POLITICS
10/17/2011 06:46 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan Election: Brad Wall Promises Expansion OF Program For Disabled, Criticizes Costly NDP Promises

CP

REGINA - Premier Brad Wall started the second week of the Saskatchewan election campaign by outlining what he said will be his party's most expensive promise — expansion of an income program for people with disabilities.

Wall said the Saskatchewan Party, if re-elected Nov. 7, would expand an assured income for disability program to cover people living outside residential care facilities. He also promised to increase benefits over the next four years by $100 a month to $1,200 a year for people in residential care and by $350 a month to $4,200 a year for single people living outside residential care.

The price tag would be $18.4 million in the first year and $33.3 million by year four, he said.

"We'll continue about the business of making sure that there is the dignity of a home for people with intellectual disabilities, that there is a respite program where needed and that there is day programming needed as well," Wall said Monday at a news conference in Regina.

"I can't imagine a more important function for government than this."

It's the latest tweak Wall has made during the campaign to improve an existing program.

Last week, he said another Sask. Party government would extend a tax break to help families with the cost of their children's cultural, recreational and sports activities. The benefit currently ends at age 14 but Wall would stretch that to 18.

He also promised that a provincial sales tax exemption on children's clothing would cover all kids under 18.

Wall has also said that a renewed Sask. Party government would increase the maximum monthly benefit under the senior income plan over the next four years from its current level of $190 per month to $270 per month.

When asked Monday if tweaking existing programs means it's a boring campaign, Wall replied: "Oh gosh, I hope not. I don't think today's boring at all.

"But it's a fair question because ... yes, we did make some bold promises last election ... because we thought there was a lot of overhauling to do and a lot of work that was needed," said Wall.

"If we're adjusting our plan from last time it's on purpose. Our message in this campaign is ... while we recognize there's still work to be done in a number of areas, we're on the right track. We've made a lot of progress in four years and so we need to responsibly move forward and add those adjustments that we think will improve on where we are already."

Wall said his promises are about affordability and he criticized the New Democrats for talking about spending millions of dollars, such as two announcements Monday intended to appeal to the young and to the old.

Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said an NDP government would introduce an annual property tax rebate of $500 to seniors who rent or own homes. He also proposed a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per year for people who care for aging relatives.

The NDP started the day with a promise to fund a four-year tuition freeze at universities and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, known as SIAST. The party also said it would raise the maximum allowable family income level for determining student loans and create 10,000 new spots for students at post-secondary institutions.

The tuition freeze would cost $5.2 million the first year and reach $26 million by the fourth. Creating 10,000 more spaces would add another $88 million to the budget when fully implemented.

"Many students don't have the money to go to institutions like SIAST or university, so we're losing some of the brightest young people because they can't afford it," Lingenfelter said at a news conference at the University of Regina.

He also promised schools wouldn't feel the pinch.

"Our commitment is to fully fund the universities so they're not put at risk because of any result of a tuition freeze."