Leadership needed to stop federal overreach

“Nadine, do you seriously believe this statement?”

The person who emailed me this question was referring to a recent column I wrote, asking if the Scott Moe government would listen to a request from Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, “or continue to act as an arm of the Trudeau government”.

I do believe that statement. It is based on a pattern of behaviour I have observed over the last few years.

From my perspective, it started September 16th, 2021, when Premier Moe announced to the public that “The time for patience is over”, and declared the government would ‘create consequences’ and make it ‘less comfortable’ for people to remain unvaccinated.

But less than three weeks before, Premier Moe had promised Saskatchewan people that there would be NO mandates.

What changed? Why did he break his promise?

Premier Moe has never explained why suddenly, mandates were imposed on Saskatchewan. People who did not comply could not properly access the health care system let alone participate in society.

This was my wake-up call to look at the bigger picture.

Over time, the federal government has increasingly co-funded programs that fall under sovereign provincial jurisdiction. While some programs, such as health care, have been negotiated as a cost-share for years, new federal money is now being offered for programs such as day-care and education lunch programs. Of course, any federally funded project comes with its own framework which the province must agree to in order to receive the funding.

In fact, this approach by the federal government to regulate within provincial jurisdictions started long before Covid. The push to implement “Sustainable Development Goals” into the agriculture and energy sectors has been occurring in earnest for more than a decade. It is now causing alarm in rural communities as regulations squeeze out small farmers and entrepreneurs in favour of corporate and government interests.

Last spring, I asked the government in the Legislative Assembly why almost every announcement they make is in partnership with the federal government. Finance Minister Donna Harpauer admitted that there are numerous programs with federal ‘strings attached’, including health care, agriculture, education, infrastructure, housing, mental health and more.

More recently, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Bronwyn Eyre stated that the federal government “keeps moving the goalposts” in a radio interview discussing the new federal ‘Methane 75’ regulations.

Next door in Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith has caught on to the long game. She says the feds are “operating outside their lane” and that federal funding for things like housing, harm reduction, and research needs to flow through the province. Her government is introducing legislation that will force municipalities, housing, health authorities and other entities to secure provincial approval before striking deals with Ottawa.

It might have been advantageous to make deals with the feds not so long ago. But with this federal government, alarm bells should be ringing. Former Attorney General David Lametti even said the government was committed to ‘look into’ rescinding provincial responsibility over resources.

In October 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada would become the first post-national state, a radical statement that received almost no press coverage. If his government gains control over provinces and municipalities, it will be positioned to do just that.

We need to stop the federal encroachment upon our province. I call on the Premier to show leadership by taking action to unravel these coercive funding agreements and chart our own course for Saskatchewan.

Nadine Wilson is the MLA for Saskatchewan Rivers and leader of the Saskatchewan United Party.