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After a week of hinting, the Saskatchewan New Democrats have rolled out a campaign platform that renews their commitment to government-owned utilities and publicly funded health care.

Much of the material in the 41-page booklet had already been outlined in the first 10 days of the campaign for the Nov. 5 provincial election. Still, NDP Leader Lorne Calvert held a special news conference yesterday to show off the promises, which he said would cost $152-million a year when fully implemented at the end of four years.

"It is a platform that is financially achievable, financially viable," Mr. Calvert said. "I'm asking the people of Saskatchewan to compare this vision and this platform with that of the Saskatchewan Party.

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"While our platform is affordable, theirs is reckless."

The NDP is seeking its fourth consecutive mandate from Saskatchewan voters. Its platform is built on four main planks: affordable living, health care, an economy focused on the environment, and keeping young people in the province.

Emphasis is being placed on Crown corporations, which provide Saskatchewan residents with everything from natural gas to telephone service to auto insurance.

Most observers see the Crown corporations as the battleground in the election, with the NDP pushing for continued public ownership while the Saskatchewan Party calls for restriction and privatization.

The NDP is promising to provide the lowest package of utility and insurance rates in the country.

"We can make that commitment because we will ensure that our publicly owned utilities will continue to provide those affordable rates for Saskatchewan families," Mr. Calvert told about 40 supporters and candidates.

The platform booklet takes direct aim at the Saskatchewan Party and its leader, Elwin Hermanson.

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"A fire sale of Crown corporations would generate short-term cash to compensate for the Sask. Party's unsustainable tax-cut promises. Elwin Hermanson and the Sask. Party would put the future of our Crown corporations -- and our economy -- at risk."

The New Democrats also renewed their commitment to no health-care privatization and no premiums. The party promises to raise the number of training spaces for registered nurses to 400 and licensed practical nurses to 150.

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