We invited MLA candidates from all parties for Regina Elphinstone-Centre and Regina Douglas Park to participate in this written Q&A with Heritage residents. (Due to limited time, we chose not to engage candidates in Regina Lakeview, even though that constituency does include a small sliver of our neighbourhood).
Questions were partially sourced from Heritage residents, and partially from conversations within the HCA board and with other agencies that work in our neighbourhood.
The following are the responses, in full, from all of the candidates who’ve chosen to engage so far:
- Meara Conway, NDP candidate for Regina Elphinstone-Centre
- Victor Lau, Green Party candidate for Regina Douglas Park
- Nadeem Naz, Sask Party candidate for Regina Douglas Park
- Nicole Sarauer, NDP candidate for Regina Douglas Park
(NDP candidates Nicole Sarauer and Meara Conway submitted a joint response, since they were borrowing heavily from the same platform, so their responses are grouped below.)
Do you support Tristan Durocher’s call for meaningful action on the suicide crisis, particularly among young Indigenous people, in this province?
Lau: Absolutely! If I was elected to be the MLA for Regina Douglas Park, I would invite Tristan to directly help me to draft a members bill to move the provincial government to pass a Legislated Suicide Prevention Plan with particular emphasis on preventing suicides among young Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.
Naz: Suicide Prevention remains a top priority for a Saskatchewan Party government. In May of this year we released Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan. Recently, the Minister of Rural and Remote Health signed a tripartite Letter of Commitment on mental health and wellness support services for Indigenous youth in the province with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the federal government.
Sarauer & Conway: Saskatchewan New Democrats are very concerned about the unacceptably high rates of suicide in Saskatchewan. NDP MLA Doyle Vermette introduced a private member’s bill to have a province-wide suicide prevention strategy, but it was defeated by Sask. Party government. A Saskatchewan New Democratic government is committed to introducing a suicide prevention strategy, calling a public inquiry into Saskatchewan’s high suicide rates, and increasing mental health and addictions supports to reduce suicide in our province.
Regina is experiencing frighteningly high levels of homelessness right now. Do you support investing significant provincial funds into Regina’s Plan to End Homelessness?
Lau: The Green Party wants to legislate new Rent Control to help all renters. Our Green Party Government would also expand more social housing across Saskatchewan. I personally support a Housing First strategy that has been used to end homelessness in places like Medicine Hat.
Naz: The Saskatchewan Party government worked with the Poverty Reduction Advisory Group to develop the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Since the release of the strategy, the Saskatchewan Party released the new simplified income assistance program, and has provided over $34 million in funding to develop 430 housing units to address homelessness. Since 2007, the Saskatchewan Party government has invested $163 million in Regina to develop over 3700 housing units and repair another 720 homes.
Sarauer & Conway: No one in our province should be forced to go without a safe place to sleep at night. Saskatchewan New Democrats are committed to introducing a poverty reduction strategy and investing in a housing first approach to reduce homelessness in our communities.
Saskatchewan is in the middle of an overdose crisis. Would you support the establishment of a supervised injection site in Regina? Do you support increasing investment in addictions treatment?
Lau: Yes to both questions. We need to treat addicts with care and compassion. Addictions need to be treated like a health problem, not a criminal problem. A Green Party Government would expand Medicare to cover non-insured services including Mental Health and Ambulance services.
Naz: The 2020-21 Saskatchewan Party budget provided $435 million for mental health and addictions services and supports, which is an increase of 97 per cent since 2007. We were also the third province in the country to unschedule Naloxone kits, making them more widely available. This budget also includes $1.7 million to create 27 detox beds, including beds in Regina, and $500,000 is being invested this year to expand harm reduction services and supply across the province.
Sarauer & Conway: Saskatchewan New Democrats support evidence-based policies to address the opioid and crystal meth crises facing our province. The Sask. Party government has refused to fund a safe consumption site in Saskatoon, and their plans for four years of cuts and austerity will only make things much worse. New Democrats are committed to increasing supports for mental health and addictions and working to support communities to address he overdose crisis in Regina.
What ideas do you have to prevent crime and improve safety in our province?
Lau: I personally believe that Saskatchewan can quite easily lower our crime rates and improve safety for all citizens by legislating a Guaranteed Livable Income that covers everyone. By giving everyone enough to thrive, most citizens will choose to not turn to crime.
Naz: Crime prevention and public safety is an important issue for the Saskatchewan Party. That is why we have invested in Police and Crisis Teams, funded the Protection and Response Teams and provided over $5 million annually in Crime Reduction Teams.
Sarauer & Conway: New Democrats know that preventing crime and improving safety have to be rooted in reducing poverty and improving health and social outcomes for vulnerable people. The Sask. Party’s plans for four years of cuts will make crime and safety worse. New Democrats will invest in poverty reduction, gang prevention, and mental health and addictions supports to reduce the underlying causes of crime and violence to make our communities safe.
We are in the midst of a global and local reckoning around racism, colonialism and policing. Do you believe that police belong in schools in Saskatchewan? How do you define “defund police?” Do you believe police budgets should be cut in Saskatchewan – yes or no? Why?
Lau: [on police in schools] Perhaps. But this past practice could be reviewed in light of the new reckoning for changes, improvement or discontinued.
[on defining “defund police”] Simply reviewing current police budgets for re-allocation to further help the idea of creating more community safety and support.
[on cutting police budgets] Maybe. I am all for full review of current police budgets to allow for more community input and to gather community support towards creating the ‘policing’ that citizens truly want. The police should support these ongoing reviews. We can do so much better, especially for people who require wellness checks.
Naz: I think it is important for police to engage throughout their communities and I believe that the Community Resource Officer Program has been successful. The Saskatchewan Party has taken steps to address police oversight, and while there is more work to do to provide independent police oversight, the Saskatchewan Party is up to the task. The Saskatchewan Party does not believe that police budgets should be cut in Saskatchewan and our record of increasing funding to the RCMP, municipalities and municipal policing grants prove that.
Sarauer & Conway: People have the right so feel safe in their home, in their communities, and when they’re interacting with the police. Saskatchewan New Democrats voted against the Sask. Party’s wholly inadequate police oversight bill that didn’t even establish independent police civilian oversight of police agencies. Saskatchewan New Democrats are committed to increasing funding for frontline mental health and addictions agencies and consulting community members on implementing a truly independent civilian-led police oversight.
What ideas do you have to slow down climate change and ensure a just transition toward renewable energy?
Lau: Saskpower needs to be directed by the new provincial government to aggressively lower carbon emissions as immediately as possible by investing heavily in paying citizens/businesses more for locally produced Renewable Energy. By closing down our coal power plants, we can use a Guaranteed Livable Income plus re-training funds to ensure workers a path towards greener jobs. We should also promote changing diets towards more veganism to lower the emissions from animal agriculture too.
Naz: The Saskatchewan Party has committed to produce up to 50 per cent of our power generation from renewables by 2030. This will contribute to SaskPower’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 40 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Prairie Resilience climate change plan will reduce emissions by 12 million tonnes by 2030 without an ineffective carbon tax.
Sarauer & Conway: Saskatchewan people care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and Saskatchewan New Democrats share that concern. Scott Moe and the Sask. Party have spent more than a decade doing nothing to address climate change while fighting climate action every step of the way and allowing greenhouse gas emissions to grow. Saskatchewan is the second worst jurisdiction in the country when it comes to energy efficiency, and we have the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita.
Saskatchewan New Democrats will move to 50% renewable power generation by 2030 and 100% power generation from non-emitting sources by 2050. We are also committed to supporting workers adapt to a changing world of work with supports for tuition and training.
Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is the lowest in the country and many families in our community are struggling to put food on the table. Do you support raising the minimum wage to $15?
Lau: I am not opposed to a $15 minimum wage. However, a better plan is legislating a Guaranteed Livable Income of $2000/month or higher. Some people will not find full-time Employment. Others only part-time. Many will have no employment due to automation. By having a Guaranteed Livable Income, everyone will have income support with or without a job.
Naz: The minimum wage in Saskatchewan is indexed to the Consumer Price Index. The Saskatchewan Party has implemented tax reductions, which means that people keep more of the money they earn. The Saskatchewan Party also removed 112,000 low income people from the provincial tax rolls. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has reported that, in Saskatchewan, a $15 minimum wage would disproportionately hurt young workers, potentially resulting in between 7,500 and 17,000 youth job losses.
Sarauer & Conway: Yes. One of the Saskatchewan New Democrats’ top priorities is bringing the minimum wage up to $15/hour in our first term. Under the Sask. Party, Saskatchewan has the lowest minimum wage in the country, and the $0.13 raise that minimum wage workers is letting people down. An NDP government is committed to a $15/hour minimum because we believe that people working full time shouldn’t struggle to make ends meet.