REGINA — An election is in the air in Saskatchewan, as the Saskatchewan Party has put out attack ads and the NDP has made its second pre-election pledge in under a week.
The campaign hasn't officially begun for the Oct. 26 provincial vote, but it is expected to be called within weeks.
On Thursday, NDP leader Ryan Meili promised that, if elected, his government would give all drivers a $100 rebate and reduce auto insurance premiums by seven per cent.
The money would come from a Saskatchewan Government Insurance savings fund, which is designed to guard against large premium increases and has amassed more than $1 billion, Meili said.
"This is about fairness and this is about us doing our research and recognizing that there's money sitting there right now that people could use," Meili said while standing with two other candidates in front of an SGI driver exam centre in Regina.
He said the SGI savings fund has exceeded its target savings by $117 million.
"It's not going to a good use right now and it could be back in the pockets of ordinary people — that's where we think it belongs."
Meili, who will be running in his first provincial election as party leader, said the NDP wants to make people's lives more affordable. And that's why last week he pledged to bring in $25 a day childcare and create 2,200 new spaces over the next four years if he becomes premier. That plan is expected to cost $50 million in the first year.
In a statement Thursday, Premier Scott Moe's press secretary, Jim Billington, characterized the NDP's promise to use the SGI savings account as an "election slush fund" would pile millions of dollars more onto the province's estimated $2.1 billion deficit.
The Saskatchewan Party recently started running attack ads against Meili, labelling him "a risk we can’t afford."
One ad accuses Meili of wanting to spend millions of dollars, which would impact taxes and the size of the deficit. It also contains an old clip of Meili saying the province needs to consider a "modest carbon tax."
Meili said Thursday that clip came from a speech in 2013 when he previously ran for leadership of the NDP.
He said he doesn't believe an economy-wide carbon price is the "right model" for emissions reduction in the province.
"Here in Saskatchewan, we have already introduced a price on heavy polluters, a price on the highest industries. That's come from this Saskatchewan Party government. We think that's a reasonable model," Meili said.
Moe has said he believes the carbon tax is ineffective, costly to farmers and makes Saskatchewan a less competitive jurisdiction overall for companies to do business.
The province took the federal government to court over its decision to apply a carbon price onto consumers and lost at the Appeal Court last year. The case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 10, 2020
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press