Up against a Wall
Lingenfelter’s debate performance may fall short of what the NDP needs
With Brad Wall’s pinstripe suit safely hidden in his closet and Dwain Lingenfelter sporting a tie right out of the late Jack Layton’s collection, the Saskatchewan Party and Saskatchewan New Democratic Party take to the stage for the Leaders Debate.
No punches were thrown, though Wall was sharp with his tongue at one point in the debate, calling out Lingenfelter for splicing Wall’s comments. Although the NDP was quick to release a press release nine minutes after the debate ended with the title ”Link wins by sticking to issues that matter”, the consensus on Twitter was that Wall came out on top for sticking to the questions and not throwing around potash royalties whenever he got the chance, unlike his opponent Lingenfelter.
One issue that was brought up during the debate, which hadn’t been making the usual campaign lip service, was aboriginal issues.
When it comes to aboriginal people in this province, Wall said he is not leaving it up to the federal government. Wall discussed Sask Party’s future and current plans to address the growing list problems First Nations people face in this province.
“We have engaged in a memorandum of understanding and agreement with the FSIN, with real goals around closing the education gap of outcomes between First Nations and non- First Nations,” Wall added. “This is the first time a government has included First Nations’ Forest Management Allocation. So they can be part of an industry that is resurging now, with mills opening in [Prince Albert] and Big River. We have invested $167 million in this budget alone in education and training Aboriginal employments.”
Lingenfelter’s plans to address these issues is by talking about it.
“[We need] to engage in a discussion on how to make life better and how to include First Nations,” he said. “Much less money is spent for small kids who are First Nations, then on my children. We need to do a much better job of dialogue whereby we create a situation where First Nation people feel they are part of a community.”
Wall responded by saying, “It is true on reserves the federal government funds first nation education less than the province does. When school boards fund education, we do so as well for First Nations that live off reserves.”
The fight of the words did not end there. When it came to revenue sharing, the two leaders had very opposing views.
Lingenfelter has spoken many times about his promise, if elected, to implement revenue sharing programs among potash revenues with Aboriginal people.
“The way we are sharing are resources right now is that ninety-five cents of every dollar go to the shareholder and the CEO of the Potash Corporation and a nickel comes to Saskatchewan and First Nations kids are getting less than my chid,” he said. “What I am saying is we have to do a better job, and by just saying the status quo is okay, is not going to work.”
Wall replied by saying, “We simply do not support a special revenue sharing program for any group, First Nations or any other group. The reason is because these resources belong to everyone. A year ago we all came together and fought against a potash takeover. We said, you said, I said, the province said that those resources belong to the people of the province. They don’t belong more disproportionately to one group than another. They belong to everyone equally.”
With Nov. 7 a little over a week away – and with the NDP still lagging far behind the Sask Party in the polls – Lingenfelter may still have to come out of this debate swinging even harder to catch up.