‘I would accept union money,’ says Wotherspoon in P.A. visit

NDP leadership candidate Trent Wotherspoon during the demonstration Wednesday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

During a trip to Prince Albert for a save-our-Crowns demonstration, NDP leadership candidate Trent Wotherspoon said he’d accept union donations to support his campaign.

That comes just days after his main competitor, Ryan Meili, said he’d refuse contributions from corporations and unions. He encouraged other candidates to do likewise.

But Wotherspoon said that, so long as legislation allows the Saskatchewan Party to raise corporate dollars, it would be “reckless” for him to make a similar commitment.

“I would accept union money until the laws are fixed and we level the playing field for all,” he said Wednesday. “This is not a time to tie our hands behind our back in a very important fight.”

He said his remarks apply both to the leadership campaign and to the next general election.

Wotherspoon stressed that he has previously supported legislation to ban “corporate, union and out-of-province donations.” He said he would continue to push for similar reforms in government. But with the Saskatchewan Party “filling their coffers with out-of province money,” now, he said, is not the time.

“We need to fight back like never before,” he explained.

Honks for crowns

Holding a “Yes to Crowns, no to cuts” sign, Wotherspoon joined MLAs Nicole Rancourt and Doyle Vermette for a small demonstration in front of the Prince Albert SGI claims centre. They stood with union leaders to oppose any move to privatize Crown corporations, and solicited honks from passing motorists.

One by one, the demonstrators took aim at the government. Wotherspoon’s speech zeroed in on Premier Brad Wall.

“He’s dismantling the very things that give us strength: our crowns, our classrooms, the very supports that people and the most vulnerable count on,” Wotherspoon said. “He’s pushing us toward a precarious, low-wage environment, a privatized outsourced economy that fails to deliver for Saskatchewan people.”

Rancourt argued that budget cuts have led to job losses in Prince Albert. She then directed her ire at Minister Joe Hargrave, who recently took over responsibility for SaskTel and SaskEnergy.

“I do not trust that he has the best interests for those Crown corporations,” she said.

The union representatives, including Bob Bymoen of SGEU and Kim Wilson of COPE, agreed that Crowns are at risk.

“We know the Sask. Party government has quickly rammed through legislation that would allow the sell-off of our public services,” Wilson said. “Their intentions to sell off the Crowns have been made clear.”

Firing off the campaign… soon

Wotherspoon said he plans to return to Prince Albert “an awful lot” during his leadership campaign.

“I’ve built strong relationships in Prince Albert,” he said. “This is the gateway to the north; it’s an incredible hub that provides services to this entire region, from healthcare to education. There’s a lot of pride in this community.”

He said his campaign has yet to get “fired off officially.” But he said he’s pleased with the support he’s getting – both in the party and amongst the public – and plans to build a “progressive unified front” to offer an alternative to the Saskatchewan Party.

He declined to comment on the policy differences that separate him from Meili, but said those debates will pick up steam as the campaign progresses. On a personal level, he had nothing but kind words for his rival.

“Obviously he’s a good person who I think brings a lot to our party and our province,” Wotherspoon said.

“I just feel that I’ve got something to offer the party and the province right now. I’ve got experience, and relationships that I’m ready to draw upon.”