Pinehouse Mayor Mike Natomagan is part of the delegation meeting government officials in Ottawa

photo courtesy

Representatives from five northern communities and the Prince Albert Grand Council are in Ottawa looking to forge positive partnerships with the federal government.

The group includes chiefs from Black Lake, Fond du Lac and English River, a councillor from Hatchet Lake and the mayor of Pinehouse, along with three economic development officials.

This is the third year the group has met with bureaucrats, assistant deputy ministers and other government officials as they look at ways to bring more opportunities for the communities they represent.

Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan says all the communities in the delegation have signed a collaboration agreement with industry players that are working in their traditional territories and he says what they want to do is find partners and build relationships in the areas of jobs, skills training and economic development.

“There are slow economic times in the uranium industry and we want to find opportunities for our people,” he says.  “If we are capable of working in the mining industry, we should be able to work in our own communities and that’s the message we are sending.”

He says educating the government officials on the issues they face is part of the visit.  He says many of them are not aware of the issues the north faces with justice, policing and what the communities need to do to change positively.

And he says many of the northern communities need to know what kind of funding opportunities are available to them. “If there are federal dollars out there, we need to know what we can tap into, but a lot of communities don’t have the administration staff in place to deal with those funding programs,” he says.

One of the big issues that were discussed was the certainty of an all-weather road to Wollaston Lake.  The provincial government had made promises of an all-weather road into the northern community in 2008, but that has yet to materialize.  Natomagan says there are three phases to the project and they are dealing with the first phase right now.  He says the next step will be to lobby the provincial government to continue on with the planned project.

“We’ve had a really good response from the federal government and now it’s us that needs to go back to the province and see what we can do,” he added.

As for future meetings with the federal officials, Natomagan says he hopes that they continue and he says the delegation has put an invite out to come to northern Saskatchewan and visit their communities.

“We are inviting them to come to northern Saskatchewan to see what we as communities are going through, says Natomagan. “There are some good things in the north and we need to let them know all about it.”