As the New Democrats settle into their new critic roles, Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger said the greatest priority affecting the North is the provincial government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think in northern Saskatchewan, it’s going to be the pandemic response. As we all know, we’re seeing cases spike on Manitoba. We’re seeing cases spike in Alberta. And Saskatchewan is not immune to these challenges. I think one of the messages we have for people out there as is always to keep safe,” Belanger said.

“There’s no question that I think that there’ll be gloating for the first few months. But I think that the COVID-19 crisis will knock them off gloating pretty quick, because this is a serious crisis that’s coming down the pipe.”

The pandemic has caused the province’s finances to remain in the red with a projected deficit of $2.1 billion.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer has signaled austerity measures for the next few years, as Saskatchewan may not return to balance until 2024-25.

With the financial picture bleak, Belanger suspects cuts are coming.

“We anticipate that they’re going to be some cuts. We anticipate that they’re going to make some surprising bad moves when it comes to things like the Crowns. So, I think it’s safe to say that we’re very, very motivated and highly suspicious of what the Saskatchewan Party will be doing,” explained Belanger.

“I think we’re at that stage with the party that the gloves are coming off, I think we’re going really go hard and heavy against the Saskatchewan Party because I for one think they got away a lot with lot during the last campaign.”

Belanger has been named critic for Highways, Forestry, Global Transportation Hub and the Regina Bypass.