‘A challenging session’

Warren Michelson, MLA for Moose Jaw North, and Greg Lawrence, MLA for Moose Jaw Wakamow in Moose Jaw. Lisa Goudy/Times-Herald

Spring session concludes and Moose Jaw MLAs reflect on the past months

Moose Jaw MLAs Warren Michelson and Greg Lawrence believe the 2017 spring session was the toughest one since the Sask. Party formed government in 2007.

The spring session concluded on Thursday. Prior to this year’s budget, the government was faced with a $1.2 billion deficit as well as low resource prices.

“It was the most challenging session we’ve had so far,” said Michelson, MLA for Moose Jaw North. “We’re servicing a debt that’s two generations old and we don’t want to contribute to that.”

With a difficult budget that saw PST go up and many services get their funding cut, Michelson and Lawrence said the focus is to look at the long-term effects of the provincial budget. They added their party has a plan to get back to balance in three years.

“I think we went through it satisfactorily,” said Michelson. “Obviously there were some challenges and some people are challenged by it, but … it’s a long-term budget for the province that will be better for Saskatchewan in the long run.”

On the same day the session concluded, five SEIU-West members went to Michelson’s office to deliver a petition with 145 signatures asking representatives to ensure workers are not asked to take a wage cut and to restore the corporate tax to pre-2017 levels.

Premier Brad Wall previously told media that he set a target to cut overall public sector worker compensation by 3.5 per cent.

“We can’t afford this. It’s not fair to anybody,” said Deirdre Wilson, a home care worker in the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR). “Things are going up. The cost of living is going up and it’s not just going to be us union workers that are going to lose.”

This is because workers will have less to spend, she continued, and less will be spent at local businesses.

“We are the ones that enable them to stay in their homes and to live life to the best of their ability,” said Twyla Wood, fellow home care worker in the FHHR. “We’re dealing with shut-in, lonely people where we’re the highlight of their day. We work hard providing the best possible care for them.”

They added that they were not pleased with several aspects of the provincial budget.

Michelson and Lawrence said there were a lot of tough decisions in the budget. When asked what they would say to anyone struggling right now, Michelson said, “My heart goes out to them.”

“It’s not easy, but I think in the long-term, what is best for the people of Saskatchewan is what we have to look for and make those decisions,” he continued. “We did in fact increase the social services budget to look after the most needed, the poor people of the province … We’ve also lowered the income tax threshold for low-income people.”

“Any time there are cuts, they are very difficult decisions for us to make any time it affects people right up front,” added Lawrence, MLA for Moose Jaw Wakamow.

For more on this story, see the May 19, 2017 print or online edition of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald.