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Analysis

Scott Moe Quietly Cut Vaccine Program and Protections for Workers in Saskatchewan’s 2020 Budget

Scott Moe has released a budget designed for the ‘old normal’, critics say

After a three month delay following the coronavirus pandemic, Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party government finally released its 2020 Budget.

Moe’s finance minister, Donna Harpauer, declared that “the world has changed” forever thanks to the pandemic and stressed the need to “rebuild and recover together.”

But critics say the budget actually leaves Saskatchewan workers more vulnerable than they were before the pandemic.

Despite crashing oil prices, Moe’s pandemic budget doubles-down on oil by offering big oil companies tax cuts, while at the same time cutting programs relating to health, labour and the environment.

“The budget really is ‘let’s get back to the old normal’,” Simon Enoch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Saskatchewan Office, told PressProgress.

“Their stimulus package is almost entirely building roads and helping out the oil industry.”

Here is a short-round up of a few cuts you may have missed in Moe’s 2020 Budget.

Vaccine Program Cuts Continue 

Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, Moe’s government cut funding for a program that delivers free vaccines to infants, school children and adults.

The Sask Party government reduced funding for an Immunization Program from $16,092,000 to $15,735,000 in 2017.

Had 2016 funding levels been maintained and kept pace with inflation, spending would today be around 17,020,143. But for both 2019 and 2020-21, funding has remained only at 16,475,000.

Labour Relations Board Real Funding Cut

And despite great shows of support for Saskatchewan’s frontline workers during the pandemic, Moe’s government is cutting the Labour Relations Board, whose role is to “administer, interpret and enforce Saskatchewan’s labour legislation.”

If 2016 Labour Relations Board spending at $1,076,000 increased with the rate of inflation it would be $1,138,060 in 2020. But yesterday’s budget earmarked only $1,000,000 for the board, unchanged from 2019.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Lori Johb told PressProgress these cuts mean workers could face more barriers to unionization, mediation and reporting abusive employers.

“Any cut would slow down an already very slow process of getting things in front of the LRB,” Johb said. “This process is already a little bit flawed, a little bit slow and so any cut is definitely going to put more challenges on that process.”

“I don’t think we have a union in our province that doesn’t have challenges with this provincial government, and putting any barriers in the way in terms of mediation or labour relations is not going to help that process at all,” she added.

“It tells me how seriously this government thinks about working people, and they really take us for granted and have no respect for working people’.”

Environmental Protection Program Cut

Meanwhile, as scientists warn that climate change will increase the likelihood of future pandemics, Moe also took an axe to Saskatchewan’s Environmental Protection Program.

EPP is down from  $5,514,000 in Moe’s 2019 Budget to $5,045,000 in Moe’s 2020 Budget.

By contrast, if the EPP’s 2016 $5,924,000 budget increased with the rate of inflation, it would currently be $6,265,680.

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