Moe and Beck enter campaign mode

Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe and Leader of the Opposition Carla Beck spent three hours in debate on Wednesday in what served as a mini-preview of the upcoming election campaign. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe and Leader of the Opposition Carla Beck spent three hours in debate on Wednesday in what served as a mini-preview of the upcoming election campaign. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Saskatchewan general election is more than five months away, but early signs of the upcoming campaign are popping up as the spring legislative sitting winds down.

Billboards of Moe with the 2024-25 budget tagline "Classrooms, Care and Communities" have sprung up, including one right beside Opposition Leader Carla Beck's constituency office on Broad St. in Regina.

Moe is also making the rounds doing government announcements. He's made a handful of appearances with ministers in recent days:

  • With Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Paul Merriman to announce new air tankers (Apr. 23).

  • With multiple ministers to announce mental health programs in schools (Apr. 25).

  • With Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre on funding for interpersonal violence programs (Apr. 29).

Beck also made an election-style announcement on Wednesday with her "Hire Saskatchewan Plan."

She said an NDP government would "hire Saskatchewan workers and build more made-in-Saskatchewan products."

Moe criticized the plan as lacking detail.

Inside the assembly, Saskatchewan Party government attacks on Beck in recent question periods have centred around her trip to Ottawa to attend a meeting of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also addressed the delegation. None of the three leaders were there together, but this has not stopped Moe or his caucus from referring to the event as "Trudeau campaign school."

Beck has countered by saying she will meet with parties and groups, and opposes both the federal consumer carbon tax and the Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement.

The two Saskatchewan leaders had the chance to go head-to-head on Wednesday afternoon during premier's estimates, which featured a three-hour question and answer session between Beck and Moe.

Moe mentioned Trudeau and accused the NDP of supporting the federal government on multiple occasions.

"I ask the leader of the Opposition, as we know she attended along with some caucus members that very Trudeau campaign school, how could you do that to Saskatchewan people?" Moe asked.

"I've no problem telling Justin Trudeau or Jagmeet Singh or any federal leader when they're offside like they are with the carbon tax," Beck responded. "And I also have not an ounce of problem telling Pierre Poilievre when he's dead wrong about scrapping child care or support for diabetes and contraception."

Beck accused the Saskatchewan Party of rolling over for Stephen Harper, "when it came to getting a fair deal on equalization."

Questioning a provincial NDP leader's ties to the federal NDP and Liberals is not new for conservative parties. The United Conservative Party in Alberta and the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party have used similar tactics during recent election campaigns.

LISTEN | CBC's Political Panel discusses tire scrap in the assembly and Moe, Beck debate :

Affordability debate

Much of Beck's questioning during the three-hour exchange revolved around affordability concerns.

"They've failed to deliver any cost-of-living measures in this budget — nothing at all for families — but they had so many ways they could have helped," Beck said.

Moe claimed the government's budget had $2 billion in affordability measures and the province has the "second-lowest utility bundle in Canada."

Moe went back to his concerns about the federal carbon tax.

"When it comes to the greatest affordability measure that the people of Saskatchewan and, I would say across Canada, could ever experience, it would be the un-election of the current administration. The carbon tax, which is larger than any gas tax charged across the nation, specifically in this province."

On Thursday, Beck and the NDP used their single opportunity to call a standing vote.

Beck and her caucus have spent many days during the spring sitting asking the provincial government to cut its tax on gasoline and diesel for six months. Beck said other provinces have taken this measure including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Moe signaled before the vote that his caucus had no intention of passing it.

The result was a foregone conclusion. The NDP motion was defeated.

Moe and the government have said the cut would affect the province's highways budget, because it spends money collected through the fuel tax on road projects.

He said the province's decision to stop collecting the carbon levy on home heating was also an affordability measure.

Beck later posted a video on social media of herself outside a Regina gas station, criticizing the result of the vote.

Judging by the NDP's insistence on raising the provincial fuel tax day after day, it will likely feature prominently in their election campaign as the year goes on.