‘Health care and the cost of living’: NDP Leader Carla Beck shares agenda for lead-up to fall sitting

Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix NDP Leader Carla Beck holds a press conference at the Ramada Inn and conference centre. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Sask. on Tuesday, September 26, 2023.

Julia Peterson

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

After logging tens of thousands of kilometers on the road this summer and knocking on doors in communities across the province, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck says her caucus is ready to bring constituents’ most pressing concerns to the legislature this fall.

“People are saying, ‘I feel worse off, I feel like I can’t pay my bills and I’m worried about what’s going to happen,’” Beck said at a news conference in Saskatoon on Tuesday. “In a province as wealthy as ours, with as much resource revenue as we have, it simply shouldn’t be this way.”

Beck said she heard from people who are struggling to save money as inflation goes up while their salary stays the same. Some “have never struggled before (and) are now having to choose between heating and eating,” she added.

Beck said she and her fellow MLAs also heard from people who have struggled to find a family doctor, or who faced long wait times to be seen in emergency rooms or access badly-needed surgeries and specialist appointments.

“(When) people are not able to secure a family doctor, that provides a lower level of health for those people,” she said. “We see people who are sicker and sicker showing up in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics, and it increases the wait times there, too.”

Beck said these issues, which the MLAs have heard with “surprising consistency across the province,” have set a clear agenda for her party this fall.

“Health care and the cost of living are the issues my team will be laser-focused on addressing in the run-up to the session, because those are the issues that Saskatchewan people tell us are most concerning to them and their family.”

The Sask. Party government is also busy setting its legislative priorities for the fall.

“As Premier Moe has indicated, our government’s focus is to build and protect Saskatchewan — to continue building a strong economy, strong communities and strong families, and to protect all we have built together from threats like federal intrusion and economic challenges like inflation, along with protecting parental involvement in education,” the government said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Beck said people are frustrated with the messages they have heard from the Saskatchewan Party, which she said has been painting a too-rosy picture of economic and social improvements in the province that don’t reflect people’s lives.

“This summer, I don’t know how much the Sask. Party spent on billboards trying to tell you that your life was better, instead of actually making it better,” she said. “One of those billboards was right outside a food bank in Regina — a food bank that, like other food banks in the province, has seen a 40-year high in the number of people using that food bank. I think people are seeing through that.”

In the last two years, the NDP has won three of its four byelections. Beck said this reflects an appetite for change, and a need for new voices in the legislature.

“People are tired of divisive policies, and politicians promising shiny objects. I think people want all of their leaders, regardless of what level of government, to be focused on the things that are impacting their family. …There are a lot of issues in this province. None of them are made better by yelling at each other, or promising things that have no hope of actually being implemented.

“You will see very practical, thoughtful solutions put forward by this party … and these solutions will have been built with the wisdom of the people that we hope to serve. It’s a lot of hard work, but I don’t know another way.”

The legislature is set to reconvene in Regina on Oct. 25.