Education, health, addictions hot topics in Leg’s final week


Daily Leg Update – Final week of the Legislature session before voters are scheduled to go to the polls this fall.

REGINA – This marks the final week of sitting at the Legislative Assembly before voters go to the polls this fall.

It promises to be an emotional and possibly even tense week in the Leg as the parties get their best digs in at one another prior to the close of business on Thursday. There are also a multitude of farewell speeches planned by departing MLAs this week.

One of those statements happened Monday as Cumberland NDP MLA Doyle Vermette gave brief remarks in which he thanked his constituents, staff and a host of others.

“To all of you who I have acknowledged, from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you, thank you, and thank you,” said Vermette, who was given a standing ovation from opposition members.

Education and health care were both hot issues to begin this final week, as they have been throughout this session. Opposition members hammered Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill after Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation members rejected a proposed deal from the Government Trustee Bargaining Committee by a 90 per cent vote last week.

Teachers are now scheduled to vote on a renewed sanctions mandate on May 15 and 16, one that could push the labour dispute into the fall. 

However, Cockrill told the Opposition Monday in Question Period that there had been talks earlier that day between the GTBC and the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee. He elaborated some more in speaking to reporters.

“What happened this morning and what we hope will continue this week is what I would say are informal discussions between the two parties’ bargaining committees. I had an opportunity to speak with (Samantha) Becotte last Thursday night after the results of the vote were released, and you know, I know her and I both want to get to an agreement that works….there was an agreement in that conversation that we wanted to make sure that if we’re going to pull our committees together from around the province —  which again, that’s kind of a neat thing about this bargaining process in a way that our two respective committees are representing communities all over the province — so we want to make sure that any time we get back to the bargaining table it’s going to be as productive of a conversation as possible, respecting the time of our committee members and really respecting the time of the public for productive discussions going forward.”

When speaking to reporters Opposition Leader Carla Beck expressed concerns about the government’s handling of the teachers’ dispute.

“Teachers have never been more united about their concerns about class size and composition. I didn’t see any contrition, any acknowledgement from the Education Minister again today, didn’t hear the Premier say anything about coming up with new proposals, which are obviously warranted at this time if we are going to steer clear of more job action.”

Beck added that “we’re going to have to see the government be willing to do something to bring something new to the table, meaningful, to bargain in good faith and try to address the class size and composition issues that, again, not only teachers have been bringing forth. We’ve seen parents come in the last weeks to address it, we’ve heard the school boards previous to this. They’re going to have to bring something new to the table.”

It was not only Education Minister Cockrill who was in the hot seat Monday. Rural and Remote Health Minister Tim McLeod got an extensive grilling from the Opposition over health care issues, including issues raised in the Duck Lake area about attracting doctors and health care staff to that area.

He was also grilled over addictions issues. One issue raised in Question Period was about an individual turned away from Wakamow Manor, a detox facility in Moose Jaw. 

Bonnie Godfrey was on hand at the Legislature to advocate for her husband Peter. It was explained he suffered from vertigo, and was turned away last October from Wakamow due to short staffing, as the facility was not accessible and they didn’t have staff to help him inside.

Complicating matters even further is that this was a third-party facility, but one that receives funding from the province. The Opposition was demanding an accountability mechanism be put in place for this situation.

“For the SHA, for the government to just wipe their hands of the issue and say this is an issue with the facility is completely unacceptable,” said Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat to reporters.

In the Assembly, McLeod acknowledged “that’s not an acceptable result for Peter or for anyone in Peter’s situation. And that’s why we have transitioned our system so that people who are seeking access don’t have to experience what Peter experienced.” 

McLeod also said “we will have an accountability system put in place” to ensure that that system of care “is appropriate and is consistent with the recovery-oriented system of care that we have announced as a government that we are pursuing.”


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