The economy, rural internet and taxes were highlighted at the local all candidates forum with the Saskatchewan election looming.
On Thursday at the Lloyd Exh, Incumbent Saskatchewan Party MLA Colleen Young, Buffalo Party candidate Steve Gessner and New Democratic Party candidate Colleen Henning attended the event while Audra Kish of the Green Party was absent.
Young looks to secure her second term while continuing to advocate for a number of issues including accessing healthcare for constituents, and issues faced by the oil and gas industry.
Henning was announced as the newest NDP candidate in July. Over the past couple months, the Holy Rosary High School teacher looked to clear up NDP anti-oil sentiment in the riding. Her focuses include bettering rural roads, internet and more mental health support for residents.
After being announced as a candidate two weeks ago, Gessner has been boots on the ground speaking on his newfound party. The parties platform is focusing on more autonomy from the federal government, tax reform aiming for no PST/GST, the Canada pension plan and the use of the RCMP.
During the virtual forum, candidates spoke on their platforms, a range of issues, and answered questions emailed in by residents.
COVID ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN
YOUNG: Believes the current government is adequately serving the province in economic recovery and states they are still investing in job creation.
GESSNER: Wants to remove the national transfer payment program because he believes the system favours eastern provinces. Said the east province’s national resource revenue is not taken into account into the program, and wants Saskatchewan to receive more equal treatment.
HENNING: Used the opportunity to state the Saskatchewan NDP is not anti-oil and pipeline, and announced the party favours the industry. She would like to diversify the economy to become less reliant on the oil and gas sector, and develop alternative energy. She said local infrastructure has been neglected and wants to hone in on improving the area.
*During this discussion, Young called out Henning for attending anti-pipeline rallies. Henning stated her track record is not indicative of her current stance.*
WHAT THEY FEEL ARE NEEDS AND WANTS IN THEIR PLATFORM
HENNING: Said the party will prioritize economic development. Believes the local health care system needs more funding and better mental health supports/programs. Wants to have the best home care programs for seniors in the country. Claimed the province needs to have safer roads and better internet access.
GESSNER: Believes the province needs to take back control of their resources and become less dependent on the federal government.
YOUNG: Stated the province will continue to work on creating jobs and stimulation economic growth by boosting small businesses. Mentioned the current efforts to improve senior support programs including the addition of 300 new continuing care aids for care facilities and home care services. Added the government is working to remove inter-city ambulance costs for seniors. Needs to improve mental health care.
SASK. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SAYS PROVINCE’S TAX SYSTEM IS NOT HELPING INVESTMENT AND BUSINESS GROWTH
GESSNER: Wants to make Saskatchewan easier for investors to bring in business.
HENNING: Plans to institute a job creators plan for small businesses to help with the $15/hr minimum wage, adds increased minimum wage is important. Claims party will reinstate start-up loans for rural businesses. Wants to revive tax credit for film and arts. Will work to reduce craft beer tax to help local brewers compete in the market.
YOUNG: Will work to keep taxes low to encourage investment and economic growth. Stated the government will support small businesses by reducing taxes for three years. Claims the reduction will help 31,000 small businesses collectively save over $189 million over that period. Said the average savings per business comes to $6,100.
YOUNG: Invested in Sasktel for community towers, 91 towers to increase service, 74 macro towers in province, will provide better internet, bandwidth ands cell service, says it is expensive, sasktel makes the decision off of population density, has increased service and will continue to do so because it is important, telus and bell are helping as well
GESSNER: Deferred the question to another member of his party. Stated he was using a flip phone before the beginning of his campaign.
HENNING: Said people who do not have sufficient internet access are at risk and are not protected. Believes internet service is not an option in today’s society. Said the Saskatchewan Party is treating access to internet as an option. Said the party will do whatever they can to make changes to the current service in the province.
OIL AND GAS, HOW WILL THE PARTY COUNTER OTTAWA’S OVEREACH OF PROVINCIAL POWERS (BILL C-69)
HENNING: Said they will work with the federal government to achieve better results. Did not specify what any issues are or what differences they want to see. Believes confrontation with the federal government is counter-productive.
YOUNG: Stated the provincial government will continue to stand up against feds to get their fair share. Wants to enforce their jurisdiction and have ability to move forward with their pipelines and independent projects. Said the party must challenge the federal government when they have harmful policies.
GESSNER: Believes pipelines are provincial jurisdiction. Announced while the party doesn’t support separation, it would make it easier to move forward with projects. Doesn’t like the federal government having the ability to stop projects. Said the province should be able to run themselves without federal involvement.
HOW WOULD THE PARTY MANAGE A TRANSITION INTO A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY
YOUNG: Brings up career resilience plan. Claimed the party will set goals and targets on the heaviest emitters, and continue to push their plan because they believe it is the best plan moving forward. Stated investors are careful with their emissions. Mentioned Inline Steel is building a 12-million-dollar plant that will meet environmental standards and create jobs.
GESSNER: Said he agrees with living in a “green” society, but added his truck emissions are beneficial to the environment because they supply the trees with carbon. Believes planting more trees is the solution.
HENNING: Claimed the party will not wait for the federal government to approve cleaner energy projects. Said they will increase wind, solar, and geothermal biomass projects. Said the party wants to install a 50 per cent share between renewable and non-renewable energy. Party will work toward 100 per cent clean emissions by 2050.
The 2020 Saskatchewan General Election will take place on October 26.