With Wednesday’s Speech from the Throne focusing on the post-pandemic economy, one northern leader is excited for the province’s north.
“We do need to make big investments in our provincial infrastructure to support our provincial economy overall, but we must ensure these investments include the north in the First Nation communities, infrastructure, investments in northern airports, roads, fiber optic connectivity, health care, education are critical to support a northern economy and to support First Nations people. So I’m excited for the increasing signals of a stronger northern economy in areas such as forestry, mining, exploration and other sectors,” said Karen Bird, Chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
Lt. Gov. Russ Mirasty highlighted in the Throne Speech, increased private-sector investment into northern saw and paper mills, totaling nearly $1 billion and over 3000 new jobs in the North. As well the province is allocating 30 percent of the timber quota to First Nations owned companies.
But what has caught the attention of Bird and the business community is the creation of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation, which will provide up to $75 million for Indigenous communities and organizations to access equity for new resource-based projects.
“So what does this mean? And how will it assist First Nations in participating in resource projects such as mining? There’s a lot of mining in our backyards, especially in the Treaty territory up north,” explained Bird.
Bird said the province increasing it’s addictions treatment and detox beds by 150 over three-years is recognition of how the pandemic has severely impacted people’s mental health.
“There’s been a lot of mental health issues, and the hope is gone,” Bird said.
Yet the opposition New Democrats are taking a cautious approach to assessing the Throne Speech. “The economy is important. I truly understand that we have to have good paying jobs, we said that for the North,” said Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette. “Like everything else, we have to watch it and see how it will roll out.”
With files from Joel Willick.