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Council of Canadians Board member Tracey Mitchell at ‘All Out to Stop the Cuts!’ protest

Photo by Tracey Mitchell.

Saskatoon-based Council of Canadians Board member Tracey Mitchell was at the ‘All Out to Stop the Cuts! Protest the Premier’s Dinner!’ action last night.

The outreach had highlighted, “Let’s all come together to express our opposition to the Provincial budget cuts to K – 12 education, libraries, Universities, Audiology, social services, the handing over of Nortep to Northlands College, and the decision to ‘wind down’ the provincial Crown, STC! While the Premier’s and his Sask Party buddies are at a $250/plate event, we’ll be protesting outside.”

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix now reports, “Protesters eager to express their outrage over provincial budget cuts got up close and personal with ticket holders arriving at a fundraising dinner for the Saskatchewan Party in Saskatoon on Thursday night. More than 100 people [the actual number may be closer to 800 people] covered all gates into Prairieland Park, holding placards and chanting slogans such as ‘Break the Wall’. Early evening traffic along Ruth Street slowed to a virtual crawl before police officers arrived.”

That article adds, “The protest, organized by Stop the Cuts and various other groups, including unions, drew people affected by the cuts, such as Jayne and Peter Morris and their 13-year-old daughter, who is hearing impaired. The end of the provincial hearing aid plan could double the cost of the devices she needs by forcing them to buy from a private seller. Jayne Morris said they’ll also face longer waiting times. ‘Hearing is a core health issue’, she said. ‘So, to cut that is just ludicrous.'”

The CBC notes, “‘Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces that has anything like cash for access’, said [Cindy Hanson, a spokesperson for Stop the Cuts, the coalition representing the 12 organizations behind the rally]. ‘We feel that’s unfair when he’s putting cuts on the people of Saskatchewan.’ Cash-for-access events are when the public must pay to attend. Similar fundraising events held by the federal Liberals have been the source of recent ethical concern.”

Council of Canadians chapters in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Quill Plains (Wynyard) have been vocal opponents of the provincial budget that was tabled by Premier Brad Wall’s government on March 22.

The Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has noted “While the government’s budget cuts and tax increases landed disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor, it simultaneously lavished multiple tax breaks on corporations. …There are the mean-spirited cuts to funeral services for social assistant recipients, that will save the government a mere pittance. …The government is also reducing the already meagre allowance of social assistance recipients. …[And the government plans] to increase the provincial sales tax [including removing the PST exemption from children’s clothing].”

The provincial government also intends to axe the STC. That’s the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, a provincial Crown corporation created in 1946 by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of Tommy Douglas. Its mandate is to provide bus services carrying people and freight between major centres and to as much of the rural population as possible. Its freight service is now scheduled to end of May 19 and its passenger service is to stop on May 31.

The Wall government had also planned to cut almost $5 million from public libraries in the province, but public pressure pushed them back on that issue.

Mitchell says, “We need to resist the terrible decisions in this budget. We elect governments to make decisions about what to do with the resources that we collectively share. When they make grave errors in that process we can and should hold them accountable. Please look for links about organizing meetings, rallies, and other opportunities to speak up for the things that matter to us.”