Spring session of Legislature to start later, run shorter than usual

·2 min read

Regina– Shorter and later than usual.

That’s how the spring session of the Legislature is expected to play out this year. Premier Scott Moe announced on Jan. 28 that the government has written to the speaker asking that the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly commence on Tuesday, April 6, with the 2021-22 provincial budget to be tabled that day. The session will come a little after a full year of the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, throwing peoples lives, the economy and government finances into chaos.

“The new budget will be the main focus of the spring sitting,” Moe said. “It will be a budget designed to see Saskatchewan through the rest of the pandemic and then into a strong economic recovery as we get more of our population vaccinated and life returns to normal.

“The budget will make important investments in health, education, infrastructure and our economic recovery, while at the same time continuing to work toward our commitment to balance the budget by 2024.”

The spring sitting is expected to last eight weeks, concluding in late May.

The opposition New Democratic Party pointed out that April 6is several weeks later than is normal for the spring session. In a release the same day, the NDP said the short sessions means less opportunity for public scrutiny of the government’s COVID-19 response and very little time to debate any legislation besides the provincial budget.

“Bringing MLAs back to work nearly a month late does a disservice to all the people of this province,” said NDP House Leader Vicki Mowat in a release. “They are trying to use this terrible pandemic to ram through legislation with little debate, and at the same time avoid as many questions as possible on the failing COVID-19 response. Saskatchewan deserves better.”

Mowat noted that with Phase 2 of the provincial vaccine rollout anticipated to begin in April, there should be an opportunity for legislative oversight before this phase begins. If the government insists on a shorter session then the Human Services Committee must be convened to scrutinize the pandemic response and the vaccine plan which currently has significant gaps and leaves many at-risk populations behind, the NDP said.

“The Sask. Party had to be dragged kicking and screaming into an emergency session to discuss the pandemic in the summer and managed to get out of the very short fall session without introducing any new supports that would help people get through this pandemic,” said Mowat. “What is the point of delaying the start? Will they all be down in Arizona and Palm Springs? The people of Saskatchewan need help and they need answers.”

The NDP also said that if the government refused to introduce a budget before April then the finance minister must release the 3rd quarter financial report in advance of the budget. In recent years the Sask Party has presented them together.

Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury