Saskatchewan election campaign hits halfway mark with promises, but no surprises

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REGINA - The Saskatchewan election campaign has hit the halfway mark with lists of promises and a lot of handshaking, but political watchers say there's been no surprises.

"This is more or less what you would have expected, I think, at the beginning of the campaign," said Ken Rasmussen, associate director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina.

"The Sask. Party is running on a strong record of good management and the NDP is running on a sense of some dissatisfaction with this record."

The NDP released an election platform last Thursday that relies on more potash revenue to cover spending promises.

The platform includes a promise to improve crop insurance at a cost of $50 million in each of the last three years of the four-year plan. A tuition freeze at post-secondary institutions is expected to cost $5.2 million in year one, increasing to $26 million in year four. The NDP has also promised to add 10,000 more training spaces at post-secondary institutions for a total of $88 million over four years.

Rasmussen said the NDP is trying to make up a lot of ground.

"They're in the promising business," he said.

"They're in the business of reminding people that we could be more, there are more opportunities out there that aren't being tapped into and there's lots of people that are being left behind in the current environment, that not everybody is prospering to the same extent."

Premier Brad Wall released the Saskatchewan Party's platform Saturday with great fanfare, but little spending.

Wall said the plan focuses on growth and affordability for residents and the government. The total cost is $414 million over four years.

The costliest promise is an expansion of the assured income program for people with disabilities. Wall said the Saskatchewan Party, if re-elected Nov. 7, would expand the program to cover people living outside residential care facilities and increase benefits. The price tag would be $18.4 million in the first year and $33.3 million by the fourth year.

"You could have expected this at the beginning of the campaign," said Rasmussen.

"There was no need for the Sask. Party to come out with a series of extravagant and wild promises. They're essentially running on a record of a government that has led a resource boom, has seen the province's unemployment reach historic lows. You know there's lots of good economic news so there's no need to really run on promising a lot for everybody in the province."

He said the second half of the campaign will likely be more of the same.

"I think that it's entering a kind of a phase where there will be various attacks on the election platform, what it means, what it'll do to the province, where it will lead us. But I don't think there's going to be a lot of excitement in the last two weeks."

The halfway mark comes as Wall and NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter ready to face off in a televised debate Tuesday evening.

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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