New Northern Initiatives Included In Budget

Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 15:00



Saskatchewan’s Minister of Highways and Infrastructure hopes to develop a five-year plan for roads in northern Saskatchewan.


Wayne Elhard says that wasn’t part of yesterday’s budget announcement, but he says a strategy will be developed this year.


A total of $37 million dollars was earmarked in this year’s budget for northern road maintenance — as well as $10 million for Wollaston Lake’s all-weather road, which is already in progress.


Elhard says an evaluation of northern roads would look at social and economic factors to determine which roads would be done first.


Elhard says the government is also working aggressively to secure funding with the federal government and private sector for the Athabasca Basin Roads Project, which includes the roads from Points North to Stony Rapids, Stony Rapids to Fond du Lac, and the Wollaston Lake road.


Meanwhile, yesterday’s provincial budget gives the green light for northern enterprise regions to be developed.


A couple of weeks ago, New North vice-chair Bruce Fidler complained that nothing was being done to create enterprise zones in the north.


He pointed out they’re scheduled to be in place in the south April 1st.


First Nations and Metis Relations Minister June Draude says the go-ahead for northern enterprise regions has nothing to do with Fidler’s complaints.


She says some lessons have been learned while setting up enterprise zones in the south — and those will be applied while setting establishing them in the north.


Draude also says northerners will be consulted as they’re set up, adding that work will begin in the next couple of weeks.


The provincial government also set aside $500,000 in Wednesday’s budget to continue work on the draft policy on the duty to consult.


The province’s draft policy came out late last year.


Both the FSIN and Metis Nation – Saskatchewan have rejected it.


But that doesn’t mean the policy is dead, according to Draude.


She says that just means more negotiations need to be held.


Draude says her government is ready to do that.