Thanks for stopping in at my website! We are now back in the Legislature for the Spring session where we will be focusing on the SK Party government’s neglect in our classrooms, hospitals and seniors care homes while it continues to spend on wasteful pet projects. The government has been shoveling taxpayers’ money at the Lean project in health care, including $40 million for American consultant John Black’s contract, another $17 million every year for Kaizen Promotion Offices and millions more in travel and expenses. We’ve had a decade of significant resource wealth. We still have billions more coming in and being spent by this government every year.

We will continue to push two private members bills: The Buy Local Day Act encourages support for local companies while The Fairness for Saskatchewan Businesses in Government Procurement Act would level the playing field for Saskatchewan businesses when it comes to bidding on contracts to supply goods and services.

The fall session came with some great news! Bill 171, the Human Rights Amendment Act was passed into law! This means that gender identity is now a protected category in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Act. I was pleased as our NDP Human Rights critic to play a role in making this happen but it was the great work of many community activists that ensured the government felt the pressure to explicitly protect the transgender community.

Cam Broten, our leader, says Saskatchewan’s economy in general should be benefitting Saskatchewan people more than it is today. For us, politics isn’t just about the province doing well. It’s also about people doing well.

Please check back again as we update this site regularly. I appreciate any comments you might have or further questions.



David Forbes, MLA
Saskatoon Centre

NDP concerned with lack of specifics on inspection changes

Terrence Mceachern, Regina Leader-Post, March 6, 2015

NDP MLA David Forbes continued to question the government Thursday on its record of unannounced and random occupational and health safety inspections, and raised concerns about the lack of specifics on a plan moving forward.

In particular, Forbes raised concerns about the inspection record at the Agrium Vanscoy potash mine.

During Question Period, Forbes said inspections at the mine showed a disturbing pattern. Of note, he said there hasn’t been an unannounced inspection at the mine since April 2012, nor has there been a scheduled inspection since August 2013. The five visits to the mine were in response to a specific complaint, he said.

According to an NDP Freedom of Information request, between Jan. 5, 2011 and April 27, 2012, there were four unannounced inspections at the mine compared with 12 announced inspections between Feb. 1, 2011, and Aug. 6, 2013.

Since Aug. 6, 2013, there have been four inspections after a complaint was received, the most recent on Jan. 16.

After Question Period, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan said the ministry has been given a directive to return to unannounced and random inspections by a “significant number.” In terms of specific details, he said the deputy minister will be coming back with a business plan on how to “target resources most effectively.”

But Morgan disagreed with the NDP argument regarding the record of scheduled or unscheduled inspections at the mine, arguing there have been five in the past few months.

“When we became aware that the number of unannounced inspections had dropped right off we gave (the ministry) a direction that is not acceptable, they have to bring it back up.”

Morgan said that it is good for inspectors to be unannounced at construction sites so employees and employers are aware they are being watched for workplace safety. He noted that, although the numbers are improving, Saskatchewan still has the second-highest injury rate in Canada.

“I don’t think we’re doing nearly as well as I’d like to see us doing,” he said.

Forbes was asked about the Morgan’s lack of specifics in a plan moving forward. He said that, despite the directive, it sounds like the government is continuing with the status quo and “going to continue the downward trend of not doing random inspections or unannounced inspections.”

Plowing ahead based on ideology is a bad idea

Supreme Court of Canada rules the government’s Essential Services Act unconstitutional

NDP Labour critic David Forbes said Friday’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling against the Government of Saskatchewan’s labour laws is historic – and should send a loud message to Brad Wall that recklessly plowing ahead with plans based on ideology, instead of fairness and common sense, is a bad idea.

The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that the right to strike is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, as a result, declared Saskatchewan’s essential services labour law passed in 2008 to be unconstitutional

The country’s top court ordered the provincial government to pay the unions’ considerable legal fees for the Charter challenge, adding to the significant amount of money the government has already spent trying to save a law which the court says it never should have introduced in the first place.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision, but it never should have had to come to this,” said Forbes. “A good government works in the interest of all people and brings forward balanced legislation that takes everyone’s rights into consideration. But Mr. Wall just plowed ahead based on ideology, rather than in the interests of fairness and common sense, and he recklessly ignored the fundamental rights of working people.

“The result has cost Saskatchewan a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of time.”

Forbes said the NDP Opposition wants the government to move swiftly to fix this flawed legislation.

“We expect a fair and balanced law, that fully respects people’s constitutionally protected rights, and is written with meaningful consultation with all stakeholders,” said Forbes. “The Supreme Court is clear: that law cannot designate large swaths of workers for no reason. It must include a good appeals process. And, it must provide another fair method – like third-party binding arbitration – in the rare cases when a worker is considered too essential to strike.”

Labour peace should always be the goal, and that is best brought about by good faith bargaining, according to the NDP.

“The Supreme Court said the right to strike is there because it’s necessary to achieve a balanced bargaining table,” said Forbes. “We couldn’t agree more. We believe that labour laws should aim to create an environment that delivers labour peace through fairness. The fact is that the vast, vast majority of public sector contracts in Saskatchewan have been settled without job action. That’s in the best interests of Saskatchewan families, and unfair labour laws only serve to disrupt that.”

Saskatchewan needs more affordable housing, not none

Unable to keep up with the need for affordable housing, the government has decided to get rid of it all – a decision the NDP says is backward.

The government announced Thursday it will eliminate affordable housing, and now only offer social housing – a program designed for only the very lowest income and vulnerable people, such as those who are unable to work, homeless or victims of domestic violence.

The thousands of struggling low-income families who have previously qualified for affordable housing – an income-tested housing category that provides housing at below market rates – will have nowhere to turn.

“Basically, what the government is saying with this announcement is that if you’re low-income and struggling, tough luck. You’re on your own. You no longer have options through the government,” said David Forbes, NDP Social Services critic. “Social housing is important, as it serves the most vulnerable. But, there are a lot of families that are working, but struggling to make ends meet, and they need that affordable housing option.

“We know we need more affordable housing, not none.”

With the government’s announcement, about 1,400 families living in affordable housing will see their rents increase. If they refuse to leave their affordable homes, their rents will be raised repeatedly to force them out, according to the government. The background material from the government says it will use rent increases to “incent” families to leave.

“There is a huge need for more affordable housing in Saskatchewan,” said Forbes. “Yet, this is the government that decided to sell 300 homes from the affordable housing program. Then they gave away an apartment building of affordable units as a favour to the developer, Devereaux Homes, and the minister said it wasn’t a concern because she didn’t believe there were desperate homeless people in Saskatchewan. MLA Colleen Young stated publicly that she doesn’t want the government in the affordable housing business.

“This government should have been trying to build enough affordable housing to give families a fair shot at success. Instead, they’re been trying to duck this responsibility – and that’s so out of touch with what Saskatchewan needs.”

CTV Regina:

Sask Party MLA under fire for overseas expenses

Joe Couture, The Starphoenix, April 2, 2014

Saskatchewan Social Services Minister June Draude came under fire Wednesday after it was revealed her expenses for an overseas trip last summer included more than $3,600 for a car service and over $200 for lunch with a friend.

“We think this shows a growing sense of entitlement,” Opposition social services critic David Forbes told reporters in Regina. “We think this amount for transportation is really high, excessively high.”

The Opposition NDP in question period raised concerns arising from detailed expense reports on a trip Draude, accompanied by cabinet secretary Rick Mantey, made to Ghana last summer. The trip also involved several days spent in England.

The London portion of the trip included the particularly concerning aspects, said Forbes. The pair was in that city between June 12 and June 16. During that time, Draude and Mantey spent more than $3,600 in public money on a car service, plus almost $1,900 each at a four-star luxury hotel. Mantey listed more than $200 for a lunch with Draude and her friend from Saskatchewan.

Defending the expenses after question period, Draude said she wasn’t aware the lunch was charged to taxpayers and said she would pay it back. Government spokesperson Kathy Young said later in the day that the lunch was inadvertently included in the expense report and that the cost of it would be paid back by Mantey.

The trip cost more than $18,000 in total. Draude revealed to reporters that the London leg of the journey was added to the trip to Ghana — where she spoke at a conference on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder — to save the cost of flying back to Saskatchewan only to travel to Prince Edward Island days later. The Sask. Party government minister said she scheduled five or six meetings while in London.

Mantey’s flights cost more than $4,300, while Draude’s cost over $2,600 — Young explained later in the day that Mantey chose to fly business class, an option available to ministers and officials travelling overseas, while Draude chose to fly economy class.

Draude also said she saved money by staying with a friend during most of her time in Ghana. Regarding the pricey car service, Draude said it wasn’t what she would consider a limousine and she was advised that such an arrangement was the typical way of getting around in a place like London — although she couldn’t say whether it was common for other government ministers to employ such services.

“Whenever I go out of the country or out of the province, I’m very aware that I’m spending taxpayers’ dollars. It’s really important to me to be conscious of the fact that these are hard-earned, taxpayers’ dollars,” the minister told reporters.

Forbes, however, said the Opposition requests, under freedom of information laws, all travel expenses for provincial government politicians going overseas — and the claims for the journey by Draude and Mantey are the most troubling.

“This really stuck out for us,” he said. “This one had red flags all over it.”

Draude said she had meetings during the trip about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, disabilities, housing and other issues relevant to her government work. There weren’t any reports produced as a result of the trip and Draude struggled to list any specific benefits for Saskatchewan resulting from the meetings she had.


What was taxpayer money spent on during Draude’s overseas trip?

$3,634.33 — car service for Draude and Mantey while in London

$4,366.43 — Mantey’s flights to Ghana and England; chose business class

$2,696.80 — Draude’s flight’s to Ghana and England; chose economy class

$1,864.56 — Draude’s four-star hotel in London; Mantey’s similar

$206.06 — improperly claimed personal lunch with Draude’s friend

Children’s advocate report shows Social Services in disarray

A special report released Tuesday by the Advocate for Children and Youth describes a Social Services Ministry that is understaffed and struggling to meet the basic needs of vulnerable children.

Throughout the report, Lost in the System: Jake’s Story, the advocate describes medical care referrals and developmental assessment requirements that were regularly not followed through on; Assessment and Care Plans that failed to be approved within timeline policies; and understaffed, overcrowded foster homes and emergency care centres that didn’t have time for proper follow-up on red flags.

The cause of Jake’s sudden death in December 2009 can’t be determined, but NDP Social Services critic David Forbes said proper medical and developmental assessment throughout Jake’s short life should have been done along with proper follow-up.

“We’ll never know if anything could have been done to prevent Jake’s death – but we know that he wasn’t given every opportunity and advantage he should have, because we see how the medical and developmental check-ups just weren’t done. We see how often he was moved from one foster home or emergency home to another. We see how infrequently he was looked in on at night,” said Forbes.

“This report is heartbreaking, and it describes a Ministry that is so short-staffed and under-resourced it doesn’t seem to be able to follow its own policies.”

Jake had an inadequately investigated broken leg shortly before his death, and documents noted issues including muscle weakness and a lack of motor skills, a lack of language benchmarks for his age and frequent tantrums. Jake was repeatedly given a referral for a developmental assessment and a referral for a hearing exam – but both needs slipped through the cracks, leaving pediatricians and other professionals to work with an incomplete picture of Jake’s health.

Forbes said while Jake deserves the investigation into the tragedy of his personal circumstance, investigating Jake’s story isn’t just about one child. Between 2010 and 2013, 81 children died while in the province’s care or having recently left the province’s care. That number excludes children who died of natural causes.

“This government is just not getting its act together when it comes to vulnerable children in care,” said Forbes. “There are more children than ever in the care of the province, and this government has made cuts to the number of staff in the Ministry of Social Services, despite warnings from the children’s advocate that the caseloads are too high and are putting children at risk.

“This is not a matter of government spending and investment choices or efficiency – it’s a matter of life or death for these children.”

Forbes said the NDP supports the recommendations made by the children’s advocate in Tuesday’s report.

Government more concerned about its friends than those who desperately need housing: NDP

Some Saskatchewan families need an affordable place to live – a reality this out-of-touch government doesn’t understand, according to comments it made following the revelation it’s choosing to walk away from a 48-unit affordable housing development.

Minister of Social Services Donna Harpauer dismissed the government’s decision to ditch the affordable housing project by saying Tuesday, “you’re assuming that there’s these desperate homeless people.”

Harpauer defended the government’s decision to allow the developer to break the affordable housing contract with the government, penalty-free, by saying “I think that our relationship with [the private developer] warrants the fact that we don’t thump on them when they’ve had a misfortune.”

NDP Leader Cam Broten called the comments disgusting.

“For the Social Services Minister to question whether homeless people in our province are actually desperate for housing is absolutely ridiculous,” said Broten. “It screams of a government that is completely out of touch with the reality for some families. But what’s especially shocking is that this government is using its relationship with the private developer as the reason it abandoned this project and let the developer commercialize it. Clearly this government’s top priority is looking out for its own friends and insiders. That’s completely unacceptable.”

The government sold off 40 housing units in Regina that were previously set aside for low-income residents, with plans to sell another 260. Those units were supposed to be replaced by this new project. But, when the private developer tallied a four per cent cost overrun on its construction, the government allowed it to break its fixed pricing contract without penalty so it could make more money by commercializing the units and charging much higher prices for them.

“It’s frustrating enough that this government can’t get the job done on affordable housing,” said Broten. “But it’s appalling that this government is more worried about its friends than it is about vulnerable people in our society. What exactly is it about the relationship between this government and this particular private developer that’s so special? The government should explain that.”

Government’s failure to enforce contract means end of affordable housing project

The government has walked away from a new 48-unit affordable housing project in Regina, and is now allowing the private developer to rent out the units at full market price instead.

The government sold off 40 housing units in Regina that were previously set aside for low-income residents. Those units were supposed to be replaced by this project. But then the government decided to turn this project over to the private developer because of a four per cent cost overrun on its construction.

“It’s frustrating that this government can’t get the job done on affordable housing,” said David Forbes, NDP housing critic. “This government needs to give a better explanation for why it just handed this project over to the private developer. It’s not fair for the private company to have the government insure and underwrite the construction project and then, for that same private company, to break the contract and be allowed to commercialize the project on their own.”

The NDP says the government should have stood strong and, if necessary, taken the private developer to court in order to enforce the fixed-price contract it had in place.

“It’s basic common sense that any contract should be clear and enforceable and, if there’s still a major disagreement about it, the contract should be able to withstand scrutiny in court,” said Forbes. “So there must have been significant problems with the government’s contract with the developer. Why else would this government just walk away from a much-needed housing project like this?”

Forbes said this mess up is just the latest bad deal between the government and the private companies it selects for projects.

“The government enters into these weak contracts with private companies, and whenever those deals go bad, it’s Saskatchewan people that pay the price,” said Forbes. “We’re seeing that with the $47 million smart meter fiasco, we’re seeing that with this failed affordable housing project, and we’re bound to see it with this government’s private rent-a-school scheme for P3 schools. Enough is enough. Saskatchewan people deserve so much better than this.”

Government fails to submit report on child protection system

NDP wants to know if government is taking its foster system problems seriously

The government has failed to hand in its first report on the activities of the Social Services Ministry when it comes to caring for foster children.

The reports, due every three months, were called for by the Children’s Advocate after six-year-old foster child Lee Bonneau was murdered by another child, a 10-year-old also receiving services from the ministry. Bonneau was killed one year ago, and the Children’s Advocate released recommendations in response on May 14. One of those recommendations required reports from the ministry – the first due Aug. 14.

“Is the government taking its problems with child protection seriously?” asked David Forbes, the NDP critic for social services.

From 2010 to 2013, 81 children in the care of the government died. That number does not include a number of foster children who died from natural causes.

“We know the government’s cuts have left too few front-line case workers with an extremely heavy workload,” said Forbes. “We don’t know if the government is taking any steps at all to follow the Children’s Advocate’s recommendations and stop putting foster kids at such risk.

That’s why it’s necessary for the government to file that report with the Children’s Advocate.”

In May, the Children’s Advocate called on the ministry again to address a short-staffing practice that’s putting children at risk.

“If workloads aren’t addressed, and workers are saying we didn’t do this because they didn’t have time, that’s a non-compliance issue. If workers don’t get the training some of them are saying they need, if the quality of supervision doesn’t improve, if the oversight doesn’t get better, if we don’t start measuring the quality of casework, then bad things are going to happen,” Children’s Advocate Bob Pringle told the media in May.

In 2012-13, the government hired 90 social services employees, but laid off more than 100 full-time employees.

Pride parade puts the fun in fight for equal rights

Matt Gardner, Prince Albert Daily Herald, June 7, 2014

Intermittent rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of participants in this year’s Pride parade.

For many the highlight of Pride Week celebrations in Prince Albert, the annual parade and community rally continues to grow in strength, attracting almost 50 participants from communities across northern Saskatchewan.

“I was really impressed … especially to hear about some people coming from different communities like Duck Lake, James Smith, St. Louis, Meadow Lake, and some attending their very first Pride parade and choosing to do it here,” Prince Albert Q-Network president Jennifer Brockman said.

“It’s always a stressful time organizing it and I wonder, sometimes … are we making a difference?” she added. “That’s when I know we’re making a difference, is (when) I see those couples holding hands, and those people just coming from other communities and attending and celebrating — it just makes it all worthwhile.”

Revelers assembled in front of the Court of Queen’s Bench in the early afternoon before setting out down Central Avenue, attracting supportive honks from many passing vehicles.

Vehicles decked out in rainbow flags paved the way for pedestrians walking behind. One of the vehicles, dubbed the Trans Pride Van, blared trans-friendly music such as Dude (Looks Like A Lady) by Aerosmith and Lola by The Kinks.

The parade route took participants down Central Avenue, west along 28th Street and back down First Avenue West before settling at Kinsmen Park. Participants there enjoyed a range of guest speakers and live entertainment along with a barbecue.

Kicking off the presentations, emcee Stephanie Bourne read out a list of prominent individuals who came out over the last year, such as Canadian actress Ellen Page.

Noting the theme of this year’s Pride Week festivities, “Out and About,” she added, “It’s about honouring ourselves and others and being out — not only to our personal circles, but also in the community and making a difference for those people who don’t have that support group around them.”

In her own remarks, Brockman thanked the work of pioneering activists over the years who helped make Prince Albert more friendly to the LGBTQ community by establishing social support groups and gay-straight alliances (GSAs).

“Anybody who did anything to help support the community, I thank them because they’re the reason that we’re able to be here,” she said.

Other speakers included representatives of communities from across Saskatchewan.

Hailing from Regina was TransSask Support Services co-ordinator Mikayla Schultz, who also helped found the provincial trans support organization.

“It’s great to be here again representing the trans community of Saskatchewan and TransSask Support Services,” Schultz said. “Prince Albert’s always welcoming to us in the trans community and it’s just great to be a part of the festivities.

“As of last year there’s been huge growth for the trans community in Saskatchewan, especially in regards to human rights. We’ve undertaken a human rights awareness campaign called the Time 4 Rights … We encourage all the allies of the transgender community to show their support for gender-diverse people, all gender-diverse people.”

The Time 4 Rights campaign calls for the inclusion of “gender identity” and “gender expression” in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. Additional information is available at www.time4rights.ca.

Schultz noted that TransSask Support Services is currently in the process of creating a branch in Prince Albert.

“We are actually in the process of establishing one. We’ve made contact with a few trans people in the city here, so (we’re) just trying to get coordinated and appoint a facilitator and hopefully we’ll have a chapter here. We’ve got chapters in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon already.”

Two-Spirit elder and Duck Lake resident Marjorie Beaucage reiterated the significance of so many LGBTQ individuals from different areas of Saskatchewan attending.

“This is the first time we have so many from away, away,” she said. “It’s really important … Our communities need to support the youth and the people that are not ‘out and about’ yet because it’s not safe.”

Another speaker on Saturday was Saskatoon Centre MLA David Forbes.

As the Saskatchewan NDP critic for human rights, diversity and equity, Forbes annually attends pride parades in other communities across the province, including P.A., Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon.

“There was this demonstration in Weyburn that I was at earlier in April that was talking about protecting human rights for the rainbow community, and so I think it’s just important to get out and stand in support and solidarity as an ally with the community,” Forbes said.

The MLA noted that many challenges still remain when it comes to acceptance and support for the LGBTQ community, pointing to a recent conference in Weyburn that featured a speaker in which “his main thesis was really around hate and not tolerance for the queer community.”

Forbes noted that the NDP is fully supportive of efforts to include gender identity and gender expression in the provincial Human Rights Code.

“It’s important both those pieces are in place,” he said. “Across Canada, we know human rights codes are being amended to be more proactive. We’re behind here in Saskatchewan.”

He also pointed to other ongoing issues, such as the need to have a discussion about gender markers on provincial identification cards and the presence of GSAs at schools in Prince Albert.

“That’s hugely important that kids in our schools have safe spaces,” he said. “So we’ve been advocating in the provincial legislature that they get moving on the bullying legislation and the initiatives that should be there.”

Another speaker represented the progressive role that can be played by faith when it comes to support of the LGBTQ community.

Calvary United Church congregational designated minister Lorelei Clifford noted that the United Church of Canada had “proudly embraced” members of that community since 1988, when the United Church’s 32nd General Council declared that anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ — regardless of sexual orientation –was welcome to membership in the church.

Clifford recently hosted a local Bible study entitled “Queer and Christian Without Contradiction.”

“We specifically looked at Bible readings that have been used to condemn homosexuality and we looked at what they really said and how the Bible as a whole really is talking about God loving everyone,” she said. “It was a really good study.”

Following the speakers, local musician and Search for the Stars winner Daniel LeBlanc offered live entertainment for the crowd.

His set included an original song, Yellow Lines, written specifically for the occasion, with lyrics expressing support for ongoing LGBTQ struggles.

One promising sign of growing acceptance from the younger generation came from nine-year-old Arianna Hovdebo, who attended the parade to support her aunt, Prince Albert Q-Network co-chair Nicole Milas.

Hovdebo offered a cogent summary of one of the day’s key messages.

“It’s OK to love a girl if you’re a girl,” she said. “And it’s OK to love a boy if you’re a boy.”

Cabinet shuffle must end entitlement culture

The Leader of the Opposition is calling on the premier to end the culture of entitlement growing throughout his government as he considers a cabinet shuffle.

“Mr. Wall needs to change the culture of his government, and set a new tone for his cabinet.” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “It’s not just about who is in cabinet – it’s about using this shuffle to create a new culture – one that’s respectful of taxpayer dollars.”

Shocking expense and entitlement scandals have been surfacing. Deputy Premier Krawetz used a British Heritage Tours limousine for days without asking about the price. Social Services Minister and Sask. Party founder June Draude took a family-and-friends trip to Ghana and the United Kingdom and slotted in a few, unnecessary meetings in order to bill taxpayers for their meals, luxury hotel and chauffeur. Paul Merriman demanded the Saskatoon Food Bank pay him to campaign for the Sask. Party, and pressured the charity for other payments when they refused.

“Government MLAs obviously affected by the sense of entitlement in that government’s culture – like Draude, Krawetz and Merriman – should not be appointed to cabinet,” said Broten. “But, the culture comes from the top. We don’t know how many bogus expenses and outlandish demands Mr. Wall’s government is responsible for, but we know the change has to start with the premier and his attitude, and a cabinet shuffle is the time to do it.”

Broten said he has been shocked to see the Premier stand by his MLAs when their unjustifiable expenses and selfish actions were exposed by the NDP.

“It’s time for the premier to stop defending entitlements for government politicians and start defending Saskatchewan families. A lot of people are looking for relief from the high cost of living and the extra costs the government keeps piling on. There’s such a disconnect between what Mr. Wall seems to believe he and his cabinet deserves, and what he seems to believe everyday Saskatchewan families deserve.”

Broten added that there are must-haves for the cabinet shuffle.

“I want to see a new minister of health that will use common sense and end the fat, cash cow Lean consulting contracts, $3,500 a day Lean senseis and $17 million Kaizen Promotion offices. It’s also time for a new minister of education that will start to show respect to educators and our children – that includes listening, and it must include cancelling the Lean claw back the government’s using to take dollars out of the classroom.”