Transcript : Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten.

Updating Prince Albert area residents with the latest from the Saskatchewan NDP, leader Cam Broten spoke with the Daily Herald on Wednesday.

 

Complementing a story set to appear in Thursday’s print edition, the following is a full transcript of the Daily Herald’s interview, with no edits aside from the elimination of redundancies such as false starts.

Click HERE for the story that resulted from the following interview.

RE: Premier Brad Wall cautioning that the 2014 budget will include some “belt-tightening”

“Well, this is an admission that this government hasn’t been doing the job it needs to be doing in meeting the needs of Saskatchewan people. That really ties into the focus that we’ve had in this sitting and over the past year in some very key areas, where Saskatchewan people have been holding up their end of the bargain — their end of the work in what they’ve been doing, but this government has been dropping the ball.

“I think specifically of seniors care and health care, when we talk about crowded hospitals and understaffed care facilities. When we think of education, the need to put better resources into the classroom to help teachers and ensure students receive the one on one attention that they need.

“Then, the comments tie into the need to better diversify the economy so that the boom isn’t over, so that the prosperity we have can carry on if we take the right steps now.”

 

RE: Have your leadership expectations been met during your first year?

“It’s been a busy year and a good year and a productive one. The leadership race was a very important time for our party in terms of turning the corner and doing the work that we need to do as a party in order to regain the trust of Saskatchewan people and being a credible, viable option that’s relevant here in the province. So, that was a very good time and a productive time, and we carried on that momentum through the spring sitting that we had and the fall sitting by having a very clear focus on things that matter to Saskatchewan people. The strong focus on seniors care, education and the need to better diversify the economy.

“When we think of education and seniors care, you know, things have been getting worse under this government because of the decisions it has been making, and that has to stop, and is why we’re voicing the concerns that Saskatchewan people share with us.

“It’s been a very eventful year, lots going on for us in the NDP opposition and lots going on in the province.”

 

RE: Direction has changed or altered

“We’ve had a very clear focus on the areas of better education for our kids and the need to better diversify the economy, but we’re listening to Saskatchewan people. We’re out in the province travelling, hearing what concerns are.

“Our role is to, yes, hold government to account, and to highlight where this government isn’t doing the job that it should be, but it’s also to come forward with good ideas and solutions, and we’ve been very constructive in that approach, in balancing the two requirements that an opposition must do.

“I think of Howard’s Law — a piece of legislation that I brought forward that created Canada’s first mandatory registry for public buildings with asbestos — something that would greatly improve the health and safety of many workers and residents, but also in the issues that we’re talking about.

“When we look at seniors care, for example, we’ve called for the reinstatement of minimum care standards, because it was this government that removed the requirement of at least so many hours of care, per resident per day — And, we say, that’s part of the problem, here, and that needs to be reinstated. I think, in the fall sitting that we had, one family’s story we highlighted — the Phillips family — was actually paying about $1,000 a week to have a private care provider go into a hospital just to ensure that their mother had help getting to the bathroom, help with her meals — the real basics. So, under this government we’ve seen an erosion of the base level of care that patients and residents can expect, and that’s wrong. That’s moving in the wrong direction and we’ve been calling for improvements.”

 

RE: $10 Million Urgent Issues Action Fund, as well as the additional $3.8 million top-up announced on Dec. 6.

“The one-time payment fund that this government came forward with isn’t addressing the real causes of why the quality of care is going down.

“CEOs have identified this, that the one-time payment program won’t actually address the real root causes of the poorer quality of care that many residents are experiencing. And, again, to me that indicates a dismissive approach by this government where concerns are raised where they don’t take them seriously, they don’t take the right steps to address them.

“In the spring sitting where we first started talking about stories that people were sharing with us about seniors care, this government said there was no cause for alarm — that everything was fine. No need for attention here was sort of the sentiment expressed. Well, we continue to pressure based on what people were saying to us, and they agreed to do the CEO tour, and the report that came out from that tour just really confirmed the things that families have been saying all along. But, again, instead of looking at chronic short-staffing, looking at how the removal of minimum care standards have caused a deterioration of the quality of care … You know, we saw the one-time payment plan that will address a few things — call buttons that are not working, for example — but won’t actually address the chronic short-staffing that is at the root of the big decline in care for so many people.”

 

RE: Victoria Jurgens telling the Daily Herald “I keep pointing out the need for a new hospital," and the NDP’s take on the current over-crowded state of the Victoria Hospital.

“First I’ll comment on the remarks by the local MLA, and it doesn’t really match up with the reality that I’ve seen in the legislature and the decisions that I’ve seen coming from this government, because Prince Albert just has not been on the radar of this government on so many issues, and the hospital is one example, reductions in health-care workers and the loss of jobs is another example — the complete ignoring of the bridge needs is another example.

“You know, I think it’s really concerning that you don’t have a voice at the cabinet table from Prince Albert and the surrounding communities. It’s for that reason, as an NDP opposition, that we’ve very strongly been championing the concerns of the city, and of the region and the north, because the priorities and the concerns of the north are not on this government’s radar at all, it seems.

“Specifically to the hospital issue that you raise, you know, this ties into how this government isn’t taking the right steps to address the overcrowding that we have in hospitals. One, there’s very often not enough staff in hospitals to ensure that the cleaning is being done as it ought to, that patients have the right amount of care that they need — That is certainly a concern that I’ve heard from many frontline health-care workers.

“But also, this government’s not taking the right steps to ensure that people aren’t staying in the hospital longer than they need to — that they have the right supports in the community for home care, for mental health services — those are issues I’m thinking about.

“In the fall sitting, we brought forward the situation of a retired RN named Suzanne Stewart who was in a hospital, not in Prince Albert, but it’s an example of the state of hospitals under this government. You know, she had to clean her own room because of what she described the room as being filthy dirty. I’ve heard that story and that similar experience from many people throughout the province.”

It’s been a busy year and a good year and a productive one. The leadership race was a very important time for our party in terms of turning the corner and doing the work that we need to do as a party in order to regain the trust of Saskatchewan people and being a credible, viable option that’s relevant here in the province. Cam Broten

 

RE: Diversification

“We need to have that longer view. I’m hugely optimistic about the future of natural resources in the province. We’re blessed with a great abundance of wealth by the things that in the earth of Saskatchewan, or grow from the earth. But, this government’s approach has been to put all of its eggs in one basket, and while I’m very optimistic about the future of the resource sector, we also have to think about how we can use the wealth that we have now to take the right steps to ensure that we have prosperity over the long run, so that it’s sustainable, and so we have, instead of all our eggs in one basket we have more eggs in more baskets.

“That means taking the right steps when it comes to education and ensuring everyone is fully engaged in the economy and receiving the education that they need and deserve, regardless of what part of the province they’re living in.

“It also means taking the right steps in the economic policy decisions this government is making, and I’ll use the example of the film industry. This government chased the film industry out of the province for no good reason other than a real ideological one, and through that decision, you know, it’s costing the Saskatchewan economy and economic benefit of $45 million each and every year.

“That’s not a smart growth plan. That’s one of how to diversify the economy in a stronger and better way. That part, absolutely a huge part of the missteps that this government has taken.

“There was one business commentator who described this government’s economic track record as two steps forward and three steps back, and as it relates directly to the Prince Albert experience, when we were in the fall sitting of legislature talking about the need for a second bridge in Prince Albert, we had the government say, well, if there is economic growth in P.A., if things are going well, if, if, if — that’s not the approach that people in Prince Albert believe in. Prince Albert is a great community, a great city and an amazing part of the province with a great future where there will be economic growth and good things will happen. But, the tendency of this government to not pay attention to Prince Albert’s needs is what will not serve the city’s interests well in the long run.”

 

RE: City council advocating for a proactive rather than reactive bridge approach, where a new bridge should drive economic prosperity and not the other way around.

“It’s important to listen to local elected officials — city councillors and the mayor, who know the reality in the city and can speak to that, about how this would spur and encourage even more growth, and that’s very important to note.

“That’s why we’ve been providing the voice of Prince Albert in the legislature in a way that the local MLAs have not been.

“Prince Albert needs a voice in Regina, they don’t need Regina’s voice brought to P.A., and that’s the tendency of what the two local MLAs are most fond of doing.”

 

RE: Prince Albert Pulp Mill — is the government doing everything it can to push forward such large-scale economic efforts?

“Well, the line of communication needs to occur, and what’s important is to set a track record and a climate within the province where the private sector knows that there is support and knows that there is a partner that can be trusted.

“When we see a business commentator say that this government’s approach to the economy is two steps forward three steps back, that doesn’t build the type of confidence that many in the private sector need to see and rely on.

“It’s important to have the right communication, it’s important to have the right planning taking place.

“It’s also important to have the right relationship between the provincial level of government and the municipal, in order that the co-operation is working, because if this government isn’t listening closely and responding to the needs identified by the local experts in the community and on the ground, that is concerning.

“It’s the broader discussion on how we diversify the economy, and ensuring we’re looking long term.”

 

RE: The Saskatchewan Party’s push for privatization (or P3s), such as with laundry services.

“I’m really concerned about the 100 jobs that will be lost out of P.A. and what this means for the community — what it means for these 100 families who are looking at unemployment or looking at real changes in their well-being because of this decision, and what it means for the community larger, for all those people who are paying mortgages, paying rent, buying groceries and buying cars in the community — that’s a big concern.

“It’s a question of how we are providing the services the public need and expect in a way that is the best possible way.

“If we look at the issue of P3s as it relates to education, for example, we have a – and we see this in a similar way along the decision of this government to end the laundry services in P.A. – where we don’t have all of the facts and the details brought on the table and talked about in an open and transparent way, so people can see the facts.

“When we look at their plan to build new schools through the P3 approach, if we look at other jurisdictions in Alberta, in Nova Scotia, where they’ve gone down this path with P3 schools, we’ve seen that it costs more per school, we’ve seen that the type of buildings that are built haven’t met local communities’ needs, and we’ve seen delays in the length of construction of what could occur otherwise.

“In that vein, in the desire to have more transparency and accountability, we actually, in the fall sitting, brought forward a private member’s bill brought forward by Trent Wotherspoon — the deputy leader — on the P3 Accountability and Transparency Act, which said, if you’re going down this path, well let’s give Saskatchewan people all the facts. Let’s put everything on the table, let’s fully disclose the full cost, including the cost of credit over all the years, let’s ensure a watchdog is in place to keep the process running smoothly and properly and above-board, and let’s ensure for any project to go ahead, that there are at least three bids so the healthy competition is there.

“Sadly, and surprisingly, the government voted against this, because it was simply saying this should be about common sense, this should be about Saskatchewan people knowing all the facts and making the decision based on that.

“That ties in also, too, the decision about laundry services, about the details and the cost and how that affects communities with big layoffs, like 100 in P.A.”

 

RE: Priorities in 2014

“We will continue to focus on these key areas, but our ears are always open to the things that we’re hearing, and it’s not like we’re only focusing on these three areas. We’re continuing to bring forward all of the concerns that people have, and cover all of the bases that need to be covered.

“But, in the midst of all that, having this very clear focus on these three areas — of better seniors care, better education and better economic diversification, that is what we will continue to talk about.”

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