NDP Leader Carla Beck on leadership, affordability and the fight against Saskatchewan. Party
Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Carla Beck recently sat down with CBC Provincial Affairs reporter Adam Hunter for a year-end interview.
Beck spoke about her time as leader of the NDP, what she learned from meeting people and the challenge of taking on the Saskatchewan Party.
This interview was conducted on December 12. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: What will you remember from 2022?
A: It’s been quite a year, 2022 – taking the leadership, making that decision in February. I think one of the biggest takeaways from this year will be the time spent on the road getting out and talking to people across the province.
A huge privilege to sit with people at their kitchen tables and in coffee shops, and hear about their concerns, but also their hopes and dreams in this province.
Q: What do people tell you that you presented to the legislature?
A: Well, one of the highest things on the list, and we heard it everywhere, was the cost of living. People felt like they were falling further and further behind.
We hear high-level messages from government about « growth that works for everyone », but when we talk to people, more people feel like they have less at the end of the month.
I know a recent poll showed that 60% of people in this province feel worse off than they did last year. People feel like they’re working harder but falling further and further behind.
Q: You talk about affordability and people needing more. The government sent checks for $500. What could the government do with its surplus?
A: Not only did it take nine months for those checks to be issued, but we’ve seen a government that in a 40-year affordability crisis and record inflation that we haven’t seen in decades in this province , chose to rack up 31 different fees and rate hikes.
Many companies we spoke to feel they may have come through the pandemic only to be hit with huge increases in electricity rates, and people feel like they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to continue .
We are seeing the very real impact of some of these increases with the greater use of food banks.
When you have a government that talks about growth and the great performance of the economy, that should translate into material benefits for the people of the province that we don’t see for most people.
Q: What could the government do on the health care side to improve the situation in emergencies and with the interruptions of hospital services?
A: When other provinces make that investment—when we see British Columbia, for example, spending money to stabilize family doctors— [it] getting harder and harder to keep these healthcare workers here. First of all, they can leave for other provinces, which we’ve seen too many times, or we see healthcare workers who are upset, feeling disrespected, feeling unheard, burnt out and choosing to leave the occupation.
Recruitment is important, but spending that money to retain workers who feel at the end of their tether is something this government should and could have done – they are sitting on windfall earnings.
This would be the time to stabilize these positions to ensure that people can access primary care. It is very difficult for people in the province to find a family doctor, as we have seen in Saskatoon, where no family doctors are accepting new patients.
Q: We have seen the FSIN and (Aboriginal groups) speak out against the Saskatchewan First Act and the Alberta Sovereignty Act. What is your position on … the position that these organizations have or do you support their opposition to it?
A: It’s no surprise — the outcry against these two bills, two very different bills in Saskatchewan and Alberta. But this lack of consultation with Aboriginal and Métis communities comes as no surprise.
This is something we have heard in many places in the province and certainly in Alberta as well. One of the things the government could have done is send this bill to committee and do some of the consultation that should have taken place before the bill was introduced.
The fact that we have seen them not schedule committee time with this bill, I think, is curious, and very curious for the bill that was their flagship for this fall session.
Q: How did you work with your caucus and how did you manage to grow from spokesperson and MP to leader?
A: One of the things I have focused on throughout my career is building teams, and we have a very strong team of MPs. I did a lot of outreach on my own, but our critics also picked up on that outreach and those relationships within their critical areas and within their constituencies.
I think their effectiveness is demonstrated by the number of people we have invited to the Legislative Assembly to talk about these issues, in terms of health care, affordability, beef prices and grocery prices. I am very proud of this team that we have and the work that they have done.
Q: The Saskatchewan Party is picking up the polls pretty well and the Premier’s numbers are solid. How do you fight this?
A: I have been encouraged by the reception we have had in communities across the province, continuing to show that there are alternatives to this government that is increasingly out of touch with the concerns of the people of the province.
I think it is important that we continue to demonstrate that we are a party that takes government formation in 2024 seriously. There are things that can be done to ensure that, you know, when there is high-level numbers and indicators in the economy that translate to quality of life for people – where they can get quality education for their children, where they can access health care, where you don’t have not a government that piles up fees, taxes and utility rates when people struggle to pay their mortgages.
I think we continue to make those connections and show people that not only is it possible to do better, but the Saskatchewan NDP is going to be the one that delivers the best for the people of this province.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the first woman to lead the NDP permanently?
A: A letter was sent to me shortly after I was elected by an elderly southern woman near my home. She expressed that she didn’t think it was something she would see in her lifetime. I think seeing him through his eyes fills me with a lot of gratitude and a real sense of responsibility.
Listen | The Morning Edition political panel discusses the year in Saskatchewan. Politics:
Morning Edition – Saskatchewan10:06Policy Roundtable – December 23, 2022