Speaking to the Herald on Friday, the Saskatoon Massey Place MLA named three key areas the party would focus on under his leadership: Government transparency and accountability, education, and improving long-term care for seniors.
“We will be working to ensure that the Sask Party is more open and transparent,” Broten said.
“We’re not satisfied with the way that they have been operating on a number of issues. This means admitting when mistakes have occurred, recognizing that mistakes have happened and that we need to do better -- things like eliminating the Film Employment Tax Credit, things like the IPAC coverup going on at Regina, things like adding three more MLAs.
“These aren’t common-sense decisions that people like, and I think it’s important to recognize that they need to be fixed.”
(The IPAC-CO2 controversy involves reports of a possible conflict of interest and mismanagement at the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of CO2, which was originally managed by University of Regina employees and partly financed by the provincial government.)
Regarding K-12 education, Broten pointed to the problem of overly large class sizes and suggested a cap on the number of students per classroom as a possible solution.
He also criticized the Sask Party’s decision to reduce the number of educational assistants by 350, which he said would make it more difficult for students to learn.
Where seniors are concerned, the NDP leader stated that his party would maintain a strong focus on providing better long-term care for the elderly.
“We need more choices and better choices,” he said. “We need to clear people out of hospitals when they’re waiting for a bed, because that has a ripple effect into availability of beds for people who are ill. So this is an area where we can and need to do so much better.”
Broten was named Sask NDP leader last Saturday at the party’s leadership convention, beating out runner-up Ryan Meili by a slim 44-vote margin.
While he emphasized his commitment to social democratic principles during the leadership race, Broten plans to adopt a pragmatic approach going forward.
“My approach in politics and as leader is to listen to good ideas, no matter where they come from,” he said.
“Things that are working in the province, great, let’s keep them working as they should be … But when the Sask Party makes decisions that aren’t based on common sense, we’ll speak up, we’ll speak out, and offer a positive alternative.”
One area of particular concern to Prince Albert residents is the need for a second bridge across the North Saskatchewan River.
The Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Greg Dionne and local RMs have all expressed their support for the idea. But local MLAs Darryl Hickie and Victoria Jurgens have backed their party’s position that a second bridge is unnecessary, given current and projected traffic volume.
We will be working to ensure that the Sask Party is more open and transparent. - Cam Broten
Broten reiterated his party’s support for a second bridge.
“We’ve been very clear and we’ve taken a very strong position on the need for a second bridge in Prince Albert, and this needs to be a government priority, because it’s about the long-term well-being of Prince Albert, the region and the north.
“When the bridge is closed, when there are huge delays, that affects economic well-being of the area and it affects people’s ability to visit family, it affects people’s ability to get medical appointments.
“So it’s a very important project for Prince Albert, and I think that since the Sask Party has been here -- as we’ve seen by their MLAs -- the Sask Party MLAs not really speaking up for it is a real concern.”
When it comes to another issue -- the ongoing controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline -- Broten’s position is much closer to that of the government.
After Premier Brad Wall challenged him on the issue, Broten came out in support of the pipeline, citing a triple bottom line assessment that accounts for social, economic and environmental factors.
His position puts him at odds with the NDP’s federal leader Thomas Mulcair, who has sharply criticized the Keystone XL project. But Broten shrugged off the disparity.
“My job as leader of the Saskatchewan NDP is to stand up for Saskatchewan’s interests first and foremost,” he said.
“That’s what I think Saskatchewan people expect of me, and that’s what’s near and dear to my heart. We need to be thinking of what’s best for Saskatchewan, and I believe Saskatchewan people want to see our resources developed in a sustainable and a responsible manner, and that’s the type of policy that I think resonates with Saskatchewan people and that I support.”
When asked whether support of the pipeline was compatible with his stated goal of reducing carbon emissions, Broten indicated the need to strike a balance between resource development and environmental protection.
“It’s necessary that we take serious action on climate change and I recognize that,” he said. “But we need our Crown corporations and utilities to take the leadership role that they could be taking in reducing carbon.
“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunities that we can have for expansion into renewables … It’s definitely about having the determination to do it and at the same time making decisions that support the economy and allow for the sustainable and responsible development of our resources.”