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Sask Party, NDP release election platforms

Saskatchewan’s two main parties have released their platforms detailing new spending, and sometimes balanced budgets.

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The Saskatchewan Party and NDP have released their platforms as voters come closer to election day.

Those who believe less is more might prefer the Saskatchewan Party. They promise $851.8 million in new spending and to eliminate the deficit by 2024-25. 

The NDP platform will cost $2.1 billion over 5 years and will run a deficit of continued deficits even in 2024-25. The party says it will hire an “expert panel” to chart a return budget to balance at some undetermined date.

“Deep cuts that hurt people and our economy are a bad idea at any time, but during a pandemic they are downright dangerous,” said NDP Leader Meili.

“We know that across Saskatchewan, communities are pulling together to fight COVID-19, but Scott Moe has chosen a path that will make life tougher for families. It doesn’t have to be that way. The people of Saskatchewan have a choice. They can choose an NDP government that puts people first.”

New measures implemented by the party would include restoring the film employment tax credit, removing the PST from construction labour, reducing the craft beer tax, and taxing people with a net worth of $15 million or a more an additional one per cent. They also want to reduce classroom sizes and resurrect the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, a former crown corporation that was a perennial money-loser.

“Scott Moe’s old ideas aren’t working for ordinary families. More Sask. Party cuts aren’t the way to rebuild our province,” Meili said. “We need to invest in people. Invest in health care. In seniors. In our kids’ schools. We need to diversify our economy and get families and our province moving forward again.”

As Premier Moe announced the Sask Party platform, he boasted of the latest Statistics Canada employment figures that showed 8,700 new jobs in Saskatchewan in September.

“The question in this election is – who do you trust to lead a strong economic recovery in Saskatchewan?“ Moe said. “If you compare the Saskatchewan Party’s plan and our record to the NDP’s, the answer is pretty clear.”

Many of the Sask Party plans were announced prior to the election call. Urgent care centres were announced for Regina and Saskatoon for $15 million each, designed to relieve hospital emergency rooms. A crystal meth treatment centre opened in Estevan and $1.2 million for suicide prevention funding was promised.

Many school building school renovation projects are forthcoming and schools will receive $51 million in pandemic support. Many of the education, health, and highways announcements were part of the broader $7.5 billion two-year capital investment plan.

“We have a plan to make life more affordable – for students, seniors, families, homeowners and everyone,” Moe said.

“Our plan means a strong economy, strong communities and strong families, and together, that means a strong economy, strong communities and strong families, and together, that means a strong Saskatchewan.”

Since the election call, the Saskatchewan Party has promised a 10 per cent rebate this coming year on power bills at a cost of $261.6 million. It will also eliminate small business taxes through 2022, climbing to one per cent in 2023, and two per cent in 2024.

In addition, the Sask Party would add 750 licensed home-based child care spaces, higher childcare provider grants, and tax credits for children’s activities. Financial support for children with autism and diabetes would be expanded. 

Seniors would get a 50 per cent cut in ambulance fees, and no ambulance fees from hospital to hospital. The Seniors Income Plan would rise from $270 to $360 per month. An additional 300 care aids would be hired for long term and home care.

Community rinks and the Royal Canadian Legion would get more provincial help. The Saskatchewan Advantage scholarship would rise to $750 per year. 

Trade offices will open in Tokyo, Singapore and New Delhi, focusing on agricultural exports.

Twenty actions for 2020 include growth of the resource economy, lowering interprovincial trade barriers, increasing Indigenous employment, reducing carbon emissions in power production, and developing small nuclear reactors.

Thirty goals for 2030 include growing the population to 1.4 million people and creating 100,000 new jobs. More canola and pulse crop processing, increasing oil production by 25 per cent, doubling the forestry sector, and tripling the tech sector are also benchmarks. Ten thousand kilometres of highways will be built or upgraded and surgical wait times will be reduced to three months.

The Sask Party has a few cards it still holds to its chest. Three additional initiatives will be announced in the coming days. Moe said the 50-page platform will be sent to all voters.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Correspondent for the Western Standard

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Affairs Columnist for the Western Standard. He is also a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and is the former Saskatchewan Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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UCP moves to cut vehicle insurance costs

But NDP leader Rachel Notley said the entire provincial system should be nationalized like in BC.

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The UCP is introducing new vehicle insurance regulations it says will give Alberta drivers faced with skyrocketing rates a break.

But NDP leader Rachel Notley said the entire provincial system should be nationalized like in BC.

“Alberta’s government is proposing changes that will contain costs and stabilize premiums in the auto insurance system, while increasing medical benefits to support Albertans injured in collisions. Other changes include cutting red tape and bringing efficiencies to the system to give Alberta drivers more options and flexibility,” the government said in a Thursday release.

Finance Minsiter Travis Toews said: ““Both drivers and insurers have been paying the consequences of the previous government’s ill-thought-out rate cap that left many Alberta drivers without reasonable insurance options. These actions will start to ease cost pressures and stabilize premiums for Alberta drivers.”

The UCP said the new measures will increase insurance affordability by controlling cost pressures, including putting more minor injuries under the compensation cap for pain and suffering damages, and using a floating rate for interest accumulated on pain and suffering damages.

They said there will be an increase in medical benefits to support Albertans injured in traffic accidents with access to more health professionals and inflation-adjusted benefits to deal with the after-effects of collisions.

They claim Bill 41 will create more consumer choice by enabling insurance companies to offer more insurance options such as pay-per-kilometre.

Bill 41 will also modernize and improve Alberta’s insurance system by cutting red tape in the auto insurance system and allowing direct compensation for property damage to allow not-at-fault drivers to work directly with their own insurers for vehicle repairs after collisions, the UCP said.

Alberta currently pays the third-highest insurance rates behind only BC and Quebec.

“Albertans should expect to see a break from steep increases to their premiums, or any potential savings in the coming months,” the government release said.

Celyeste Power, Vice-President, Western Region, Insurance Bureau of Canada said: “We believe that auto insurance is all about balance and we are hopeful that these changes strike that right balance so that auto insurance is affordable and accident victims get the care they need. We think Bill 41 is a step in the right direction as it focuses on affordability and ensuring accident victims get the care they need to recover from car accidents.”

Meanwhile, Notley said the best thing the government can do is nationalize the auto insurance industry – much like the ICBC system in B.C. where residents pay the highest rates in the country.

ICBC also loses about $1 billion a year despite having a monopoly.

“When the insurance companies say (they) can’t possibly afford to provide insurance, ‘We’re going to leave the province,’ well, that sounds like it’s opening up a market for somebody else to provide something that would be less expensive and ensure that profits remain inside the province,” said Notley to the Globe and Mail.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Morneau cleared by ethics commissioner in WE expenses scandal

But Dion said he will continue to investigate Morneau for not recusing himself from a federal cabinet decision handing the WE charity almost a billion dollars

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Former federal finance minister Bill Morneau is off the hook in an ethics investigation into his expenses on a trip with the scandal-plauged WE charity.

But he’s not completely off the hook yet.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion said he accepted the fact Morneau simply forgot about $41,000 expenses he racked up on a trip with the charity to Kenya and Ecuador.

“I accept that you genuinely believed you had paid for the entire cost of both trips, including the portion of the trip that involved the use of non-commercial chartered aircraft,” Dion wrote in an Oct. 28 letter obtained by CBC.

“I have also reviewed the documentary evidence submitted as part of my examination under the act … this evidence corroborates your position with respect to your belief that you paid for the total cost of your and your family’s personal travel in 2017.

“Moreover, the evidence suggests that the WE organization invited your spouse and daughter to participate in these trips, and that you had no involvement in the planning and preparation of either event.

 “I am of the view that you did not accept a gift from WE Charity.”

But Dion said he will continue to investigate Morneau for not recusing himself from a federal cabinet decision handing the WE charity almost a billion dollars to run a youth jobs program at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morneau’s daughter worked at the charity at the time of the decision.

“I remain seized of allegations relating to possible violations of subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the Act,” Dion wrote

After resigning in August at the height of the scandal, Morneau said he was in the running to be the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As a parliamentary finance committee was looking into the scandal, Morneau announced he was writing the charity a cheque to cover $41,000 in expenses. He claimed he thought the expenses had already been paid.

Morneau made the announcement the day he appeared to testify at the committee.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also under investigation after it was revealed his mother, brother and wife had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the charity, which has since disbanded its Canadian operations.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Millions of shoppers had image taken by Cadillac Fairview cameras

Most of the customers didn’t know their images were being collected by cameras embedded in information kiosks.

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More than five million shoppers across Canada had their images collected in 12 malls owned by Cadillac Fairview, an investigation by privacy commissioners has found.

Most of the customers didn’t know their images were being collected by cameras embedded in information kiosks in July 2018.

“The goal, the company said, was to analyze the age and gender of shoppers and not to identify individuals. Cadillac Fairview also asserted that shoppers were made aware of the activity via decals it had placed on shopping mall entry doors that referred to their privacy policy – a measure the Commissioners determined was insufficient,” the commissioners said in a Thursday release.

“Cadillac Fairview also asserted that it was not collecting personal information, since the images taken by camera were briefly analyzed then deleted. However, the Commissioners found that Cadillac Fairview did collect personal information, and contravened privacy laws by failing to obtain meaningful consent as they collected the 5 million images with small, inconspicuous cameras.  Cadillac Fairview also used video analytics to collect and analyze sensitive biometric information of customers.”

The investigation also found facial recognition software was used to generate additional personal information about individual shoppers, including estimated age and gender.

While the images were deleted, investigators found that the sensitive biometric information generated from the images was being stored in a centralized database by a third party.

Cadillac Fairview stated that it was unaware that the database of biometric information existed, which compounded the risk of potential use by unauthorized parties or, in the case of a data breach, by malicious actors, said the release.

“Shoppers had no reason to expect their image was being collected by an inconspicuous camera, or that it would be used, with facial recognition technology, for analysis,” says Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien.

“The lack of meaningful consent was particularly concerning given the sensitivity of biometric data, which is a unique and permanent characteristic of our body and a key to our identity.” 

Jill Clayton, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, said: “This investigation exposes how opaque certain personal information business practices have become.

“Not only must organizations be clear and up front when customers’ personal information is being collected, they must also have proper controls in place to know what their service providers are doing behind the scenes with that information.”

Michael McEvoy, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, said: “Questions about when an organization is collecting personal information can be complex, but the conclusion we came to about cameras in mall directories was straight-forward, – pictures of individuals were taken and analyzed in a manner that required notice and consent.”

The company has now removed the cameras and has no plans to reinstall them.

In a statement, the company said: “While the focus of this report is of a technology that was disabled and removed more than two years ago, we want to reiterate that we take the concerns of our visitors seriously and are committed to protecting our visitors’ privacy. 

“As we continue to enhance the in-mall experience and better connect with our digitally engaged customers, we are, and will always be, deeply committed to privacy and responsible data usage.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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