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Saskatchewan election kicks off

By Frank Flegel

03/16/2016

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s official 28-day election campaign got underway March 8 and will end April 4.

The campaign has really been underway since just before Christmas 2015 with the NDP, SaskParty, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), as well as other groups participating in ad campaigns supporting or criticising one side or the other. Saskatchewan’s four-year fixed election date was Nov. 2, 2015 but that conflicted with the federal government’s fixed election date, Oct. 19, 2015 so the Saskatchewan Government opted to move it to April 4, 2016.

Six political parties are in the running with only the NDP or the governing Saskatchewan Party given any chance of forming the next government. The March 1, 2016, poll conducted by Mainstreet Research has the Saskatchewan Party and leader Brad Wall well out in front with 49 per cent support followed by the NDP and leader Cam Broten with 28 per cent. Progressive Conservatives, with the Liberals, Green, and Western Independent Party all in single digits. It shows a three-percentage point gain for the Saskatchewan Party from the February poll and a two per cent drop for the NDP.

Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall has said his party will campaign on its economic record while NDP leader Cam Broten says his party will attack what it calls the government’s waste and mismanagement. The Saskatchewan Party will point to the number of new schools under construction to show its support for education; the Regina bypass, although controversial, will be touted as the largest single infrastructure in the province’s history, creating over 8,000 jobs; the increase in the number of medical personnel — doctors and nurses — the continuing increase in Saskatchewan’s population 1,138,879 (Oct. 1, 2015, StatsCan); exports continuing; employment numbers up from Jan. 2015 (but down from December 2015) and the Saskatchewan unemployment rate at 6.1 per cent seasonally adjusted to 5.6 per cent.

The NDP will attack the Regina bypass as a good idea gone bad with ballooning costs and big contracts going to out-of-province contractors. The government’s LEAN program in the health sector will be a favourite NDP target, as will increasing surgical wait times and what it calls neglect and lack of standards in care homes for the elderly.

Broten has said that getting rid of government waste will help finance new programs and put more money in the pockets of Saskatchewan voters. Wall has said his party does not intend to make many promises because the government cannot afford them with the downturn in resource revenues, oil and potash particularly, and has promised spending restraints rather than tax increases to control the projected deficits over the next two budget cycles. The 2016-2017 budget is expected to be brought down sometime after the election.

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