"In a word, I think my first reaction was that it’s quite underwhelming.”
That is how Opposition NDP leader Carla Beck described the Throne Speech delivered in the Saskatchewan Legislature Wednesday afternoon. “In a speech that we heard forecast by this premier earlier in the week that was going to deliver some real solutions around housing and affordability, certainly affordability being one of the number one issues that people are facing in the province, we saw very little to address either of those issues.”
The Throne Speech included an announcement the PST rebate for new home construction would be re-introduced, and the government would be introducing a program to help with the construction of secondary suites in homes. There was also the announcement of a new program to be introduced – the Saskatchewan Employment Incentive.
Little information was provided about the programs, aside from the PST rebate, which Beck suggested was more backtracking than anything.
“This is not a new announcement,” Beck noted. “This, in fact, was previously in place. The government cut it in April of this year, so they’ve reinstated something that obviously didn’t fix the need to build houses in the province.”
Beck mentioned the secondary suite program as something that could potentially help, at least in terms of increasing the rental supply, but added it doesn’t really help when a homeowner would need the $20,000 upfront to construct the suite before any rebates could be applied.
“There may be some benefit there, but it doesn’t address the mom I talked to this summer who wanted to talk to me on the doorstep about the challenges her family was facing but was off to a second job so she could pay for her daughter’s basketball.”
One part of the speech that caught the attention of not only Beck, but most observers, was the language surrounding the role the federal government plays in the economics of Saskatchewan. The Throne Speech, delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty, but written by the government, specifically calls out Ottawa as the biggest threat to the Saskatchewan economy.
“On the doorstep, absolutely, there is a lot of anger at the federal government, but increasingly there’s a lot of anger at the provincial government as well,” Beck said. “Both have a role to play, and I would submit that neither of them are dealing with the issues that are top of mind.” Beck continued that there were plenty of things surrounding healthcare that could have been done, as well as more direct action to help with affordability.
“Even just taking off the 32 fees and taxes, and the three power bill hikes, that his government put in place less than a year ago.” Beck continued by saying people are getting tired of finger-pointing, with Scott Moe having been Premier for 5 years, and the issues facing the people of Saskatchewan that he can have an influence on continue to get worse.
Beck noted some specific situations from the speech as well that avoided commenting on the current situation in Saskatchewan, with many references to what has been accomplished in the province since 2007, but not looking at what has happened in recent years.
“Last year in this province, 37 emergency rooms and services were closed in this province,” Beck said, commenting on the inclusion of the number of hospitals that were closed in Saskatchewan during the last tenure of the NDP as government, which ended in 2007. “That is not reaching back 16 or 20 years – that is this premier’s record, and what I’m hearing from people is they’re tired of the division, they’re tired of pointing fingers. They want a government that will get to the table and actually start fixing some of these issues.”
The Throne Speech kicked off a legislative session that will run until early December. MLAs will then be back in their constituencies until they reconvene in March, with the budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year being introduced that month.