The need to upgrade waste landfills was one of a number of topics discussed at a New North meeting in Prince Albert on Thursday.

The province is requiring a number of northern Saskatchewan communities to upgrade or decommission their landfill sites.

Nevertheless, New North Chairperson Georgina Jolibois says the cost of meeting these requirements is not cheap.

“Every study that is done is expensive, with engineers involved in different professional capacities to come forward to our communities to assist us,” she says.

Jolibois says an environmental assessment of a landfill site can cost as much as $60,000 and this is why New North is asking the provincial government for more financial support to help communities meet these requirements.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne was also one of the featured speakers at the meeting.

Dionne is continuing to lobby for a second bridge in Prince Albert.

He says the growing need for another bridge is not just a Prince Albert issue but also a provincial issue.

“You heard the twinning of the new highway (No.2) opened, you heard Daryl Hickie (Sask Party MLA) announce it had been twinned, that the car traffic has increased 6,200 cars a day,” he says. “Well, those cars are heading towards our bridge.”

With New North’s support, Dionne is trying to get a resolution put forward at the 2014 Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention which will call on the province to fund a second bridge in Prince Albert.

In terms of infrastructure, chair of the Northern Municipal Trust Account and mayor of Air Ronge Gordon Stomp says aging water and sewer systems in northern Saskatchewan require about $60 million in upgrades.

He says the federal and provincial governments will likely kick in two-thirds of the cost of these upgrades but it will be up to northern communities to raise the rest.

“We will be able to commit $10 million of that from the existing budget of the NMTA but there needs to be $10 million coming from the municipalities,” he says.

Stomp says once monies from the Northern Municipal Trust Account are factored in, the remaining $10 million needed could be raised through a separate cost-sharing agreement amongst all 35 northern municipalities.

Another hot topic of discussion was changes to social housing.

The Saskatchewan Party government is currently in the process of phasing in a number of changes to how it administers social housing in the province including raising the minimum and maximum rental rates that are allowed to be charged.

Ile-a-la Crosse Mayor Duane Favel says the changes could potentially drive higher income earners out of northern communities.

“These high-income earners are now paying the top rent which sometimes goes as high as $1,600 a month and certainly those community members now have to make a decision on whether or not they want to stay in those social housing units or be faced with making a decision in terms of whether or not they should move out of the community and in to the urban centres,” he says.

Favel adds many of the same high-income earners often don’t have the option of renting or owning a private dwelling in a northern community.

The province says the changes should lead to rental increases for about 14 per cent of the people currently using social housing.

New North is currently working with the government and its member communities to set up a working group to explore potential options to the changes.