Premier Brad Wall will be the first to tell you: the spring session at the legislature was all about the budget.
The Wall government has taken heat since the budget came out in March – over the elimination of Saskatchewan’s bus service to cuts to social programs and even libraries.
But looking back at the spring session, Wall isn’t afraid to stand by his budget.
“As difficult as the budget was, I believe it really is important that we avoid what governments of all stripes did across this country in the 80s when everyone just kind of kicked the can down the road on dealing with structural budget changes,” Wall told reporters in the legislature Wednesday.
That’s not to say those changes were easy to make.
“Any time you’re making a decision to reduce spending, or in this case we’ve ended the bus service completely, you’re affecting the lives of people directly,” he said. “When you make decisions like the STC decision, you have good people who have been working there for a long time who’ve lost their job so obviously that’s very difficult.”
In the fallout of the budget, one decision was reversed: funding to regional libraries. Wall said that his government is “acknowledging a mistake that was made.”
The province is also looking at changing the cuts to funeral services for low-income people. Originally, changes meant only basic preparation of a body and a casket or urn would be covered, leaving viewings and funeral services to the family.
“I think what we can do is move to a system where we provide the amount of money and do not prescribe how it’s spent,” Wall suggested.
But he wouldn’t comment as to where else there might be a reversal.
“As soon as you get into that discussion, which we’ve had to be sure … you start asking the question, ‘if not this then what?’” he said.
NDP interim leader Trent Wotherspoon holds no sympathy for Wall and his government.
“I hope it’s been a tough period of time for him,” Wotherspoon said, adding that the premier “wasn’t straight with people” and broke the trust of Saskatchewan people.
Wotherspoon also took issue with “callous cuts” and “unfair tax hikes”, as well as what he referred to as fiscal management throughout the economic boom years.
“(Wall’s) been the premier for 10 years,” he said. “He didn’t get the job done during the best years, he didn’t save a dime during the best years. For him to try and suggest that he’s dealing with this in a responsible fashion is ludicrous.”
Future for Wall
A challenging session, one that included a slide in popularity for Canada’s most popular premier, could have Wall reconsidering his future in Saskatchewan politics.
“I don’t have a fixed timeline in mind for me,” Wall said, dismissing the idea that the fallout of an unpopular budget has him changing his mind. “The budget wouldn’t change anything.”
And it wasn’t all bad, according to Wall. He also pointed to highlights – “substantive legislative achievements” – his government made: work on domestic violence, as pushed by the NDP, and adding the blue light option to tow trucks after a fatality during a blizzard on the highway.