Legislative Report (24 January 2007)

NDP Caucus Puts Its Own Interests First

Life is all about making choices. You can keep on doing the same thing or you can try something new. Often, it is easier to stay the course. Change requires imagination. It requires analysis and inquiry. More often than not, the process requires a little soul searching. Change is not easy, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Early this year, the NDP cabinet had a chance to change. The issue was whether or not to re-appoint four Legislative Secretaries. These MLAs receive an extra $11,978 on top of their regular MLA salaries. The NDP decided that each of these MLAs should be re-appointed. You shouldn’t be surprised.

If you look at the 30-member NDP caucus, you find that each and every member has been given extra duties and extra pay. Now, I’m sure in the history of Saskatchewan politics, some Legislative Secretaries have performed useful functions. However, when each and every member of caucus gets some kind of extra benefit, you have to start wondering if the taxpayers are getting value for the money being spent.

It also comes down to a question of priorities. In recent government polling, the number one concern identified was Saskatchewan’s falling population. People are worried that too many of us are leaving. Is there a legislative secretary to reverse the population loss? No.

That poll also asked people about what they see as the most important task a provincial government should be performing. The number one answer—the thing people think should be the government's first priority—is recruiting more doctors and nurses. Given the repeated temporary closures of rural hospitals because of staffing shortages, this is not surprising. Is there a legislative secretary giving their full time attention to this? No. The second most important task identified in the poll is getting government to reduce waiting lists. Recent reports show Saskatchewan still has some of the longest waiting lists in Canada, and that only slow progress is being made in correcting the problem. Is there a legislative secretary for this? No.

The people of Saskatchewan are entitled to an answer on this fundamental question: Why are these legislative secretaries being appointed? Is it to have one person focus on the problems the public has identified as fundamental? In this case, I think the answer is clearly no.

The NDP is using these appointments for political purposes. Their goal is to make sure every member of their 30-member caucus gets extra pay. The NDP has looked at the polls and has made a conscious decision: take every advantage of the situation before an election is called.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.

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