Newly appointed NDP leader Carla Beck’s “Rebuild to Win” tour has taken her to various locations throughout southern Saskatchewan. Now she’s making inroads into central and northern Saskatchewan with a stop at Wakaw on July 7. Beck talked with SUMA delegates who were in Wakaw participating in meetings and took time to visit the Wheatland Express train that has brought tourist attention to the community. 

Beck is a week and about 3000 kilometres into the tour that has made pitstops where she’s communicated the party’s sincere wish to see positive change for Saskatchewan residents.

“We’re inviting people in to have another look at the Saskatchewan NDP, to show that we are going to make those connections so that we are an exciting alternative to the Sask Party government in 2024.”

Along with the messaging, Beck says she’s been listening, and the chief refrain she’s hearing, no matter where she goes, is getting back to affordability.

“Of course, we’re facing a generational crisis in terms of inflation in this province. That’s been top of mind. People are concerned about their ability to be paying their bills. Their summer vacation plans have been halted or adjusted because people can’t afford to put gas in their tanks.”

At the same time, Beck and her party remain critical of this spring’s budget that she says has increased fees and taxes in 32 different areas, along with the previous day's announcement of an 8 percent rate hike for SaskPower. Rapidly increasing input costs for farmers has also resonated throughout the rural communities she’s visited.  

Beck also notes residents’ concerns about health care, particularly in rural areas, is mounting. 

“A real crisis in terms of accessing health care, long wait times, rural ER closures, and a shortage of healthcare workers right across the board which is impacting service and people’s ability to access health care.”

The party has also been vocal about funding for education, which Beck maintains has been lacking for a decade. Now, it’s more than just cracks that are showing, in her opinion. The underfunding has led to a position of K-12 education being undermined, and Beck states that there is simply nowhere left to cut.  

“There’s been reduced per pupil funding going back to 2013. I was a two-term school trustee, and it was one of the things that got me into provincial politics, the chronic underfunding of our kids' classrooms. We have students who have just graduated in June who have gone their whole time through the K-12 system with declining supports.”

The state of rural Saskatchewan and its businesses is also seeing heightened concern, Beck notes. With a plan to meet with SUMA delegates during her stop, Beck says she’s likely to hear repeated concerns about business viability and population retention. 

“Right now in this province, we are losing more people than in any other province in the country, and we’re losing more of our young people than any other age demographic. Promoting small town values and small town businesses is really important. Businesses that are still recovering from the pandemic just can’t withstand another 8 percent increase (by SaskPower). With supply chain issues and inflation, we really need to be offering support to those businesses that really are an economic driver in communities across this province.”

Beck touched on the disconnect she has heard around Indigenous communities being under represented. It’s part of the reason for the outreach in the tour, she says.

“We’ve seen my colleague, Betty Nippi Albright, talk about the broken duty to consult process;  that was done in collaboration with leaders across the province. There is a very bright future for us in the province, and that future has to include Indigenous people. They need to be invited to the table and help build the solutions that I know we are all looking for.”

While in Wakaw, Beck took the opportunity to chat with residents along Main Street, visit a few businesses, and enjoy a bit of railroad history with Bill Nobel, interpreter for the Wheatland Express and newly opened western town replica. Then it was down the road to Manitou Beach for an evening stop before returning to Moose Jaw to continue the tour. 

Below is the full interview with Carla Beck.