Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck sat down with Global News morning anchor Chris Carr to look back on 2023 and forward to the year ahead.
Carr and Beck discussed topics including the cost of living, the price on carbon and the parental bill of rights.
Carr: A lot has happened in Saskatchewan through 2023. Right now, we’re looking back on the year that’s been and the year ahead. Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck is in studio with us. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
Beck: Good morning, Chris. Great to be here.
Carr: Hard to believe a year has gone by. Time flies.
Beck: Time does fly. It’s difficult to believe that we’re at the end of the year already.
Carr: Well and we’re looking back on so many issues impacting Saskatchewan — cost of living, affordability right at the top for many. What have you heard from people this year in an environment with rising interest rates, elevated prices because of inflation, food, housing, transportation — it all got a lot more expensive in 2023.
Beck: Number one issue that we’ve heard all year from the people of Saskatchewan is concerns about the cost of living. You know, we’ve seen that in polling. We’ve seen that reflected in some of the numbers. But most importantly, I think this is what we’re hearing on doorstep after doorstep, through the byelections this summer, right across the province. Number one issue for families.
Carr: So, what are people saying? What are those stories that you’re getting from people as they try to cope?
Beck: We hear people who are taking out a second, sometimes a third job, considering not putting their children in activities in the fall. We’re hearing people that, you know, are juggling between paying one bill or the other, people really needing relief. We have been focused on some of the ways that we could provide relief, most recently, calling for a six-month pause on the gas tax — something the government could do on their own even without legislation. It’s something that would see an immediate 15 cent drop in gas prices. Instead, what we’ve seen by the provincial government going back to the budget, was adding 32 fees and taxes three times, increasing the power bills. And as you said, people are struggling. They need some relief and that’s what we’ve been focused on.
Carr: It can be a little bit tricky for governments dealing with this type of situation. What sort of solutions are there? You mentioned the tax, the gas tax. What sort of solutions are there to potentially help people without reinflating inflation?
Beck: A very measured way to provide some relief, as we said, we’ve seen other provinces do this, most recently in Manitoba, a six-month pause that doesn’t tie the government’s hands past that six months. It provides that immediate relief. As I said, people would see the price of the pumps drop $0.15. It would provide about $300 relief for every person in this province and certainly, you know, in the cold weather months, people dealing with Christmas expenses and all of that, it’s something that people definitely need.
Carr: Many of these issues are going to spill over into 2024, notably the carbon tax. The provincial government has vowed to stop collecting the carbon tax on natural gas bills if an exemption is not made like it was for heating oil. How much support have you heard for a move like this?
Beck: Well, certainly when we heard the news that the federal government intended to carve out home heating oil, something that really only applies to the Maritimes, in those provinces, where they have a high, high use of heating oil, we immediately noted our concerns about the unfairness of that move by the federal government. We put a motion forward in the legislature to call for the removal of carbon tax from home heating across the country. We heard the minister of rural economic development, federal minister, note that if other provinces wanted this, they should elect more Liberals. I think that strikes at a very basic level of fairness and something that we think is not fair and needs to be rectified by the federal government.
Carr: Provincial governments enacting and passing the controversial Parents’ Bill of Rights in 2023, requiring consent from parents if a child wants to change their name or pronouns in the school environment. What have you heard, if anything, about how this might be enforced in 2024?
Beck: Well, starting with the emergency session, something we’ve not seen in this province for 25 years, I think there was a lot of concern about the government taking this move after those byelections. After all of the concerns that we’ve talked about, affordability — including health care, including very real concerns in schools — the government took this almost unprecedented move of having an emergency session by their own admission in court. After nine days, this policy was created after getting about 13 emails from people.
There’s no one who’s debating that parents should be involved in their children’s school. I’ve lived that as a parent, as a school board trustee. We know that kids do best when parents are involved in their child’s schooling. What the government still has not made the case for is if there has been an instance where parents have not been involved in. The premier has not been able to point to a single case, nor did he listen to the advice of the children’s advocate, Justice Michael Megaw, the Human Rights Commission, the school boards, parents, those impacted.
The premier has now noted this was the most pressing issue that required them to bring an emergency session of the legislature. Now the premier notes that he has washed his hands of the issue and doesn’t know how it will be enforced. I think this was a distraction from the very real failings of this government and I think that’s something that people see through.
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Carr: These and many other issues will come forward and bubble to the top for many people as we head into 2024, an election year in Saskatchewan. How is your party preparing for an election?
Beck: We have been preparing. As I said, we’ve been out on the doorstep nominating candidates, really connecting with the issues that are front of mind for people in this province. I’ve said we need to get back to basics. We need to be on the doorsteps, meeting with people, connecting with their issues and starting to carve out that alternate path. We’re hearing from so many people in this province right now out there looking for change.
Our job over the next months we have before a provincial election will be to show ourselves to be the change that people are looking for. We’ve had some success. We’ve recently won two byelections. We’ve got some momentum. We’ve done that by connecting with the things people care about and their issues. We intend to continue to chart that path.
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