After weeks of unofficial campaigning, Saskatchewan's premier has made it official.
Brad Wall met with the province's lieutenant-governor to dissolve the Legislature, before joining Saskatchewan Party candidate Ken Cheveldayoff for a campaign kickoff event during the lunch hour.
There, Wall spoke to an enthusiastic group of party faithful.
"There is no issue more important today in Saskatchewan, more central to this election, than the economy," he said. The protection and the preservation of the increased numbers of jobs we have in the province today, and the environment that we need to create more jobs."
Wall took a number of jabs at his political opponents, the Saskatchewan NDP, bringing up the party's job creation record as well as numerous cuts the NDP made while in government.
"The choice is pretty clear in this election," he said. "Action or talk. Forward or backward. The future or the past."
The unofficial campaign has been well underway in recent weeks, with the NDP rolling out platform ideas daily in the week before the campaign began — from restoring and boosting the province's film tax credit to scrapping the government's fleet of airplanes for cabinet ministers' travel.
Cam Broten promises to end privatization, review P3 contracts
NDP leader Cam Broten made a policy announcement at the Saskatchewan Legislature shortly after Wall's speech this afternoon. He promised to axe SaskBuilds, which Broten called the privatization ministry and "Europe Builds Sask."
"We will save $15 million in operations alone and hundred of millions of dollars in reckless and costly P3 (Public-Private-Partnership) deals," Broten said.
Pointing the finger at the P3 project for the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford, Broten questioned why a one year maintenance budget for a new hospital dwarfed the entire maintenance budget for the entire Prairie North Health Region and all of its facilities.
"To me that makes absolutely no sense that you have a brand new building that costs more for maintenance than every other building put together in the health region."
Broten also reference the province's P3 deal with VINCI, a French corporation that entered into a P3 project for the Regina Bypass.
Broten asked why P3 contracts were being doled out to European companies rather than local constructions companies.
If elected, Broten promised to look at each P3 and see if it's the most cost-effective ways to deliver these major projects.
"We will not cancel projects, we will look at how to do this in the smartest and most cost-effective way possible and when you're paying a French company to plow a bypass outside of Regina, that makes no sense. When you're paying more in maintenance for one year on a brand new building than every other building the health region put together, something strange is going on and it's certainly not a good use of taxpayer dollars."
Wall spent much of last week in Vancouver, railing against a carbon tax at a meeting of the country's leaders.
Leading up to the election, the Saskatchewan Party has had a healthy lead in the polls. The NDP had been closing the gap in recent weeks, particularly in the cities, but last week the governing party surged back with the support of nearly one of every two voters or 49 per cent support.
This is the third campaign for Brad Wall as leader of the Saskatchewan Party.
His party first came to power in 2007, when the party was just a decade old — an amalgamation of MLAs from the former Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties.
During the 2007 campaign, Wall and the Saskatchewan Party dropped its controversial plans to sell government-owned utilities if it made economic sense to do so.
Instead, Wall and the party's MLAs signed on to legislation put forward in the wake of the 2003 campaign by the NDP government to protect the Crowns from sale unless a political party campaigned on the idea first.
Wall and his party won that election against the Saskatchewan NDP and its leader Premier Lorne Calvert, with more than 50 per cent of the popular vote — gaining 10 seats to elect 38 MLAs to the NDP's 20.
Four years later in 2011, Wall and the Saskatchewan Party did even better with a historic 64.2 per cent of the popular vote. The NDP lost 11 seats, including that of its leader Dwain Lingenfelter — sparking yet another leadership race for the official opposition party.
This time around, Cam Broten will lead the NDP into a campaign with even more seats at stake. The government added three constituencies to a redrawn electoral map, for a total of 61 MLAs to be elected on April 4.