Letter to the editor: ‘Brad Wall deserves better’

Saskatchewan’s finance minister Kevin Doherty responds to a Maclean’s column about ‘Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem’

Premier Brad Wall reacts to Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty's 2017 budget speech at the Legislative Building in Regina Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Mark Taylor/CP)

Premier Brad Wall reacts to Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s 2017 budget speech at the Legislative Building in Regina Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Mark Taylor/CP)

Maclean’s enlisted Tammy Robert to provide analysis (“Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall problem,” June 20) on the Saskatchewan Party government and Premier Brad Wall.

In our opinion, your standards are dropping.

For us, when Ms. Robert takes to Twitter, or ventures an opinion anywhere, there is always more heat than light.

I see those qualities in her Maclean’s piece.

Brad Wall a problem for Saskatchewan? Every province should have such a problem.

Since he was elected in 2007, Premier Wall has consistently been chosen as the most popular premier in Canada.

He is esteemed in Saskatchewan and across the country because he provides effective, courageous, inspiring leadership.

And while it’s true Premier Wall’s approval rating has declined recently, likely because of the difficult measures in our last budget, he remains one of the most respected political figures in Canada today.

Premier Wall would be the first to acknowledge that our government isn’t perfect. But there’s much to be proud of. Here are some facts Ms. Robert neglects to mention.

In the last decade, our government has provided $6 billion in tax relief, including the largest property tax reduction in Saskatchewan history. We dropped 112,000 people off the tax rolls completely.

Our government has paid down more than $1 billion in operating debt, saving our province more than $1 billion in interest payments.

Even with the deficits we have incurred recently, Saskatchewan remains in a strong financial position compared to other provinces, with the second lowest debt to GDP ratio in the country.

We have invested more than $20 billion in infrastructure, to fix roads and build new schools, hospitals, and long-term care homes.

We’ve hired 800 more teachers, 750 more doctors and 3,000 more nurses of every designation.

We’ve doubled funding for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and invested $350 million in a surgical wait time initiative that has taken our wait times from the longest in the country to among the shortest.

And we’ve doubled support for people living with disabilities.

In short, we have invested in quality of life, after years of underinvestment by previous governments.

Meanwhile, Premier Wall has been a forceful and passionate advocate for the industries that drive Saskatchewan’s economy and create the wealth required to ensure quality of life.

Witness his leadership in the fight against a federal carbon tax that would cripple Saskatchewan’s resource sector.

It’s true we have claimed that Saskatchewan is more confident, optimistic and prosperous on our watch – the “new” Saskatchewan Ms. Robert snidely dismisses.

This isn’t just a marketing slogan.

Since 2007, Saskatchewan has seen record investment, record exports, rising wages and our population is growing faster than it has in more than 80 years.

This is a different place today. Reasonable observers will acknowledge this.

Ms. Robert dwells at length on this year’s budget, suggesting it marks a departure from the values that have guided our government and our Premier. Not so.
Fiscal responsibility has always been a core principle of the Saskatchewan Party, as it is for the Saskatchewan people.

Our budget is in keeping with Saskatchewan values. It is fair. It is prudent. It is a budget that faces reality head on.

Since 2014, Saskatchewan’s resource revenues have declined by more than $1.3 billion—about 8 per cent of government revenues.

Oil, potash and uranium prices fell at the same time—a perfect storm. And there is no rebound in sight. We won’t see oil at $100 a barrel anytime soon.

Other governments are borrowing heavily and waiting for resource prices to recover. We decided to take a different approach.

Our government has a three-year plan to get our budget back to balance. We are controlling costs. And we have expanded and raised the provincial sales tax in a bid to shift away from taxes on income, growth and productivity toward taxes on consumption.

This year’s budget involved some difficult choices. We know that hundreds of people have been affected by those decisions, and we feel for them.

But given our fiscal challenge, it was essential to look for savings across government. And it was necessary to start at the centre of government with a 3.5 per cent wage rollback for all MLAs and ministers and nine unpaid days of leave for all political staff.

We’ve been attacked for the decisions we’ve made, and Premier Wall has borne a disproportionate share of the criticism. But I think we’re on the right path. So do others.

Writing in Maclean’s, economists Trevor Tombe and Blake Shaffer said: “In dealing with low oil prices, Alberta and Saskatchewan provide a strong contrast. In one, debt is buying time. In the other, difficult choices are being made.”

We feel confident we have made the right choices.

And we are fortunate to have someone like Brad Wall to make our case.

Near the end of her article, Ms. Robert accuses the Premier of positioning himself as the “saviour” of the province.

This is nonsense. Wherever he goes, Premier Wall takes pains to give credit for the progress in our province to those who deserve it: the people of Saskatchewan.

There is no greater champion of our citizens; there is no more ardent supporter of those who give of themselves to help others; there is no leader in this country who conducts himself with more grace, good humour and dignity than Brad Wall.

He deserves better.

And so do Maclean’s readers.

Kevin Doherty is the finance minister of the government of Saskatchewan.


Letter to the editor: ‘Brad Wall deserves better’

  1. Wow of course he defends Wall, as Finance minister he is just as much to blame for the mess we are in. The fact that most of SK people have been won over by Brad’s charming personality does not mean he is a good Premier. And the fact there has been no explanation for the crooked land deals is ridiculous. The SK party took from the poor to give to the rich and made budget decisions based on a 30 year old study. And now Wall is trying to distract people from the awful budget by picking a fight with the Feds over “carbon tax”. Wake up SK people they are selling our children’s future.

    • I agree, Shannon. I would add that as a Saskatchewan citizen I am embarrassed by our government, but I believe that national readers are smart enough to consider the source of this opinion piece. I could provide rebuttal for all of Doherty’s arguments, but like so many others, I am getting really tired of fighting this bunch, and it’s a beautiful prairie summer day, so I’ll just mention a couple of FACTS. Doherty says “We’ve doubled funding for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and invested $350 million in a surgical wait time initiative that has taken our wait times from the longest in the country to among the shortest”. Okay. In reality, we have 300+ stranded cancer patients who have no way of getting to their treatment thanks to the Sask Party killing the STC (our provincial transportation company). Also, two members of my family have been on surgical waiting lists for ten months now. Nothing to crow about, in my opinion.

      • It would be foolish to think any budget is going to make everyone happy and with the loss in revenues experienced by Saskatchewan, I really believe Brad Wall handed down a fair budget. Our waiting times for surgeries HAVE been reduced in a huge part by giving access to the private MRI clinics which has substantially reduced wait times. I’ve had two surgeries in the last 3 years and the longest I waited was 11 days – unheard of in years past. As for the “STC’s terminal illness” (pun intended) – this money-losing transportation company still left a list as long as your arm of areas that didn’t have bus service at ANY time so access to buses was always non-existent in a lot of areas. The idea that public transportation is going to be available to everyone in a province of our size, with many remote areas, is a pipe dream. Ridership on STC kept falling regardless of what changes were made so to finally scrap it entirely was a smart decision supported by many. IF there is enough demand from a particular route, someone will step up and open a business to accommodate the area and this has happened in a couple of communities. I wish these private businesses luck and success in their endeavours. As for transportation to doctors, clinics and treatments – thousands of us have driven thousands of miles driving family members to appointments in Saskatoon or Regina and the termination of bus service hasn’t effected this one iota. It’s what people DO here.

        As for the repeated mantra that Wall is “taking from the poor to give to the rich” – what a ludicrous assertion. As farmers, Wall’s last budget will most definitely cost our family several thousands of $$ per year but it IS necessary for everyone if we’re going to avoid hanging our grandchildren with multi-billions in debt as seen in most provinces. More low-income people than ever will have their provincial income taxes dropped to zero. Yet through this budget the province is STILL able to build numerous new schools and health facilities around the province.

        There is a reason Brad Wall remains at the top of the charts for Premiers’ popularity across this country. He has represented the interests of the majority of residents in our province through good times and bad. He takes a stand and doesn’t waiver as displayed by his determination to protect this province from a federally-imposed, money-grabbing carbon tax. As long as Wall continues to solidly support the businesses and families in this province, he will continue being the most popular Premier in Canada. Stay the course, Brad Wall!

  2. #potashmafia. Really the people Saskatchewan deserve better. you can no longer park your car in Prince Albert catch a bus to SASKATOON and leave on a plane without making very complicated arrangements. We have become a failed state. The fault does not lie with the Brad Wall Government alone. under a previous NDP deal, the province massively subsidized the potash industry. Brad wall government was so incompetent or corrupt that they collected almost nothing in revenue while the price of potash rose by 500% and industry made record profits of nearly 4,000,000,000 in a single year. conservative economist jack mints pointed out that with this ridiculous scheme in place the province was in danger of actually collecting negative royalties during a period of record profit . Brad wall is an excellent marketer of political propaganda that has single-handedly destroyed saskatchewan during a period of on precedented wealth. his legacy will be remembered as the most fiscally incompetent premier Saskatchewan has ever had, Numbers matter slogans to not make up for business acumen. with clever marketing and deficit financing he has managed to fool a great number of people that the great wealth of this province was being shared, but actually it was being stolen.

  3. I have lived in SK since 1980 – lived through various governments. I’m glad that the Wall government decided to bite the bullet and make the cuts that are necessary to address the revenue problem in SK. And it is a revenue problem that was created outside of SK – namely the revenue from resources which were hit world wide. and in spite of what the Opposition parties say – no government has control of such things.

    As for the cuts in the recent budget – the provincial bus company should have been gone a long time ago – does anyone question why SK is the ONLY province to have a government run intercity bus system? It has been losing money for decades and other options exist. The NDP cut many routes from the STC system and private companies filled the gap – the bus route to my mum’s hometown was cut about 15 years ago and a local guy started his own service which has been profitable and his son is now taking it over. The delay in getting such services up and running has been the constant court challenges from the unions and ‘concerned’ citizens (AKA SGEU members).

    Other cuts were long over due as well and only after many years of the government trying to get the various players to look critically at the structures and systems they had in place – but to no uptake. So the hammer came down. There are many many structures that were created in the 1950s to respond to situations from 1950 – well that 70 years ago and things have changed and we need structures that are relevant to 2017 and beyond. NOT constantly trying to may something from 1950 work.

    And the NDP Opposition? They only thing they are doing is going to their classic position of the politics of envy – if you have something then clearly you didn’t earn it and it should be taken away. Most people in SK have moved past that and applaud when someone succeeds rather than suggest they somehow didn’t deserve it.

    As for the posters on this site – what a bunch of bitter people. I’m thrilled at what SK has become and I know at least 4 people who have moved to SK from Alberta and Ontario and they so glad to be out of those provinces which, they say, are just spinning their wheels spending more money they don’t have.

    • It is not a revenue problem. Wall drank his own Kool-Aid and believed that he and his party were responsible for the good financial times of his first 10 years. Odd, that he takes no credit for your current mess. He has behaved like a father who drinks all too much, gambles a little too much, carouses a little too much and then suddenly finds himself short of money. And his solution is to stop buying the kids clothes and maybe only feed them every second day. The problem is that he has mismanaged his financial responsibilities and now we are all paying the price.

    • like the author of this article you present false information e.g. “does anyone question why SK is the ONLY province to have a government run intercity bus system” – how doe you explain ONR and GO transit buses in Ontario?

  4. Nice political add. Some of the spin makes one’s head spin: “Our government has paid down more than $1 billion in operating debt, saving our province more than $1 billion in interest payments.” – is Saskatchewan using those $200 for $20 places or are they just taking out 25 year loans at consumer rates? Also, somehow cutting school budgets, laying off teachers and EAs, increases the numbers. The big revenue problem is over-dependence on resource extraction while pushing agriculture and manufacturing into a marginal position where 3% growth in agriculture produces a 0.15% addition to GDP; rather than diversifying the economy, waiting for a return to $100 barrels of oil.

  5. I am a Macleans reader and don’t need to read political advertising from the Wall government.

  6. This is gaslighting of Ms. Roberts, who is one of the most valuable voices we have in political commentary in Saskatchewan. With the ongoing cuts to our mainstream media sources in this province, the work she is doing is valid and incredibly valuable to the citizens. Mr. Doherty surely knows this, which is why he dedicates so much space to diminishing the quality of her work, which is always well-researched and engaging. She is one of the best journalists in this province.

    As for hiring all those teachers, how many have school boards been forced to lay off this year? I’d check these numbers before believing any of them. This is pure spin.

  7. Wow – how dare Tammy Roberts questions premiere Wall and his cronies on their mismanagement and incompetence. You know things are tough for the SaskParty et al when they attempt to shoot the messenger. In a battle of wits Tammy Roberts over Kevin Doherty any day of the week. Can’t wait till they hang the deficit around Kevin’s neck and throw him under the bus.