Party leaders make their final pitch to Prince Albert voters

Sask. Party leader Scott Moe (left) and NDP leader Ryan Meili (right) speak to supporters and members of the media during their final campaign stops in Prince Albert on Sunday, Oct. 25. – Photos by Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The leaders of Saskatchewan’s two largest parties made their final appeal to voters during stops in Prince Albert on the last day of the 2020 election campaign.

Sask. Party leader Scott Moe defended his party’s record since coming to office in 2007, and pushed back on NDP claims that the city was poorly represented by Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave.

A few hours later, NDP leader Ryan Meili outlined his list of spending priorities for the city, and touted local NDP candidates as community leaders who would get the best for Prince Albert.

Moe held a brief 16-minute press conference with reporters in the Midtown area Sunday morning, while masked supporters watched from the other side of the street.

He called NDP leader Ryan Meili’s decision to hold a Prince Albert press conference in front of a decommissioned STC bus last week a “political stunt.” He said Hargrave has been an influential decision maker as Crown Investment Corporation (CIC) Minister, and urged Prince Albert residents to keep his voice in caucus.

“Joe has sat at the highest level of the cabinet committees that we have, chairing the CIC committee, and working closely not only with myself, but with other cabinet ministers on all issues relevant to Saskatchewan people,” Moe said.

Moe said Hargrave has pushed to designate Victoria Hospital as a regional hospital, which would mean changes to the funding model. Local communities are typically responsible for 20 per cent of hospital costs, but Moe said Hargrave has urged the province to lower that amount, since so many patients come from outside the city.

He also said Hargrave has advocated for improved education infrastructure and economic opportunities for Prince Albert.

The Sask. Party leader also gave a vote of confidence to Prince Albert Northcote nominee Alana Ross, who was not in attendance Monday morning. Ross is currently self-isolating after a possible COVID-19 exposure early last week, but Moe said she’s symptom free so far, and eagerly working the phones.

“She is at home. She’ll be tested and she will be calling constituents from home getting the vote out,” he said.

Moe also took aim at the NDP’s plan to build a new hospital in Prince Albert, saying the financial estimates were not even included in the NDP costed platform. He reiterated previous statements that voters were asking who they could trust this election, and said the Sask. Party was the only option.

The Saskatchewan Party platform includes a pledge to create 100,000 jobs by 2030, largely from export-driven industries. It also includes a promise to cut SaskPower bills by 10 per cent for a year, temporarily reduce the small-business tax to zero for two years, and balance the budget by 2024.

NDP leader Ryan Meili held his own press conference outside the party’s Prince Albert campaign office later in the afternoon.

Meili spent large chunks of the campaign hammering the Sask. Party government for their spending priorities, and that trend continued on Sunday. The NDP leader repeated plans to build a second bridge and fully fund the construction of a new hospital in Prince Albert, something he said previous Sask. Party governments had plenty of opportunities to do. He also promised local NDP candidates would accomplish more for the city than their Sask. Party opponents.

“These will be such terrific representatives for Prince Albert, a city that deserves better leadership than they’ve seen these last few years from Joe Hargrave, who sold off STC,” Meili said while flanked by supporters. “We can do so much better for Prince Albert.”

The NDP platform calls for more than $2-billion in new spending over the next four years, with a net cost of $2.7-billion during that time. Most of those commitments are in the health and education sectors, such as plans to hire 1,000 more teachers by 2025. The party has also promised to build a new Saskatchewan Transportation Company, restore the film tax credit that was eliminated in 2012, and raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.

When asked about Moe’s comments regarding the NDP’s hospital proposal, Meili said denied that the plans were absent from the costed platform, and added that Moe should “learn to read the whole thing.”

Candidates Troy Parenteau (Prince Albert Carlton), Nicole Rancourt (Prince Albert Northcote) and Lyle Whitefish (Saskatchewan Rivers) were also in attendance. Meili told reporters said all three were leaders who would put their constituents first.

“With Nicole, I’m so lucky and privileged to work alongside her in the legislature, and see how every day she comes to the legislature wearing Prince Albert on her sleeve, and I know that Troy and Lyle would do the same thing,” Meili said. “(They would) come and represent the people, and that’s what we need in the legislature: MLAs who are there because they care about this community.”