The Saskatchewan Party is firing back against NDP claims about cabinet ministers’ air travel.
NDP leader Cam Broten levelled the party’s accusations at an event in Saskatoon on Thursday. Broten accused the Wall government of treating a fleet of three Air King planes owned by the province as an expensive shuttle service.
He singled out Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd, alleging that he took nearly $400,000 worth of flights between 2011 and 2015. Broten said his party would sell off two of the planes if elected, with the third to be converted to an air ambulance for the province’s north.
In a media release, Sask. Party officials first claimed that Boyd’s bill for flights is actually closer to $200,000, not the $400,000 alleged by the NDP. They went on to defend the use of the planes.
The release said having government-owned planes is more cost-effective than chartering them, noting there are currently no private charter services available in Regina. That would mean hiring planes to come in from out of town if the government planes were sold off.
The release went on to attack the NDP’s own spending record, alleging that Broten’s use of provincially-owned vehicles has cost more than that of any Sask. Party cabinet minister.
The Sask. Party also went after the NDP’s record of using of the planes when it was last in power. The release claimed Bucky Belanger, currently the NDP MLA for Athabasca, racked up $460,000 in flights in a four-year span while serving as a cabinet minister under former NDP Premier Lorne Calvert.
Speaking in Saskatoon, Education Minister Don Morgan defended Boyd.
“He’s the minister of the economy. So he’s the one that’s responsible for assembling potash deals, mining deals and I know that he travels internationally and the things he’s brought back to this province are absolutely huge … when you make that kind of investment, it’s good value for money,” he said.
Morgan added that he’s heard regrets from his counterparts in provinces where they’ve gotten rid of their planes. He pointed to British Columbia, where officials have to take ferries or secure private charters to get from Victoria back to their constituencies.