Saturday, September 12, 2020


Particularly as parents face difficult decisions in determining how to handle a return to unsafe schools in the midst of a pandemic, it's no surprise that the Moe government's secrecy about the infrastructure deficit it's accumulated in the education sector is raising some outrage. But it's particularly jarring to see how the choice to withhold that information affects the province's impending election campaign.

In the Information and Privacy Commissioner's report (PDF) recommending the release of that information, the government used these excuses to claim it was entitled to keep Saskatchewan in the dark about the investment needed to ensure a safe education for our province's children:
- that the numbers should be considered "recommendations" as to needed investment which could affect educational budgeting: para. 15;
- that the numbers could form the basis for budgeting decisions, both overall and between school divisions: para. 23; and
- that the numbers could harm the government's interests by revealing that funding being provided for deferred maintenance actually isn't being used for that purpose: para. 31.

While all of those submissions were rejected, it's worth highlighting how appalling it is that they were made at all.

After all, Saskatchewan's voters will have to decide this fall whether the government is living up to public expectations in managing government institutions (as well as local authorities under its jurisdiction). And it would seem obvious that in order to make any informed decision, we'll need to be able to make comparisons between what investment is needed to make schools safe, what's been allocated, and what's actually been put to its intended purposes.

Instead, the Saskatchewan Party government's explicit position is that the public has no business knowing the scope of the problems it will be shouting about having addressed. And even more tellingly, it's willing to go on the record saying that the government's interests will be damaged if people learn how the funding earmarked for school maintenance is actually being spent.

Needless to say, that should set off massive alarm bells whether or not the numbers are released in advance of the election - particularly as we see the real-life effects of the Saskatchewan Party's underinvestment. And we should be eager to take the opportunity to vote out a premier who thinks that what the province needs and how funding is actually being spent are matters which should be concealed from the public.

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