The Opposition NDP has been connecting with Saskatchewan residents, local governments and organizations on a number of fronts in advance of the spring sitting of the legislature. Following a stop in the Humboldt area by NDP Health Critics, a trio of NDP caucus members took the time to meet with members of Humboldt City Council and the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce of Commerce this week. Our conversation with Erika Ritchie, Aleana Young and Nathaniel Teed continues.
Municipal affairs critic Erika Ritchie addressed a concern among business people in the province with challenges in the labour market. Jobs are plentiful, and the post pandemic rebound has seen an impact on job vacancies, making it tough on small businesses, and indeed some industries. It’s curbing the growth that many regions are poised for, the trio noted.
“They’re struggling on these fronts, and there’s no support from the province in terms of addressing things like regional economic development, issues around labour attraction and retention, and how they can make the most gains overall for the region.”
Back in Regina, Young and Opposition Leader Carla Beck blasted the Moe government on immigrant retention rates which an NDP statement says are “worst-in-nation outside Atlantic Canada.”
“Anyone who grew up here knows that Saskatchewan has the potential to be the best place to live and work in Canada,” said Beck at a Regina-based press conference. “Yet with Scott Moe at the wheel, new families and immigrant workers like doctors or tradespeople are leaving. The Sask. Party is not giving our newest neighbours the tools they need to put down roots and stay in our great province.”
Ritchie blames it on a lack of consultation and an ad-hoc approach to decision making.
“There isn’t enough consultation that’s happening to understand the local concerns, and decisions are happening last minute,” Ritchie says. “That’s why we’re out on this tour engaging with communities to understand what their local concerns and issues are because we have a government right now that isn’t listening.”
Health care remains one of the key pre-budget focuses for the NDP. The current health care tour, undertaken by health critics Vicki Mowat and Matt Love, continues to hear stories of burnout in the nursing profession and the need for real solutions when it comes to compensating family physicians.
“I’d add cost of living, the economy and jobs in terms of the top three issues this government should be prioritizing,” added Aleana Young. “You can’t go to any corner of the province without hearing about the cost of living. It impacts everybody, every small business.”
Young echoed Party Leader Beck's concerns about slack retention rates for immigrants and potential workers as part of those economic concerns.
“We’ve lost ten thousand young people in the past five years, and that makes for real challenges for job creators, employers, and for economic development. It creates challenges for Humboldt with generational businesses who have opportunities to grow and thrive with the prosperity presented by the new mine. If they don’t have access to capital to grow, to hire employees and to have housing for them here, it’s going to be growth without a lot of actual development for the community.”
Nathaniel Teed is the critic responsible for SLGA. The decision by the provincial government to close the remaining SLGA liquor outlets in the province and transition the business to private ownership has created ripples in the community.
Humboldt is one of those communities that’s losing its SLGA store,” acknowledged Teed, “And I chatted with the mayor and the Chamber about that. Those were good mortgage paying jobs in the community. I think the closure of those remaining liquor stores is essentially an attack on rural Saskatchewan. In this case, it’s a government that doesn’t really have the back of rural Saskatchewan. Those folks will have to find new jobs to pay the mortgages and the bills.”
In the weeks leading up to the resumption of the legislature, the NDP contingent promises to keep travelling and keep listening to Saskatchewan residents.