, just as important, if not more so, than the paid holidays that all employers are required to pay their employees.
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The search for the next Saskatchewan NDP leader is also thematic as the legislature resumes.
Meili announced her intention to step back from her leadership role last month, and so far the only person to publicly announce a plan to run for leadership is Carla Beck, MP for Regina Lakeview.
Health Minister Paul Merriman meanwhile said health spending will be a key priority in the government’s next budget, which will be released on March 23.
“We will have announcements on several fronts regarding our budget. Surgery will be a priority. Mental health and addictions will be a priority,” Merriman said.
“We’re going to try to target dollars to make sure we reduce this backlog that we’ve built up during COVID.”
Meriman added that $20 million allocated for surgical initiatives two years ago will carry over to this year’s budget.
The government’s throne speech for the session also promised efforts to reduce crime, as well as new protections against the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
the Privacy (Intimate Images – Additional Remedies) Amendment Act 2021, which expands the legislation “gives victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images the power to reclaim their images and have them removed from the internet”, is expected to come into effect in the legislature in the coming weeks.
Legislative watchers can also expect further debate on the controversial Bill 70, which seeks to overhaul the security of the legislative building and grounds.
A request for additional comments from the Saskatchewan Party government was not returned in time for the deadline.
The spring period includes ten weeks of sitting days and is scheduled to end on May 23.