The New Democrat candidate for Athabasca said several issues affecting northern residents is why he is seeking another term in Legislative office.
Buckley Belanger explained he feels the North is being ignored and that Northerners are pushed around by the provincial government.
“One of the biggest reasons, I think, is the fact that we want to keep the fight alive. For northern people to be able to access land and resources around in your community. We’re finding more and more people are being pushed off the land, whether its hunters being harassed, or people waiting funds for leases to be approved, or wild rice leases being sold out of the North, the fight for the with the commercial fishing industry. The list goes on as to how northern people are being pushed around when it comes to their own backyard,” Belanger said.
“The Sask. Party need to be taught that northern people will not be pushed around. And that’s really, really important. And that’s one of the reasons why, as I’ve said time and time again, it is what motivated me to run again.”
Belanger is no stranger to politics. He was elected in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016. In the 2016 general election Belanger took approximately 65 percent of the vote.
The economy continues to struggle and loses are in the thousands from September 2019. Belanger said in order to turn this around, all governments in the region need to be consulted.
“One of the things that I think is really important is to gauge the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, and gauge the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, engage corporate interests in the north, strengthen the mayors of organizations to make sure that they’re a big part of this whole solution and start building a political team in the north consisting of all these organizations and governance structures, to begin to work together to assert ourselves in the north,” he said.
In the spring of 2019, the province passed new trespassing laws, essentially putting the responsibility of land users to get permission prior to access.
Belanger explained that land access in the North is causing anger among residents.
“[The province] sold those rights to companies from outside the province, you’ll be charged with trespassing, you’re not allowed to access the land that you have access for years and years and years,” Belanger said. “That’s what’s happening in the north. And people are getting more and more angry about it. Most recently, we talked to a couple of hunters of how they have put game corridors or preserved corridors, they’ve shut down roads.
You see a lot of the hunters being stopped and a bunch of questions being asked. And these are people that are trying to stock their fridges in the freezers for the winter, which people have always done, especially in light of COVID-19.”
Belanger is being challenged by Sask. Party candidate Kelly Kwan in the October 26 vote.