Sask. does not have a problem with racism, says Sask. Party leadership candidate Ken Cheveldayoff

In the lead up to the Sask. Party leadership race in the province, CBC Saskatchewan is interviewing each of the six candidates about their priorities and opinions.

Cheveldayoff talks budget, marijuana and racism in the province

Ken Cheveldayoff said he thinks the legal age for marijuana should be 25. (CBC News)

In the lead up to the Sask. Party leadership race in the province, CBC Saskatchewan is interviewing each of the six candidates about their priorities and opinions.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced his upcoming retirement in August. The part will elect a new leader on Jan. 27, 2018 and the winner will take over the province's top position.

The candidates include Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Gord Wyant, Ken Cheveldayoff, Scott Moe, Alanna Koch and Rob Clarke.

On Facebook, we're allowing our followers to pose their questions which the candidates will answer live on air on CBC Radio's Blue Sky program.

First up was Ken Cheveldayoff who spoke to CBC News host Jill Morgan following his live appearance on Tuesday. 

The following questions are not necessarily in the order they were asked. 

Jill Morgan: Do you think Saskatchewan has a problem with racism?

Ken Cheveldayoff: No, I don't think so. I believe that there is good in every person. When I grew up in small town Saskatchewan — I grew up in Blaine Lake, right next door to Muskeg Lake and Mistawasis — and I didn't even know that racism existed. As we look today, as we have many people from around the world and around the country coming to our province, all of different race and sex, I believe that in Saskatchewan "From Many Peoples Strength," our motto, I believe that that is a true motto and a true belief in Saskatchewan residents and I believe it's incumbent on the next premier and the next cabinet to move forward with that philosophy. I've very comfortable with it and most people I meet are as well. If somebody isn't, I'm glad to have that discussion, to talk about the many benefits of all races in our province.

Ken Cheveldayoff talks about racism in Saskatchewan 0:58

JM: Do you see a need, though, to further reconciliation? There are a lot of indigenous people who do feel marginalized and do feel that they are the victims of racism on a daily basis.        

KC: Absolutely. We have the recommendations from the reconciliation committee and they serve as a guide for governments going forward and I'm certainly committed to that. I'm committed to treaty education in our schools. I'm a parent and I have a couple of children who have benefited from that education as well. But I'm very positive. I think that we have a willingness here to work together and go forward. I was minister of First Nations and Metis relations for a couple of years in our province so I have first hand understanding of working with chiefs and councils and tribal councils, but it all comes back to education. I think that's where we all agree. We've had some successes. We've seen graduation rates in Saskatoon and other places continue to increase. So there's so much that government can do, as long as we're respectful and we listen to our First Nation friends and any other culture that comes into our province as well. 

JM: What would you say is the biggest issue facing our province right now?

KC: We need another ten years of growth in our province. We've had 10 years of growth under Brad Wall. When we became government we were teetering around a million people and now we're almost 1.2 million people. With that comes more money for health care and education and social services. I believe we're on the verge of another ten years of growth.

JM: The last budget was a difficult one. How do you plan to address the financial concerns going forward as our province faces a more difficult financial position than it's seen in recent years?

KC: It was a difficult budget. We had $1.3 billion dollars in resource revenue that disappeared from the province. Some difficult decisions were made. I think we have to take a step back, though, from that budget and look at some of the things that could've been done better, some mistakes that were made, and more importantly, look at that next ten years of growth.

JM: Can you give me some specifics about what you would do differently when you refer to some mistakes and what people could expect in a financial picture going forward?

KC: PST on insurance, for example, is an area I think we have to take another look at. What I'm proposing is to have a committee to look at things in the next 60 days in our province, once I become Premier...if the people choose. It's much like the Vicq Commission that we had ten years ago where we make sure all of our taxes are competitive with other provinces and other places and make sure it's the basis for the next ten years of growth.

JM: What about dealing with this 3.4 per cent labour cut? If all the unions say no, then how do you plan to deal with that shortfall?       

KC: I believe in the collective bargaining process. I was part of it until Aug. 28 because I was the minister in charge of the Public Service Commission. So I know that some good work has been done. I believe that we will come to agreements that will be good for both sides for individuals and for the public sector as well. I believe in balanced budgets. I'm a fiscal conservative. I believe the budget has to be balanced in the next two years and we will reap the benefits of that growth going forward.   

JM: What concerns are you hearing from teachers about education and how it's funded?

KC: I had the opportunity to address several thousand teachers at the Saskatoon Teachers' Association meetings last week and as well as school board trustees from around the province so I've been hearing and interacting with educators and school board trustees. They very much want to see an excellent education system in the province and that's what I want as well. Education was funded in the $960 million dollar range when we became government. It's now funded over $2 billion. There's much more work to be done but what I'm hearing from teachers is they want respect from the next premier and the next cabinet and the next government and that's something that I'm listening very closely to. But I'm excited. I think we can have one of the best education systems in the country. I think we've done a great job at building new schools. Now we have to look at that relationship between the teacher and the student and the parent and the school board and the government. That would be my focus.

JM: How do you change that?    

KC: One idea I have is the cabinet committee on the child, where you bring education and social services and health and justice together. You bring those cabinet ministers together, along with their budgets, to look at what's the very best for the child in the province. It's an idea that even some members of the NDP have given me credit for and that is really resonating with teachers and people around the province. Teachers have many concerns, like marijuana for example. I've been very against marijuana and drugs and crime coming into our province. I think those are areas that distinguish me from some of my colleagues in this leadership race.     

JM: Marijuana is going to be legalized next summer. What's your position on age and where people can buy it and those kinds of rules that are needing to be decided upon pretty quickly?

KC: I think it's fair to say that I'm the candidate that is most against this happening in our province. I believe the minimum age should be 25. The Canadian Medical Association has said that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25 so I believe that should be the minimum age. Some people say, 'Well, it should be the same as alcohol,' and I've talked to some teachers who said if we have alcohol to do all over again, it would probably be 25 as well. And I was very encouraged that the advocate for children and youth in our province came out with his recommendations and he very much agrees with many of the things that I'm saying. When I talk to parents, when I talk to educators and when I talk to some of the students themselves, they believe that we have to be very cautious with this. And we can't just adopt this because the prime minister wants it. I believe we have a role in the province to say that we are going to do everything to keep this away from our schools, from our businesses and from our highways.