Shortly after the NDP Healthcare Solutions Tour rolled through Watrous, Lanigan and Humboldt, three additional members of the NDP caucus paid Humboldt a visit. This time it was about collecting input on priorities in advance of the provincial budget. NDP Critics Erika Ritchie, Aleana Young and Nathaniel Teed connected with the City of Humboldt Council and administration and with the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce on February 15
It’s an all-out “boots on the ground” approach that has the provincial NDP crisscrossing the province and listening to civic and municipal governments, business interests, social agencies and individual citizens on their ideas and priorities.
What we’re hearing now is that we have a government that’s lost perspective and isn’t listening anymore to the concerns of local communities,” asserted Erika Ritchie, municipal affairs critic. “We’re out here to engage, understand what’s working and what’s not working, and be able to take those messages back to the legislature and be sure that we’re advocating for communities across the province.”
Humboldt and area has been focused on the prospect of some rapid growth, given regional developments in the mining sector. With that growth comes the need for expanded infrastructure, both within the city of Humboldt and in surrounding communities.
“We are hearing that there are challenges adapting to the opportunities for growth in Humboldt, particularly when it comes to things like being able to invest in new infrastructure to support a growing community,” said Ritichie. “There are barriers to that growth, whether it’s the application of the PST to construction for municipal infrastructure projects. That affects how the city of Humboldt moves forward with its expansion to their wastewater treatment plant. So basically the government is offering money with one hand and taking it away with the other.”
Ritchie said those taxes alone amount to over $2 million dollars of expense that could be put toward other projects.
The network of rural schools in the Horizon School Division and their repair and replacement speaks to similar situations across Saskatchewan. Young says that much of the day's discussions revolved around business development and challenges with growth; however, the sentiment around education funding has been resonating as well.
“What we’ve been hearing on the education front has been on class sizes and class complexity; those are the main issues that are really challenging.”
As a former school board trustee and vice-president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, Aleana Young shared insights into some of the key concerns for schools and administration.
“School divisions are grappling with spending 20 to 30 cents of every dollar that they receive on transportation and communities not wanting to lose their schools and part of their identity and a source of jobs. They’re facing real challenges with kids sitting an hour to an hour and a half one way. There’s not a school or school division in the province keeping up with funding needs, while having lost the ability to access increased funding through taxation and losing the autonomy that’s really important to schools across the province.”
It’s about prioritizing local voices and local choices for school boards in determining the outcomes for schools and students.
The trio shared feedback on local and national labour challenges, rural health care, SLGA store closures, and economic development. Discover Humboldt will continue our coverage of the NDP rural tour in our final segment.