Wall hints at post-election battle with union leaders
A day after his landslide re-election, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall hinted at a new battle with union leaders.
"We're not going to be looking for arguments, but if there's opportunities to increase accountability and transparency for union members, we're going to pursue those," Wall said Tuesday.
Wall, who has butted heads with union leaders since his Saskatchewan Party came to power in 2007, mused during the election campaign about requiring unions to reveal how they spend their members' money. On Tuesday, he said that could mean legislation as early as this fall, although he wouldn't provide details.
"We know there's a certain amount of publication of union finances that happens now, but maybe it should be even more forthright," he said.
Wall is already in a court battle with organized labour. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other groups have filed a constitutional challenge of laws that Wall's government introduced in 2007. One requires 45 per cent written support for an application of certification or decertification -- up from what was 25 per cent.
The matter goes before Court of Queen's Bench next Tuesday.
Another law requires employers and unions to establish which union members provide an essential service. That's supposed to be done 90 days before contracts expire. Unions have been outraged with the legislation because it also says that if the two sides can't agree, employers can dictate who is essential.
Wall has also battled with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, which has taken out advertisements that accuse him of planning to privatize government services.
Wall said the 64 per cent popular vote the Saskatchewan Party received in Monday's election shows he has the support of many unionized workers.
The union brass is another matter.
"We're not going to worry as much about the relationship with union leadership that made it quite clear ... that they're not entirely interested in working with the government or the truth of the record of the government of Saskatchewan."
But labour leaders say it is Wall who has been on the attack.
"The ball is clearly in the premier's court," said Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
"If he wants the relationship to continue to be strained, then all he needs to do is continue to attack us. And we will continue to defend our rights."
Unions are already required to reveal financial information to their members and Wall's promise of new legislation appears vague, Hubich said.
The labour legislation is one of many possible bills expected in a short fall session that is to start in late November or early December, Wall said. A cabinet shuffle may wait until the spring.
Despite his overwhelming electoral victory, which saw the Saskatchewan Party take 49 of the 58 legislature seats, one political analyst expects voters will see little change in Wall's approach.
"They have promised essentially to govern in their second term the same way they did in their first term," said Ken Rasmussen, associate director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina.
Wall's campaign promises were touted as small, pragmatic and affordable, and totalled $414 million over four years.
One such measure was announced Tuesday -- a broader provincial sales tax exemption on kids' clothing that Wall promised on the campaign trail. The exemption, which currently covers children up to 14, is to expanded starting next Tuesday to cover teens as old as 17.
Wall also said he is open to listening to the Opposition New Democrats, who were reduced to nine seats from 20 on election night.
"There were a lot of good ideas in the (NDP) platform. Even if the ideas ... had problems with them, because of their workability or their cost, the notion behind them was something we were also dealing with."