Newly re-elected Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is planning a brief session of the legislature where one order of business may include new rules on how unions operate in the province.
Wall spoke the day after voters in the province returned the Saskatchewan Party to power with an increased majority, with the standings now at 49 government caucus members and nine members of the opposition, represented by the NDP.
Speaking to reporters, Wall said the government would introduce some legislation in the session and hinted he may include a law directing more disclosure by unions about how union funds are spent.
'If there's opportunities to increase accountability and transparency for union members, we're going to pursue those.' —Premier Brad Wall
He spoke specifically about actions of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, which represents almost all provincial public sector workers.
"Just before the election the SGEU said we're going to clip you for another per cent of your wages," Wall said. "They said [that] to their own union members. And by the way it's going to buy ads to defeat the government."
Wall said he believes some government workers did not support such ads.
"I heard a lot of union members say, 'You know, that's my hard-earned money,'" Wall said.
Wall added he is more concerned about representing union members than getting along with union leaders.
"We're not going to worry as much about the relationship with union leadership that made it quite clear ... that they're not entirely interested in working with the government or the truth of the record of the government of Saskatchewan," he said.
Labour leaders counter that it is Wall who has rebuffed efforts to build a positive relationship.
"The ball is clearly in the premier's court," Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said Tuesday. "If he wants the relationship to continue to be strained, then all he needs to do is continue to attack us. And we will continue to defend our rights."
Wall suggested legislation aimed at how unions operate could be coming.
"We're not going to be looking for arguments, but if there's opportunities to increase accountability and transparency for union members, we're going to pursue those," Wall said.
"We know there's a certain amount of publication of union finances that happens now, but maybe it should be even more forthright," he said.
The provincial government under Wall is already in a court battle with organized labour.
The SFL, and other groups, have filed a court challenge of laws that Wall's government introduced in 2007 which changed how union drives are conducted.
The case is set to go before a Court of Queen's Bench judge on Monday.
Brief session before Christmas
Wall said a fall session could start in late November or early December. He also said a cabinet shuffle may wait until the spring.
Despite his overwhelming electoral victory, one political analyst expects voters will see little change in Wall's approach.
"They have promised essentially to govern in their second term the same way they did in their first term," said Ken Rasmussen, associate director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina.
Tax break on clothes
Wall's campaign promises were touted as small, pragmatic and affordable, and totaled $414 million over four years. One such measure was announced Tuesday — a broader provincial sales tax exemption on children's clothing that Wall promised on the campaign trail.
The exemption, which currently covers children up to age 14, is to expand starting next Tuesday to cover teens as old as 17.