The two women who hope to become the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP held their first debate Thursday in Moose Jaw.
MP Carla Beck (Regina Lakeview) and Saskatoon lawyer Kaitlyn Harvey discussed topics ranging from reconciliation to education, affordability and job creation.
In February, NDP Leader Ryan Meili announced he would step down. Last month, Meili announced he would be leaving politics and stepping down from his Saskatoon Meewasin seat effective July 1.
Earlier this week, Harvey said she intended to run for the NDP nomination in Saskatoon Meewasin.
Both candidates were first asked about education funding in the province.
Harvey said the government was spending in the wrong areas.
“We have a lot of wasted money right now,” she said. “The government is investing in technology resources that won’t help our province move forward, wasting money on stranded assets, wasting money on inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that are jeopardizing the future of our children.
Beck said supporting education is what “got me into politics.”
“Before the pandemic, our classrooms were overcrowded and had more needs than we could meet, and it has only gotten worse in recent years,” she said.
Beck said the government was not balancing funding for the private and public systems.
“In the last budget, we saw the Saskatchewan Party government spend an additional 16% on private education, privately funded education, and 1.3% [per cent additionally], for a publicly funded, publicly delivered system. It’s a matter of priorities.”
On reconciliation, Beck said the issue is “far too important in our province not to be resolved.”
“We have to go out and meet people and find solutions with community leaders.”
Harvey, who is Métis, said “we must act” toward reconciliation.
“We need legislation that recognizes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implements it at the national level and recognizes the right of communities to decide for themselves how they want to live their lives.”
Pay for priorities
A question from the audience asked how the candidates would pay for some of their priorities: expanding crown corporations, taxing corporations, or cutting salaries?
“I’m definitely open to corporate taxation,” Harvey said. “We have one of the lowest tax rates in the country. We have to find ways to incentivize business, but also to tax smartly.”
She called Saskatchewan’s tax system “unfair.”
Beck said the government was spending “$17 billion on 1 million people”, so you have to look at where the government money is going.
“We see a government that wasted money on GTH [Global Transportation Hub], [Regina] circumvent and P3 schools.”
Beck said, “The opportunity is left on the table because it does not benefit private donors to the Saskatchewan Party.”
A question from the audience asked how to manage the electoral success of the Saskatchewan Party over the past 15 years.
“We have to show people that we are ready to put in the work to be the political party that can deliver and win again for the people of Saskatchewan,” Beck said.
Harvey said the NDP hasn’t done a good enough job of giving people “something to vote for.”
She said voters care about climate change and want action.
“This narrative that people in Saskatchewan don’t care about climate change is false,” Harvey said.
On the issue of job creation, Harvey said the government was not working with the federal government to create jobs in a “low carbon future” and instead was “supporting natural gas and the oil and gas industry”.
“Let’s get our heads out of the sand and look at the writing on the wall and work with people to create those jobs,” she said.
Harvey said the province can create jobs in wind, solar and geothermal, but it lacks “political will.”
Beck said too many people in the province were living “paycheque to paycheque.”
“Five of the last seven years we’ve seen the GDP of this province go down,” she said. “Other provinces are growing.
“We need to look at all sectors of our province — private and public sectors, renewable energy and traditional energy.
Beck said the NDP must “stop ceding economic ground to the Saskatchewan Party if we are to win and form government.”
Beck and Harvey will participate in three more debates, including an in-person forum in Regina on June 13.
The NDP will elect a new leader on June 26 in Regina.