NDP Leader Carla Beck on leadership, affordability and taking on the Sask. Party
Beck discusses her priorities and plans to sell the party’s vision in 2023
Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Carla Beck recently sat down with CBC provincial affairs reporter Adam Hunter for a year-end interview.
Beck discussed her move to NDP leader, what she learned meeting with people and the challenge of taking on the Saskatchewan Party.
This interview was conducted on Dec. 12. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: What will you remember about 2022?
A: It's been quite a year, 2022 — taking on the leadership, making that decision in February. I think one of the biggest takeaways from this year will be the time spent on the road getting out and talking to people right across the province.
An immense privilege to sit down with people at their kitchen tables and in the coffee shops, and hear about their concerns, but also their hopes and dreams in this province.
Q: What are people telling you that you have brought forward to the legislature?
A: Well, one of the highest things on the list, and we heard this everywhere, was the cost of living. People felt like they were falling further and further behind.
We hear high-level messages from the government about "growth that works for everyone," but when we're out talking to people more people are feeling like they've got less at the end of the month.
I know recent polling found 60 per cent of people in this province feel like they're worse off than they were last year. People are feeling that they're working harder but are falling further and further behind.
Q: You're talking about affordability and people needing more. The government sent out $500 cheques. What could the government be doing with its surplus?
A: Not only did it take nine months for those cheques to get out, we saw a government that in a 40-year affordability crisis and record inflation that we haven't seen for decades in this province chose to pile on 31 different fees and rate hikes.
A lot of businesses we've talked to feel that they were able to scrape by through the pandemic only to be hit with huge power rate increases, and people feeling like they didn't know if they were going to be able to continue.
We see the very real impact of some of those increases with the highest food bank use.
When you have a government that's talking about growth and how wonderful the economy is performing, that should translate into some material benefit to people in the province and we're not seeing that for most people.
Q: What could the government be doing on the health-care side to help the situation in ERs and with hospital service disruptions?
A: When other provinces are making that investment — when we see British Columbia, for example, spending money to stabilize family physicians — [it] becomes harder and harder to retain those health-care workers here. First of all, they may leave for other provinces, which we've seen in too many instances, or we're seeing health-care workers disgruntled, feeling disrespected, feeling not heard, burnt out and choosing to leave the profession altogether.
Recruitment is important, but spending that money to retain those workers who are feeling like they're at the end of the rope is something this government should and could have done — they're sitting on windfall revenues.
This would be a time to stabilize those positions to ensure that people can access primary care. The ability to get a family doctor is very difficult for people in the province, as we saw in Saskatoon with not a single family doctor taking on new patients.
Q: We've seen the FSIN and (Indigenous groups) have come out against Saskatchewan First Act and the Alberta Sovereignty Act. Where do you stand on … the position that those organizations have or do you support their opposition to it?
A: It comes as no surprise — the outcry against these two bills, two very different bills in Saskatchewan and Alberta. But that lack of consultation with Indigenous and Métis communities comes as no surprise.
This is something that we've heard expressed in many different places around the province and certainly in Alberta as well. One of the things that the government could have done was take this bill to committee and have some of that consultation that should have happened prior to the bill being tabled.
The fact that we saw them not schedule anytime in committee with this bill, I think is curious, and very curious for the bill that was their flagship of this fall session.
Q: How have you worked with your caucus and how have you managed going from critic and MLA to leader?
A: One of the things that I have focused on throughout my career is team building, and we've got a very strong team of MLAs. I've done a lot of outreach on my own, but also our critics have taken up that outreach and those connections within their critic areas and within their constituencies.
I think how effective they've been is shown by the number of people we've had come through the legislature to talk about those issues, in health care, affordability, beef pricing and grocery costs. I'm very proud of this team that we have and the work that they've been doing.
Q: The Saskatchewan Party polls pretty well and the premier's numbers are solid. How do you combat that?
A: I've been encouraged by the reception that we've had in communities right across the province, continuing to show that there are alternatives to this government that is increasingly out of touch with the concerns that people have in the province.
I think it's important that we continue to demonstrate we are a party that is serious about forming government in 2024. There are things that can be done to ensure that, you know, when there are high-level numbers and indicators in the economy that translates to a quality of life for people — where they can get a quality education for their kids, where they can access health care, where you don't have a government that is piling on fees and taxes and utility rates when people are having trouble paying their mortgages.
I think we continue to make those connections and show people that not only is better possible but that the Saskatchewan NDP will be the ones to deliver that better for people in this province.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the first woman to lead the NDP in a permanent role?
A: I had a letter sent to me shortly after I was elected from quite an elderly woman in the south around home. She expressed that she didn't think this was something she'd ever see in her lifetime. To see it through her eyes, I think, fills me with a lot of gratitude and a real sense of responsibility.
Listen | The Morning Edition's Political Panel discusses the year in Sask. politics: