With the cancellation of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement looming, the NDP is calling on the Sask. Party to reverse its heartless cut of the program that has helped so many vulnerable people throughout the province.
“Low income families and people with disabilities depend greatly on this supplement. They can’t afford to have this option taken off the table,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “This is the kind of short-term thinking that hurts people today and costs us all more in the long run.”
The NDP, along with anti-poverty groups throughout the province, have voiced their concerns with the cut to the housing supplement. If the cut goes forward on July 1st as planned, new applicants will have to wait at least two years before the Canada Housing Benefit is enacted by the federal government.
“For me, this program is the difference between being housed and being homeless,” said Crystal Linka, a single mother who receives the Rental Housing Supplement while she cares for her three children, one of whom has a disability and another is currently undergoing cancer treatment.
“Some people are one paycheck away from being homeless and now the government is cutting this program for new applicants,” said Roberta Fehr, who also receives the supplement. “The government has not increased the affordable housing market in order for low income people to have appropriate housing for their needs.”
“This cut to the housing supplement will only continue to hurt the province’s most vulnerable and those who are already struggling to find a stable living arrangement,” said NDP Social Services Critic Trent Wotherspoon. “This callous plan needs to be scrapped before it causes much devastation and hurt to many Saskatchewan families.”
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June 18, 2018
A recent report by an anti-poverty advocacy group shows that northern Saskatchewan has the second highest child poverty rate in the country.
“The Sask. Party has known for years that action is needed to address poverty, but they just won’t act,” said NDP Social Services Critic Trent Wotherspoon. “Instead of making the smart investments we need to reduce poverty, we’re seeing shortsighted cuts to supports for the vulnerable, like the Rental Housing Supplement, that are only going to make this unacceptable problem even worse.”
The report also reiterated calls made in recent reports from the Provincial Auditor and the Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate for better access to mental health supports in Northern communities.
“There is so much more that needs to be done to address poverty in Saskatchewan and this report makes it crystal clear that now is not the time to be cutting the Rental Housing Supplement – a needed support for so many in our province,” said Wotherspoon.
The provincial auditor’s report released last week further clarified the challenges facing Saskatchewan patients in accessing mental health care, stating that “long waits can lead to people’s conditions getting worse, and in some cases, waits can even contribute to death.”
Psychiatrist Sarah Dungavell, who practices in La Ronge and Saskatoon, says that “waitlists across the province remain too high and my colleagues and I are unable to see patients soon enough.”
With the Sask. Party government failing to take significant action to address this issue, the NDP is stepping forward to propose concrete, evidence-based initiatives to increase mental health care supports and promote better outcomes.
“The mental health needs throughout the province are urgent,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “We’re calling for a number of simple solutions that can improve the lives of our friends and neighbours struggling with mental health challenges. Investing in mental health services improves lives and leads to significant downstream savings. It’s the right thing and the smart thing to do.”
Meili is calling for a number of initiatives that would help address the challenges people face when trying to get the care they need:
- An increase in the health budget for mental health from the current five per cent to at least the national average of seven per cent, as promised by the premier during his run for leadership, but not delivered in the 2018/19 budget;
- Hiring of additional mental health support staff like psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers and increasing availability of publicly-funded counselling services;
- Supports for crisis intervention, including adequate funding for the mental health ER in Saskatoon, and the introduction of more such facilities in other communities;
- Expanding addictions supports, with special attention to crystal meth and fentanyl;
- Provincial involvement in the proposed Lac La Ronge Indian Band wellness centre;
- The development of a province-wide suicide prevention strategy that works alongside that being developed by the FSIN.
“We have heard the Sask. Party talk about supporting mental health, but what we need them to do is to take meaningful action,” said NDP Health Critic Danielle Chartier. “Far too many people are suffering and can’t get proper access to care. We’ve heard from families and mental health professionals that solutions – not just talk – are urgently needed.”
Today NDP Leader Ryan Meili and United Steelworkers Local 5890 President Mike Day called on the Sask. Party government to improve pipeline safety and create jobs by introducing expiry dates for pipelines.
“The tariffs Donald Trump is imposing on Canadian steel will have serious negative impacts on steel manufacturing jobs here in Saskatchewan,” said Meili. “We have more than 100,000 kilometers of pipelines and flowlines in Saskatchewan, and many are old and should be replaced. We saw with the Husky oil spill last year how costly spills can be, and it’s time for the provincial government to introduce expiry dates on pipelines to protect Saskatchewan water and land while also creating jobs. It's all well and good for Scott Moe to go to Ottawa and Washington, but he needs to show leadership and help workers in Saskatchewan.”
Meili’s proposal would require different expiry date standards for pipe depending on the material and whether the pipe is near a body of water. New pipe manufactured at Evraz steel emits less carbon dioxide than pipe made at most other plants, and existing pipelines can be recycled to make new pipe after being replaced.
In Volume 1 of the 2018 Provincial Auditor’s Report, the auditor noted that there were ongoing problems in pipeline regulation in the province.
“Bringing in expiry dates for pipelines will help to protect good jobs here in Regina, and it will help create construction jobs out on worksites across the province,” said Day. “Steelworkers are concerned about how American tariffs will lead to lost jobs, and this proposal from the Saskatchewan NDP will help create extra demand for steel made right here in Regina.”
For the second month in a row, numbers released by Statistics Canada show the Sask. Party government’s failure to create jobs has led to Saskatchewan having the worst job growth in Canada. In May 2018, 7,300 fewer people were working in Saskatchewan than in May 2017.
“These numbers show a startling trend that has been ongoing for years under the Sask. Party’s failed leadership,” said NDP Jobs Critic Vicki Mowat. “It’s disappointing to see our economy suffering and our workers struggling to find and keep employment. When you see job numbers like these, you can understand why people are leaving Saskatchewan for better opportunities in other provinces.”
Saskatchewan again had the highest unemployment rate outside of Atlantic Canada at 6.9 per cent, with Alberta’s unemployment rate at 6.5 per cent and Manitoba’s at 6.4 per cent. In May 2018, 34,700 more people were working in Alberta than in May 2017 and 2,600 more in Manitoba for that same time period.
“These job numbers are a direct result of the cuts, tax hikes and bad management we’ve seen from Scott Moe and this Sask. Party government,” said Mowat. “Instead of cutting supports for the vulnerable and programs that actually get people back to work, the Sask. Party should be making smart investments now that help families and grow our economy over the long term.”
The construction sector lost 4,800 jobs, 3,100 jobs were lost in trade and 4,600 jobs were lost in professional, scientific and technical services.
The Provincial Auditor released volume one of its 2018 report today, and it shows the damaging effect that the Sask. Party’s cuts and clawbacks have had on Saskatchewan students with special needs as well as those dealing with mental health issues.
“We’re always grateful for the good work that the Auditor and her team does, but it’s disappointing to see in this report just how badly the Sask. Party is failing the most vulnerable people in our province,” said NDP Deputy Leader Carla Beck. “And this comes in light of the most recent budget from the Sask. Party, which saw a funding cut to the rental housing supplement and the failure to fully restore funding to school divisions.”
The report noted that in the Saskatoon Public School Division 7.3 per cent of K-8 students have intensive needs, but students aren’t receiving the supports they need. The Auditor found an example of a student who required an educational assistant but didn’t receive one because the school did not have enough educational assistant resources to support all the needs of the students in the school.
“The bottom line is when the Sask. Party doesn’t fully restore the $54 million cut it made in education, it meant that school divisions have to do more with less. It means fewer educational assistants and it means fewer resources to help students who have special needs get the attention they need,” said Beck, the NDP’s Education Critic.
People suffering from mental illness accessing timely health and addiction services in Prince Albert was also a topic panned by the Auditor. It showed that the demand for services outpaced the region’s capacity to deliver them, and people couldn’t access care in a timely way.
“The demand for these services is increasing, but spending by the Sask. Party and staffing remains flat,” Beck said. “It’s unacceptable that after a decade of record revenue, the Sask. Party has failed to address the issues around staffing and capacity in Prince Albert.”
The Auditor noted that around half the number of secure custody inmates are on remand waiting for trial, which puts a strain on the justice system and costs taxpayers more. Also, prisoners aren’t getting proper access to health care while incarcerated.
“It can be very costly to the public when prisoners don’t have access to proper medical or mental health treatment, so it’s important that the Sask. Party tighten up its policies to ensure public safety and prevent recidivism.”
Recent statistics show that more people are leaving Saskatchewan to look for better job opportunities in our neighboring provinces out west.
“The Sask. Party has not improved the job market and has in fact cut nearly $3 million for job training programs in this year’s budget and we’re losing valuable workers because of it,” said NDP Jobs Critic Vicki Mowat. “We had the lowest GDP growth outside of Atlantic Canada for 2017. In April, Saskatchewan had 1,800 fewer jobs compared to the same time last year. These numbers don’t lie. The Sask. Party can’t ignore the writing on the wall.”
The Saskatchewan Trends Monitor shows that the number of people coming into Saskatchewan from other provinces is down 8 per cent compared to the same time last year, and the number of people leaving Saskatchewan for other provinces is up 16 per cent compared to the same time last year. The number of international immigrants coming to Saskatchewan is also down 5 per cent compared to the same time last year.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2015/16, Saskatchewan tied with Manitoba for the lowest net interprovincial migratory rates among the provinces. Saskatchewan had a net loss of 3.7 people per 1,000 population. In comparison, B.C. had a net gain of 5.6 people per 1,000 population.
Last year was the first year Saskatchewan did not bring in enough newcomers to balance out the exodus to other provinces. In 2017, 7,377 international immigrants came to Saskatchewan, but 9,397 Saskatchewan residents moved to other provinces.
“The Sask. Party’s mismanagement of our economy has led to this mass exodus,” said Mowat. “Instead of providing more job training opportunities, they are constricting what is already in place. Instead of increasing the minimum wage, they are keeping us in last place. The Sask. Party should change their course of action and start investing in our economy.”
The spring session in the Legislature ended with the NDP holding the Sask. Party to account for their PST hikes, money-wasting scandals, and lack of vision to stimulate the province’s economy and create jobs, while also proposing ways to make Saskatchewan better for everyone.
Despite the opportunities to improve Saskatchewan’s future with their 2018/19 budget, the Sask. Party continued down the path of mismanagement and hurting the most vulnerable. They did not fully restore the $54 million cut from education funding in the last budget; they cut $5 million from the rental housing supplement; and they cut $3 million for job training and workforce development programs.
“Saskatchewan has one of the worst records in job creation in the country and yet we didn’t see any vision or plan from the Sask. Party to get people back to work or make life more affordable for families whether it's in rural Saskatchewan, the cities or the North,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili.
Similar to previous sessions, the Sask. Party has dodged questions about their scandalous GTH pet project. With its lack of land sales, the GTH is continuing to cost the people of Saskatchewan more and more.
Even with a new premier, the Sask. Party has failed to address many of the concerns laid out by the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth. They still have not provided the necessary mental health supports that have been called for by community leaders.
“The Sask. Party has yet to take meaningful action to address the growing number of First Nations and Metis children in the province’s care. The lack of progress shows this government does not take these concerns seriously,” said Meili. “The Sask. Party needs to fulfill its promises to Indigenous communities and close the gaps in education, health services and the justice system.”
The NDP put forward a number of pieces of legislation, and saw many successes with proposing change. The NDP continued their push to get big money out of politics, to get the province to implement sexual assault and domestic violence strategies, and to get parents access to extended parental leave. The NDP, with the backing of the people of the province, forced the Sask. Party to repeal Bill 40, and continued their fight to protect the Crowns. Meili and the team of MLAs called for fair minimum wages, investment in education and advocacy on national pharmacare.
“This session was about doing politics differently, and with that comes the work of holding the government to account, but more importantly, proposing new ideas,” Meili said. “Over the summer, the NDP team will continue to reach out to the province, listen to stakeholders, and do our part to make the lives of all Saskatchewan people better. The work starts with winning the upcoming byelection in Regina Northeast.”
As suicides continue to disproportionately affect First Nation and Metis families throughout Saskatchewan, the NDP is urging the Sask. Party to support the strategy put forward by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), and commit the proper funding needed to address this serious issue.
“We know First Nations leaders are experts in the needs of their communities and I would like to thank the FSIN for creating this valuable document,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “Sadly, the Sask. Party government has left the large task of preventing suicides in the hands of the affected communities instead of taking the leadership role and working with them to create a strategy.”
In the document put forward by the FSIN, it shares startling statistics about the suicide crisis facing First Nations. Suicide death rates among First Nations people are 4.3 times higher than non-First Nations people. For First Nations women aged 10 to 19, it is 29.7 times higher. Among First Nations men aged 10 to 19, it is 6.4 times higher.
The suicide prevention strategy highlights how social determinants, such as poverty, poor living conditions and racism impact suicidal behaviour. When looking at the recommendations put forward by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, FSIN agrees that community specific and culturally specific needs must be addressed in suicide prevention strategies. The FSIN also recognizes that there is a need for “better leadership at the provincial level.”
“This government has continued to ignore the high rates of suicide in First Nations communities and underfunded programs that provide mental health supports for First Nations,” said Meili. “The Sask. Party must take the suicide crisis seriously, and commit to implementing a suicide prevention strategy for the entire province.”