Vowing to reverse the cuts of the Saskatchewan Party and implement a wide range of new social programs are highlights on the proposed agenda of Saskatchewan NDP leadership hopeful Trent Wotherspoon.
Flanked by Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt and other northern Caucus members, the Regina MLA pitched his vision for the province to a healthy crowd of support Friday afternoon. During his speech, the former interim-leader took direct aim at the Sask. Party and their “devastating…misguided” cuts. He pledged to repeal Bill 63, bulk up the province's education system and take the Crowns off the auction block.
“They will be here…longer than the Sask. Party,” he said to thunderous applause.
The leadership hopeful promised to implement a universal mental health and addiction service if he is elected leader and takes over the premier's chair in 2020.
“Far too often, that window of opportunity closes while services are delayed and too many people suffer in silence without the services that they need and there are harsh consequences,” he said, noting the program would be important in P.A. and the North.
A $15 a day universal child care promise was also made. Wotherspoon said rolling it out would take working alongside home care and child care centres.
“These are programs that literally save lives but they also have a fiscal and economic return to people in the province,” he said of his plans.
All of this would come alongside a fight for a $15 minimum wage.
When asked how to pay for these programs, Wotherspoon said besides jolting the economy through diversification, repealing tax “giveaways” the Sask. Party has recently put in place would play a part. He decried the government for wasteful spending on projects like the “$2 billion bypass debacle” in Regina.
“We believe those are the kinds of dollars that should be used to be invested in people,” he said.
Wotherspoon also wants to establish an accountability committee to “get to the bottom” of the GTH and other scandals hanging over the Sask. Party.
"We have got contracts that have been cooked up that need to be reviewed,” he added.
The Sask. Party is in the midst of their own hunt for a new leader after Premier Brad Wall announced his retirement from politics in August. There are a number of heavy-weight MLA’s looking to take over Wall’s decade-long reign, including the likes of Scott Moe and Ken Cheveldayoff. But Wotherspoon said these members record in the legislature would “speak for itself” if he had to go head-to-head with them in the next election.
“These are MLA’s that were not honest with Saskatchewan people…that sat there in cabinet…as the Sask. Party cooked up their sell-off schemes of our Crown corporations…and unfair tax hikes,” he said. “Saskatchewan people regardless of political stripe, don’t take kindly to someone who hasn’t been honest with them.”
After a 2017 budget that continues to dog the party, there has been a wave of momentum behind the NDP. To keep this growing for the next three years and gain support in the rural areas is admittedly a “rigorous and relentless” task Wotherspoon said, but is confident in himself and his team.
“My commitment, if elected leader, is to get out on the road with a listening and building tour, province-wide, to build on that momentum,” he said. “We have some serious momentum but my belief is you never take anything for granted.”
MLA Nicole Rancourt was likewise confident in Wotherspoon heading forward. She officially endorsed the former community school teacher Friday.
“When I watched him be the intern-leader, he had a great way of arranging everybody to be a team,” she said. “He knows how to draw from our strengths and he truly listens and knows we need to make Saskatchewan a better province.”
A number of area MLA’s endorsed Wotherspoon, including Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger and Cumberland - La Ronge MLA Doyle Vermette.
Party faithful will go to the polls March 3, 2018, in Regina to select a new leader for the party. Currently, Wotherspoon is faced only by Saskatoon MLA Ryan Melili. The deadline to enter the leadership race is January 12.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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