Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe and NDP Leader Ryan Meili met in a televised debate Wednesday night.
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Oct 15, 2020 • • 3 minute read
Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe and NDP Leader Ryan Meili sparred over deficits, taxes, suicide and COVID on Wednesday evening, during a mostly civil debate that tread over familiar campaign territory while dropping few surprises.
Moe fired off a new line of attack early in the 55-minute debate at the Provincial Archives building in Regina, alleging that Meili’s platform will cost $4 billion more than the NDP has revealed.
“How do you think Mr. Meili is going to pay for it?” Moe asked “The answer is, he isn’t — Saskatchewan people are.”
He argued that spending will result in higher taxes down the road. Moe pointed to an itemized list of “missing” NDP spending his party posted on its website, which zeroed in on Meili’s Renew Saskatchewan environment plan, expanded broadband and capital promises like a new Prince Albert bridge.
But Meili responded that Moe is “making up” numbers. Meili later told reporters that he hasn’t had a chance to look at the Sask. Party list but said that Moe is trying to “scare people” to distract from his cuts. He added that Crown spending hasn’t traditionally been included in costed party platforms. His party later posted a detailed response purporting to debunk Moe’s attack.
As he has over the course of the campaign, Meili called out Moe’s alleged cuts several times in the debate saying Moe has a hidden agenda.
He said Moe will sell off Crown corporations and cut services that families need most. Meili argues those plans will “choke our economy and hurt people.”
“This is the road Mr. Moe has told us he is going down,” said Meili. “Austerity is the word his finance minister used.”
Moe responded that he has no such plans.
“There will be no cuts, Mr. Meili,” said Moe. “We will be cutting power rates. We will be cutting taxes.”
He was even clearer in a post-debate scrum. “There will be no tax hikes,” he said. “There will be no sale of any Crown corporations.”
An early exchange over COVID-19 was less contentious. But Meili got in a few jabs over what he said was unclear guidance over masks and a failure to condemn the anti-mask movement.
“There has been a fair amount of mixed messaging,” Meili said.
Moe said he’s always been clear on mask use.
One of the more emotionally charged exchanges of the night came as the setting sun darkened the scene through the window behind the two leaders. Meili pushed Moe on why he refused to meet with Metis activist Tristen Durocher during his suicide prevention fast across from the legislature this summer.
“You sent two of your ministers across the road to basically say, ‘get off my lawn…” Meili said. “What kind of message do you think that sends?”
“That was not the message,” Moe responded.
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He pointed to his government’s Pillars for Life plan for suicide prevention, which Meili dismissed as “so vague as to be meaningless.”
The two leaders soon came back to taxes and spending. When Moe again warned about NDP tax hikes, Meili responded that Moe is the only one who won’t rule out tax increases on ordinary families.
The NDP leader said the only tax increase in the NDP plan is a wealth tax on households with more than $15 million in net assets. Though the NDP believes that will raise $120 million per year, Moe argued that will only cover one per cent of the NDP platform.
“Where is the other 99 per cent going to come from?” Moe asked, looking straight into the camera. “It’s going to come from you.”
Both party leaders ended the debate by framing the election as a stark choice. Moe said voters must decide between a “reckless” NDP that will drive up taxes and a Saskatchewan Party that will make life more affordable and build a strong province.
Meili cast the election as “a crucial moment for our province.”
“The choice before us couldn’t be more clear: a tired old Sask. Party offering nothing but more cuts and privatization, and a new direction and a new vision.”
Moe called the debate a “civil” exercise where Saskatchewan people were the winners.