The Saskatchewan Party government presented an austerity budget on Tuesday that relies on federal funding to address the effects of COVID-19, while ignoring its own provincial responsibility to provide stable, long-term health care and education funding, according to the president of CUPE Saskatchewan.
“On many occasions, the province claims they are providing record funding, but in most cases, they also acknowledge that much of that funding is coming from the federal government,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan.
Budget 2021-22 fails to protect workers from the economic effects of the pandemic. While the provincial government repeatedly cites “record investments”, they are including funding provided by the federal government to make these claims. The province is taking credit for:
- $8 million in federal funding for the province’s “record” spending of $18 million in employee assistance for people with disabilities.
- $17 million in federal funding for the province’s “record” spending of $39 million for Immigration and Career Training.
“The province is using federal investments to claim that they are providing record investments to help workers with the negative effects of the pandemic,” added Henley. “They falsely claim that they are helping working families, when the reality is they are deferring the responsibility of providing worker assistance to Justin Trudeau.”
The province has also cancelled the wage top-up program and ignored the need to create a sick leave policy that allows workers to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. “The program should have been enhanced to include front-line workers that were never included in the first place, not ignored,” said Henley.
Ignoring the Crisis in Addictions
At a time when the number of opioid overdoses has doubled in just one year, the province is ignoring this overdose crisis, and has once again failed to adequately fund addiction treatment. Failures in addiction treatment funding include:
- No real plan to address this crisis. While a commitment to add 12 new addiction treatment beds is welcome, it does not come close to what the province needs to reduce the waiting lists for treatment that are putting people’s lives at risk.
- The province has not addressed the unexpected loss of the Pine Lodge Treatment Centre, nor do they commit to provide funding to assist the Pine Lodge Treatment Centre from finding a new home.
- There are no new commitments to fund mental health issues associated with addictions. Addressing mental health issues is a key component to addictions treatment.
No Multi-Year Commitment to Fund Post-Secondary Education
The budget does not provide any long-term commitment to provide funding for many of the sectors that desperately need it. This includes:
- Ignoring community-based organizations, who have been desperate for a commitment on long-term funding that will allow them to continue to provide services for our most vulnerable citizens.
- Investing $735 million for post-secondary education for one year without any commitment to providing Saskatchewan universities and colleges with a funding commitment beyond the fiscal calendar. (A second fund to created to address COVID issues in universities only lasts two years, and does not commit to any basic funding for universities beyond 2021).
Continued Shortfalls in Health Care Despite the Pandemic
The announcement to hire an additional 90 continuing care assistants to improve care for long-term care residents and to expand home care services is inadequate and falls well short of the commitment the Saskatchewan Party made last year to hire 300 new Continuing Care Aides (CCAs).
“Given the chronic workload and short-staffing challenges our CCAs are facing in long-term care facilities, and that we are still in a pandemic, this budget should have fast-tracked the promise to hire 300 CCAs in this budget year,” concluded Henley. “We need to ensure proper and safe staffing levels to provide the care our province’s seniors deserve.”