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Saskatchewan NDP leader warns voters of Alberta-style cuts if Moe wins election

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili raised the prospect Saturday that re-electing Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe could lead to Alberta-style health-care cuts and privatization.  

Meili held a campaign event outside a Saskatoon clinic on Saturday, and said Alberta's United Conservatives are firing thousands of health-care employees.

He said conservative governments always cut and privatize in their first two years after taking office and then pretend they won't do it again. 

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Tuesday that the province's health delivery agency will eliminate up to 11,000 jobs, but that nurses and front-line workers will not lose their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saskatchewan Party fired back at the NDP, noting they closed dozens of hospitals when they were in power, lost doctors and nurses between 2001 and 2006 and had the longest surgical wait times in Canada.

The Saskatchewan Party said for 2020-2021, they invested 67 per cent more in health care compared to 2007.

"We will continue to build on our record of constructing new hospitals including the new Jim Pattison Children's Hospital, hiring 900 more doctors and 3,800 more nurses, and reducing surgical wait times to among the lowest in Canada," the Saskatchewan Party said in a news release on Saturday.

The Alberta announcement is expected to save $600 million, the government said. Shandro said the changes would come from further outsourcing of laundry, lab and other services, and that every dollar saved will be reinvested in patient care.

Meili, however, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney broke a promise he made to voters last year.

"He signed a pledge to not cut or privatize health care. He told people not to worry, just trust us," Meili said Saturday. 

He pointed to the government's move to shutter the Saskatchewan Transportation Company -- a Crown corporation -- three years ago as evidence that they might bring about more cuts. 

Also on Saturday, Meili joined his party's candidates in Prince Albert and promised an NDP government would open a mental health emergency room in the city.

Elections Saskatchewan, meanwhile, said a record number of Saskatchewan voters have chosen to vote by mail. It said it approved 61,412 vote by mail applications following Thursday's midnight deadline, a huge increase from the 4,420 vote by mail ballots that were returned and counted in the 2016 general election.

"Elections Saskatchewan wanted to ensure that voters who feel they are immunocompromised or are concerned about visiting an in-person poll under the current circumstances have another safe and secure option to cast their ballot," Dr. Michael Boda, Chief Electoral Officer of Saskatchewan, said in a news release.

It said the approved voters will have either already received their vote by mail voting kit or can expect to within the week.

The election is set for Oct. 26.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press