The film tax credit, tourism changes and cutbacks were some of the things opposition leader John Nilson was surprised about during the just-finished legislative session.
“Surprise” was the key word for the NDP leader in his conference call with the media Thursday afternoon at the conclusion of the spring session of the legislature. Nilson took the Saskatchewan Party government to task for what he called “surprise attacks” made on Saskatchewan people in the March budget.
“Unfortunately, a number of surprises that happened this session were things that the premier have not told anybody about during the election,” said Nilson.
Nilson cited the government’s decision “wrecking” the film employment tax credit, as well as adding three new MLAs and sweeping labour review, as examples.
The opposition leader again chided Premier Brad Wall for “talking out of both sides of his mouth” when it came to whether Saskatchewan was prospering or being forced to make cuts.
Nilson called the situation one of “prosperity” for the government, saying it was spending more than any government in the history of Saskatchewan. Nilson pointed to the government’s move to add three MLAs after the next provincial election as an example.
But it was “austerity for you and your neighbours,” said Nilson. He pointed to increases for prescription drugs for seniors and students paying more for post-secondary education as some examples, as well as “deep cuts to schools and hospitals.”
As for the opposition’s performance during the eleven-week spring session, Nilson was pleased, praising the hard work of the nine MLAs during the session.
He said the opposition was successful in holding the government to account and “didn’t let bad decisions, such as adding more politicians, stand in silence.”
He said citizens became engaged and “enraged as well,” pointing to big rallies outside the legislature and stacks of petitions delivered during the session.
Nilson told reporters he believes Wall had a particularly bad couple of weeks towards the end of the session. He accused the premier of trying to “change the channel” with distractions such as attacks on federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, as well as bringing in a new film tax credit to replace the old one, a move that Nilson said “blew up in his face.”
The new film tax credit proposal has been met with stiff opposition from the film industry.
Nilson called the whole situation a “fiasco” and added “it’s clear it’s the premier driving it.” He accused Wall of not listening to Bill Hutchinson, minister of tourism parks and culture, or to finance officials on the issue.
During the question and answer session with reporters, Nilson was asked about the conversion of Tourism Saskatchewan to a Crown corporation.
Nilson said this was again “an idea that came out of the blue” that the government did not campaign on.
The government “wiped out the business-government partnership that had been going for many years,“ said Nilson, and also “shut out a lot of the smaller tourism business that had been working very well.”
Nilson also addressed the funding crunch for museums in the province, in particular to the Western Development Museum that has been closing its doors on Mondays after the budget did not increase funding for its operations.
“Once again they’ve made some shortsighted decisions that have put these institutions in jeopardy,” said Nilson, who accused the federal government of doing the same thing with Parks Canada cuts.
“These things happening together, in many areas of the province, are just devastating for something which is an important economic activity,” said Nilson, “especially in the summertime, but also an important cultural aspect of living in Saskatchewan.”