The provincial NDP released its full platform at a campaign event in Saskatoon on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters following a speech to supporters at TCU Place, party leader Cam Broten took aim at Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party for failing to produce a budget before the election.
“I challenge Mr. Wall: our plan is out there, our priorities are out there. Our platform is out there, which is costed, which is verified. Where is his budget? It’s there somewhere. He’s just hiding it from Saskatchewan people, and I say Saskatchewan people deserve a lot more than just taking him at his word,” he said.
NDP officials said they used data from the government’s own third-quarter report to inform their projections. They also highlighted that the platform was reviewed by Carleton University economist Andrew Jackson, who also serves as a senior policy advisor at the Broadbent Institute.
The platform calls for $178 million in cuts during the first year to what the party describes as wasteful spending. Most of that money would come from across-the-board reductions in the use of outside consultants and contractors by the various ministries. The platform goes on to claim that over $200 million in savings would be found in each of the subsequent three years.
Broten said the party was looking to reduce money spent on consultants by 70 per cent. He said that meshes with a provincial auditor’s report finding no paperwork documenting why 70 per cent of the outside consultants used by the province were hired.
Broten said the auditor’s findings also showed a lack of follow-up when it comes to evaluating consultants’ work.
“90 per cent of the time there’s no reporting mechanism about what’s being done. When you have the provincial auditor making that kind of damning statement about this government’s approach to outside consultants, I think that’s pretty telling,” Broten said.
Of the savings proposed from spending cuts, about $120 million would be redirected to other areas in the first year.
The platform’s biggest individual promise is for $106 million over four years to hire more frontline healthcare workers, including 400 staff to improve home care. The platform also includes promises for 300 more teachers to be hired over four years, along with another 300 educational assistants.
In a further nod to seniors, the platform promises to phase in a $50-a-month increase to the Seniors’ Income Plan over four years.
In the first year, the platform calls for a total budget of $14.4 billion in spending, with a deficit of $189.4 million. The document projects surpluses starting in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Broten said the party was committed to tax cuts for all but the top three per cent of earners — that group would see a tax increase.
The platform also promises to eliminate the two per cent small business tax that applies to firms with at least three employees “when Saskatchewan’s fiscal reality improves.”
Broten said although the timeline on that pledge was open-ended, it was meant to highlight for voters that the initiative is a priority for the party.