Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor: ‘Brad Wall deserves better’

Saskatchewan’s finance minister Kevin Doherty responds to a Maclean’s column about ‘Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem’

Premier Brad Wall reacts to Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty's 2017 budget speech at the Legislative Building in Regina Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Mark Taylor/CP)

Premier Brad Wall reacts to Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s 2017 budget speech at the Legislative Building in Regina Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Mark Taylor/CP)

Maclean’s enlisted Tammy Robert to provide analysis (“Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem,” June 20) on the Saskatchewan Party government and Premier Brad Wall.

In our opinion, your standards are dropping.

For us, when Ms. Robert takes to Twitter, or ventures an opinion anywhere, there is always more heat than light.

I see those qualities in her Maclean’s piece.

Brad Wall a problem for Saskatchewan? Every province should have such a problem.

Since he was elected in 2007, Premier Wall has consistently been chosen as the most popular premier in Canada.

He is esteemed in Saskatchewan and across the country because he provides effective, courageous, inspiring leadership.

And while it’s true Premier Wall’s approval rating has declined recently, likely because of the difficult measures in our last budget, he remains one of the most respected political figures in Canada today.

Premier Wall would be the first to acknowledge that our government isn’t perfect. But there’s much to be proud of. Here are some facts Ms. Robert neglects to mention.

In the last decade, our government has provided $6 billion in tax relief, including the largest property tax reduction in Saskatchewan history. We dropped 112,000 people off the tax rolls completely.

Our government has paid down more than $1 billion in operating debt, saving our province more than $1 billion in interest payments.

Even with the deficits we have incurred recently, Saskatchewan remains in a strong financial position compared to other provinces, with the second lowest debt to GDP ratio in the country.

We have invested more than $20 billion in infrastructure, to fix roads and build new schools, hospitals, and long-term care homes.

We’ve hired 800 more teachers, 750 more doctors and 3,000 more nurses of every designation.

We’ve doubled funding for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and invested $350 million in a surgical wait time initiative that has taken our wait times from the longest in the country to among the shortest.

And we’ve doubled support for people living with disabilities.

In short, we have invested in quality of life, after years of underinvestment by previous governments.

Meanwhile, Premier Wall has been a forceful and passionate advocate for the industries that drive Saskatchewan’s economy and create the wealth required to ensure quality of life.

Witness his leadership in the fight against a federal carbon tax that would cripple Saskatchewan’s resource sector.

It’s true we have claimed that Saskatchewan is more confident, optimistic and prosperous on our watch – the “new” Saskatchewan Ms. Robert snidely dismisses.

This isn’t just a marketing slogan.

Since 2007, Saskatchewan has seen record investment, record exports, rising wages and our population is growing faster than it has in more than 80 years.

This is a different place today. Reasonable observers will acknowledge this.

Ms. Robert dwells at length on this year’s budget, suggesting it marks a departure from the values that have guided our government and our Premier. Not so.
Fiscal responsibility has always been a core principle of the Saskatchewan Party, as it is for the Saskatchewan people.

Our budget is in keeping with Saskatchewan values. It is fair. It is prudent. It is a budget that faces reality head on.

Since 2014, Saskatchewan’s resource revenues have declined by more than $1.3 billion—about 8 per cent of government revenues.

Oil, potash and uranium prices fell at the same time—a perfect storm. And there is no rebound in sight. We won’t see oil at $100 a barrel anytime soon.

Other governments are borrowing heavily and waiting for resource prices to recover. We decided to take a different approach.

Our government has a three-year plan to get our budget back to balance. We are controlling costs. And we have expanded and raised the provincial sales tax in a bid to shift away from taxes on income, growth and productivity toward taxes on consumption.

This year’s budget involved some difficult choices. We know that hundreds of people have been affected by those decisions, and we feel for them.

But given our fiscal challenge, it was essential to look for savings across government. And it was necessary to start at the centre of government with a 3.5 per cent wage rollback for all MLAs and ministers and nine unpaid days of leave for all political staff.

We’ve been attacked for the decisions we’ve made, and Premier Wall has borne a disproportionate share of the criticism. But I think we’re on the right path. So do others.

Writing in Maclean’s, economists Trevor Tombe and Blake Shaffer said: “In dealing with low oil prices, Alberta and Saskatchewan provide a strong contrast. In one, debt is buying time. In the other, difficult choices are being made.”

We feel confident we have made the right choices.

And we are fortunate to have someone like Brad Wall to make our case.

Near the end of her article, Ms. Robert accuses the Premier of positioning himself as the “saviour” of the province.

This is nonsense. Wherever he goes, Premier Wall takes pains to give credit for the progress in our province to those who deserve it: the people of Saskatchewan.

There is no greater champion of our citizens; there is no more ardent supporter of those who give of themselves to help others; there is no leader in this country who conducts himself with more grace, good humour and dignity than Brad Wall.

He deserves better.

And so do Maclean’s readers.

Kevin Doherty is the finance minister of the government of Saskatchewan.

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