The two women hoping to become the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP held their first debate on Thursday in Moose Jaw.
MLA Carla Beck (Regina Lakeview) and Saskatoon lawyer Kaitlyn Harvey discussed topics ranging from reconciliation to education, affordability and job creation.
In February, NDP Leader Ryan Meili announced that he would be stepping down. Last month, Meili said he would be leaving politics and resigning from his seat in Saskatoon Meewasin as of July 1.
Earlier this week, Harvey said she intends to run for the NDP nomination in Saskatoon Meewasin.
The two candidates were first asked about funding education in the province.
Harvey said the government is spending in the wrong areas.
"We've got a lot of wasted money right now," she said. "The government is in investing in technology resources that are not going to be helping our province going into the future, wasting money on stranded assets, wasting money on inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that are risking our children's future."
Beck said support for education is what "got me into politics."
"Before the pandemic, our classrooms were crowded and had more needs than we were able to provide for, and that's only gotten worse in the last number of years," she said.
Beck said the government is not balancing funding for the private and public systems.
"In the last budget, we saw the Sask. Party government spend an additional 16 per cent on private education, privately funded education, and 1.3 [per cent additionally], for a publicly funded, publicly delivered system. This is about priorities."
On reconciliation, Beck said the issue is "far too important in our province to not get right."
"We need to go out and meet with people and find solutions with community leaders."
Harvey, who is Métis, said "we need to act" toward reconciliation.
"We need legislation that recognizes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, applies it domestically and recognizes the right of communities to decide for themselves how they want to live their lives."
Paying for priorities
A question from the audience asked how the candidates would pay for some of their priorities: by expanding Crown corporations, taxing corporations or cutting salaries?
"I am definitely open to taxing corporations," Harvey said."We have one of the lowest tax rates in the country. We have got to find ways to incentivize business, but also tax smartly."
She called Saskatchewan's taxing regime "unfair."
Beck said the government is spending "$17 billion for 1 million people," so where government money is going needs to be looked at.
"We see a government that has wasted money hand over fist on GTH [Global Transportation Hub], [Regina] bypass and P3 schools."
Beck said, "opportunity is being left on the table because it does not benefit the private donors of the Saskatchewan Party."
An audience question asked how to deal with the Saskatchewan Party's electoral success over the last 15 years.
"We have to show people that we are prepared to do the work to be the political party that can deliver and win for Saskatchewan people again," Beck said.
Harvey said the NDP has not done a good enough job of giving people "something to vote for."
She said voters care about climate change and want action.
"This narrative that Saskatchewan people don't care about climate change is false," Harvey said.
On the issue of job creation, Harvey said the government is not working with the federal government toward an effort to create jobs in a "low carbon future" and instead is "propping up natural gas plants and the oil and gas industry."
"Let's get our head out of the sand and look at the writing on the wall and work with people to create these jobs," she said.
Harvey said the province can create jobs in wind, solar and geo-thermal but lacks "the political will."
Beck said too many people in the province have been living "paycheque to paycheque."
"Five of the last seven years we have seen GDP in this province shrink," she said. "Other provinces are growing.
"We need to look at all sectors in our province — private and public, renewables and traditional energy sectors."
Beck said the NDP has to "quit ceding economic ground to the Sask. Party if we want to win and form government."
Beck and Harvey will participate in three more debates, including an in-person forum in Regina on June 13.
The NDP will elect a new leader on June 26 in Regina.