Premier Moe’s meetings, federal politics overshadow Sask. fall session

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Saskatchewan’s fall legislative session began two days after the federal election, and the results and fallout overshadowed what happened in the assembly over the past seven weeks.

A day after the federal election, a defiant Premier Scott Moe stepped out of his office and read his “new deal with Canada.” A list of three demands to the re-elected Liberal minority government: kill the carbon tax, change equalization and commit to pipelines.

A week later, Moe’s list had evolved into more specific asks, a one-year pause of the carbon tax, federal payments to Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador and a commitment to current and future pipeline projects.

Moe also asked to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He made the trip to Ottawa on Nov. 12 and left the meeting “disappointed.”

Moe’s tone was different following a meeting two weeks later with new Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in Regina. He said the meeting was “cordial” and said he was “hopeful” the federal government would be open to addressing Saskatchewan’s concerns.

He said this week, his “new deal” came secondary to the priorities agreed to by Canada’s 13 premiers in Toronto on Monday.

Moe also shared a message of making Saskatchewan more autonomous.

“We’ll be looking for opportunities to continue to make decisions that will help us determine our own destiny, if you will, and we’ve had conversations with respect to just what that means,” Moe said Wednesday.

He said increased autonomy could include a Saskatchewan own tax collection agency and increased control over immigration.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili called that an attempt to “change the channel.”

“You’ve seen a series of bills that are at most the majority or at most housekeeping bills; it’s very minor domestic agenda, very minor legislative agenda, here in the province. This is a government that’s out of ideas,” Meili said.

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, shakes hands with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe ahead of a meeting between the two officials on Nov. 26. Following the meeting, Moe had a marked change of tone as compared to the last time he met with a federal leader. He called his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau disappointing. (Matt Howard/CBC)

NDP focuses on health care, education 

NDP Leader Ryan Meili sent his a letter to Trudeau asking for a carbon tax exemption for farmers on their natural gas bills for drying grain which was exacerbated by a wet fall.

Moe raised the issue in his meetings with Trudeau and Freeland.

NDP spent most of its time raising concerns about emergency room wait times, hallway medicine and a so-called “hush memo” to doctors, which was obtained through an access to information request.

NDP leader Ryan Meili, with health critic Vicki Mowat, holds up the drinking water advisory posted at Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford. Meili and Mowat raised concerns about health care in the province over the past seven weeks. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Both Meili and education critic Carla Beck spent significant time, even missing question period, travelling to various communities for town hall-style discussions on education.

Almost daily, Beck raised concerns about the “crisis in our classrooms” and debated with Education Minister Gord Wyant on how best to address issues with classroom size and composition.

Wyant announced the government’s plan for a committee that will study class composition but will not include the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation who declined to participate.

Growth plan, vaping laws other session highlights

On Nov. 14, Moe unveiled the government’s growth plan, which aims to grow the population by 225,000.

Moe said it was a highlight for the government for the fall sitting.

“Our plan for growth mapping out and charting the intended growth of this province over the course of the next decade, growth that will include a target of 1.4 million people 100,000 jobs.”

The plan also included increasing Saskatchewan’s international footprint, through the establishment of three trade offices in Asia. Moe also hired former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a consultant to help grow its international exports. The province will pay Harper’s firm $240,000 for one year.

Early in the sitting, the government introduced new vaping regulations. In a fairly irregular fashion, the NDP and government passed the bill through multiple stages the day after it was introduced. The new laws could be in effect in early 2020.