In Saskatchewan politics, some stakeholder groups have always been more closely aligned with some political parties than others.
For example, it’s no secret that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Chambers of Commerce are philosophically linked to the Saskatchewan Party.
The same can be said for various free-market-oriented agricultural producer groups, and oil and mining lobby stakeholder groups.
Even the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) – while, by definition, neutral – holds so many like-minded views and supporters that it often comes across as aligned with the Sask. Party.
Moreover, SARM’s history includes its 1960 opposition to the Tommy Douglas CCF’s Royal Commission on Agriculture that recommended adoption of a county system. Also, in the 1990s, SARM and the Sask. Party went to war with the NDP government over its exploration of rural municipal amalgamation.
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Conversely, the NDP emerged in the 1960s when labour was given an active voice in the old CCF.
That Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is still considered a constituency at the party’s annual conventions says much about allegiances on the left.
This perspective is needed to better understand ongoing feud between the Sask. Party government and Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation … although, this issue isn’t as cut and dried as some think.
For example, while unions and their leadership may be closely aligned with the NDP, that isn’t necessarily the case with the rank and file.
There are 13,500 teachers in Saskatchewan, so political views are views. Those in rural Saskatchewan likely recognize that the opinions of teachers they know likely don’t vary all that greatly from others in their communities.
And while teachers may have a self-serving view of their own pay, any government needs to recognize that how teachers are compensated affects students and their parents and all the rest of us.
In fact, in a growing province like Saskatchewan, there is an automatic need for government to shell out more for teachers.
According to the September school enrolment numbers, the number of Saskatchewan students
increased by 2,735 to 174,277 compared with 171,542 students in 2017.
Yet this year’s operational funding in the 2018-19 budget is still 1.3 per cent less than in 2016-17, which takes us the teacher’s contract and the government’s uneasy relationship with its teachers.
Education Minister Gord Wyant acknowledges the Sask. Party government has not set aside money for a contract increase.
You don’t want to “create any undue expectations with respect to what (a new contract) might look like,” Wyant said, later telling reporters last week that the increase “can be zero” and “I am not going to pre-judge” what might happen in the negotiation.
One gets why Wyant might not want to tip his hand in normal negotiations. However, this negotiation is already at and impasse and has gone to an arbitrator.
It would seem highly unlikely any arbitrator would recommend a wage freeze. But even if he or she did, there is the existing the problem of rising enrolment that will require more teachers.
Given that $30 million was added to the education budget in the 2018-19 budget – a leadership campaign promise by now Premier Scott Moe largely to make up for the $54 million cut to the education budget in the 2017-18 austerity budget under former premier Brad Wall – it’s quite obvious that this government is prepared for some teachers salary increase.
To send out signals that no increase is coming sends out a hostile message.
“There’s not a lot of trust in the education sector right now,” said STF president Patrick Maze.
One can’t help think that part of the problem is the long shaky relationship between the Sask. Party and the teachers.
This always seems to be the case because some groups get along better with political parties than others.