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Sask Party, NDP release election platforms

Saskatchewan’s two main parties have released their platforms detailing new spending, and sometimes balanced budgets.

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The Saskatchewan Party and NDP have released their platforms as voters come closer to election day.

Those who believe less is more might prefer the Saskatchewan Party. They promise $851.8 million in new spending and to eliminate the deficit by 2024-25. 

The NDP platform will cost $2.1 billion over 5 years and will run a deficit of continued deficits even in 2024-25. The party says it will hire an “expert panel” to chart a return budget to balance at some undetermined date.

“Deep cuts that hurt people and our economy are a bad idea at any time, but during a pandemic they are downright dangerous,” said NDP Leader Meili.

“We know that across Saskatchewan, communities are pulling together to fight COVID-19, but Scott Moe has chosen a path that will make life tougher for families. It doesn’t have to be that way. The people of Saskatchewan have a choice. They can choose an NDP government that puts people first.”

New measures implemented by the party would include restoring the film employment tax credit, removing the PST from construction labour, reducing the craft beer tax, and taxing people with a net worth of $15 million or a more an additional one per cent. They also want to reduce classroom sizes and resurrect the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, a former crown corporation that was a perennial money-loser.

“Scott Moe’s old ideas aren’t working for ordinary families. More Sask. Party cuts aren’t the way to rebuild our province,” Meili said. “We need to invest in people. Invest in health care. In seniors. In our kids’ schools. We need to diversify our economy and get families and our province moving forward again.”

As Premier Moe announced the Sask Party platform, he boasted of the latest Statistics Canada employment figures that showed 8,700 new jobs in Saskatchewan in September.

“The question in this election is – who do you trust to lead a strong economic recovery in Saskatchewan?“ Moe said. “If you compare the Saskatchewan Party’s plan and our record to the NDP’s, the answer is pretty clear.”

Many of the Sask Party plans were announced prior to the election call. Urgent care centres were announced for Regina and Saskatoon for $15 million each, designed to relieve hospital emergency rooms. A crystal meth treatment centre opened in Estevan and $1.2 million for suicide prevention funding was promised.

Many school building school renovation projects are forthcoming and schools will receive $51 million in pandemic support. Many of the education, health, and highways announcements were part of the broader $7.5 billion two-year capital investment plan.

“We have a plan to make life more affordable – for students, seniors, families, homeowners and everyone,” Moe said.

“Our plan means a strong economy, strong communities and strong families, and together, that means a strong economy, strong communities and strong families, and together, that means a strong Saskatchewan.”

Since the election call, the Saskatchewan Party has promised a 10 per cent rebate this coming year on power bills at a cost of $261.6 million. It will also eliminate small business taxes through 2022, climbing to one per cent in 2023, and two per cent in 2024.

In addition, the Sask Party would add 750 licensed home-based child care spaces, higher childcare provider grants, and tax credits for children’s activities. Financial support for children with autism and diabetes would be expanded. 

Seniors would get a 50 per cent cut in ambulance fees, and no ambulance fees from hospital to hospital. The Seniors Income Plan would rise from $270 to $360 per month. An additional 300 care aids would be hired for long term and home care.

Community rinks and the Royal Canadian Legion would get more provincial help. The Saskatchewan Advantage scholarship would rise to $750 per year. 

Trade offices will open in Tokyo, Singapore and New Delhi, focusing on agricultural exports.

Twenty actions for 2020 include growth of the resource economy, lowering interprovincial trade barriers, increasing Indigenous employment, reducing carbon emissions in power production, and developing small nuclear reactors.

Thirty goals for 2030 include growing the population to 1.4 million people and creating 100,000 new jobs. More canola and pulse crop processing, increasing oil production by 25 per cent, doubling the forestry sector, and tripling the tech sector are also benchmarks. Ten thousand kilometres of highways will be built or upgraded and surgical wait times will be reduced to three months.

The Sask Party has a few cards it still holds to its chest. Three additional initiatives will be announced in the coming days. Moe said the 50-page platform will be sent to all voters.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Correspondent for the Western Standard

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Canada-Europe take action over COVID variant Omicron

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

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With the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC) named Omicron in South Africa, the Canadian government is taking steps to limit the risk to Canadians.

Travellers arriving from countries of concern within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine pending negative COVID-19 tests. Countries of concern include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

On Friday, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government will impose five measures in an effort to limit its spread in Canada.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam took to Twitter on Saturday to share her concerns over the VOC.

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” wrote Tam.

The WHO has labelled Omicron as a variant of concern due to its high number of mutations and reports that early evidence suggests it could be more infectious than other variants.

Meanwhile, during a news conference on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the Omicron variant.

One case was identified in Brentwood, a town in southeastern England while the other case was located in the central city of Nottingham. Both individuals are linked and had travelled from southern Africa. The two individuals are self-isolating along with their households and authorities are working on contact tracing.

Johnson confirmed travellers arriving in England will be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative test result is provided. Those that test positive for the new variant will have to self-isolate, along with any of their close contacts, for 10 days regardless of vaccine status.

He also said masks will be required in shops and other public spaces and indicated they will “boost the booster campaign.”

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defences,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the new rules will be reviewed in three weeks when scientists know more about the variant.

On Friday, the British government added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to the country’s travel red list. By Saturday, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were also added to the list.

Other countries are adding restrictions on travellers coming from various southern African countries including the US, Japan, Brazil, and Australia while cases have also been reported in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic have also reported suspected cases related to travellers arriving from South Africa.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Road closures as British Columbians brace for more rain

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday.

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As BC braces for additional rain, the government has ‘proactively’ closed a number of highways for travel.

“We are actively responding, monitoring and assessing the many highway closures due to flooding and will continue to do so as we work with local and emergency service partners,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Safety is our top priority while we deal with a rapidly changing and difficult situation.”

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday. The ministry said the time and duration of the closures will be weather-dependent.

“The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storms, and more heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk,” said the ministry in a press release.

“The closures of these three highways will be re-evaluated on Sunday morning, with the highways reopened when it is safe to do so.”

The release said Highway 1 will be closed between Popkum and Hope on Saturday afternoon as BC Hydro plans a reservoir release, “crucial to protect the Jones Lake Reservoir, which is also being affected by the heavy rains.”

The release explains the reservoir release will discharge water towards areas of Highway 1 that were affected during the November 14 storm.  

“This additional flow – combined with the increased precipitation and already high stream flows – poses a risk of impact to Highway 1 in the Laidlaw area.”

The ministry is bracing for further damage to Highway 1 in this area and said the reopening time cannot be determined at this stage but will be assessed by crews “when it is safe to do so.”

Highway 7 between Mission and Hope remains open with travel restrictions in place. Essential purposes for travel are defined in the travel restrictions order through the Emergency Program Act

Weather statements are in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Squamish to Whistler and the Sunshine Coast into next week. Storms are expected to bring more rain which has resulted in high streamflow advisories for all regions of the coast by the River Forecast Centre.

Ongoing road and travel updates are available on the ministry’s website.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Bill to aid jurors traumatized by testimony up for vote … again

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling.”

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For the third time in three years, legislators will attempt to pass an aid bill for jurors traumatized by graphic testimony in criminal courts.

“When we ask citizens to be a juror we don’t ask them to be a victim,” said Quebec Senator and bill sponsor Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

“There is no excuse not to adopt that bill.” 

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling,” said Blacklock’s Reporter.

Two identical bills, S-207 and C-417, lapsed in the last two Parliaments.

“That kind of bill should be a government bill, not a private bill,” said Boisvenu.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of private interest. It’s a matter of national interest.”

In 2017, the Commons justice committee recommended the Criminal Code amendment after hearing testimony from former jurors who said they quit jobs, suffered marriage breakdown and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being compelled to watch crime scene videos and hear testimony from coroners.

“Everyone’s mental health matters,” Ontario Senator Lucie Moncion said Thursday.

“Yet from a legal point of view, jurors are part of a special category of people who are denied complete health care. The secrecy rule prohibits a juror from disclosing information related to deliberations to anyone including a health care professional. This needs to change.”

Moncion was a juror in a 1989 murder trial and said the experience left her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“They show you the whole autopsy,” said Moncion.

“It was very difficult. This is still very difficult for me.”

Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a member of the 2017 Commons justice committee that recommended reforms, said delays were inexcusable.

“It should have been a no-brainer for the government to have brought this bill forward,” said Cooper indicating the bill has been “studied thoroughly.”

“There have literally been no arguments tendered against this piece of legislation.”

Cooper, in 2019, sponsored a similar bill – C-417 – that lapsed. MPs at the time noted U.S. jurors were free to discuss their experience with friends, family, psychiatrists or media.

“In the United States once a trial is over jurors are generally free to discuss the events of the trial and jury deliberations unless a specific court order bars them from doing so,” said Ontario Liberal MP Arif Virani, then-parliamentary secretary for justice.

“What that means is that jurors in the United States can talk with nearly anyone about juror deliberations including a talk show host on national television or across the Internet. This approach, which offers limited protection for juror privacy, is significantly different from the Canadian model.”

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