Northern Leaders Slam Provincial Budget

Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 15:56



Several northern leaders aren’t happy with this year’s provincial budget.


Glen Strong, chairman of the Athabasca Transportation Planning Committee, says he can’t believe there’s no mention of a road network for the Far North.


Recently, Strong and others met with Premier Lorne Calvert — where Strong says they were assured the creation of a road was a priority for the government.


However, the 2005 budget sets aside no specific funds for development of the proposal.


Highways Minister Maynard Sonntag says it was made clear to Athabasca leaders during a recent meeting with the premier that there wasn’t enough time to include any funds for the road in the budget.


Sonntag says his department will continue to meet with Ottawa to discuss the issue.


The minister is also hinting he may approach private industry groups for help with the project, as well.


However, Strong isn’t holding his breath.


Strong also can’t believe the government is actually decreasing the amount of money its funnelling into northern roads.


The province is directed $28.8 million will go towards northern road work this year.


That’s down over two million dollars from last year.


Meanwhile, officials with the Northern Development Board Corporation say the North is being neglected through prosperous times.


Chair Al Rivard says the budget brings nothing new to northern Saskatchewan.


Rivard says with the province earning record revenues from resource royalties, northerners were hopeful for major new initiatives and spending for the North.


Rivard says, instead, the highways budget has decreased eight per cent and there have been no new funds set aside to improve the northern economy.


Ile-a-la-Crosse Mayor Max Morin says he echoes those sentiments.