The 2023 Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Assocation convention has been taking place in Saskatoon this week.
On Wednesday morning, municipal representatives were able to bring their questions to Premier Scott Moe and his provincial cabinet in the annual bear pit session.
Only four members of cabinet were physically at the session – Don McMorris Minister of Government Relations, Gord Wyant Minister of Advanced Education, Jim Reiter Minister of Energy and Resources, and Jeremey Cockrill Minister of Highways and the Water Security Agency.
Premier Scott Moe and the rest of the cabinet appeared from Regina on video as they had to attend the legislative assembly in the afternoon.
The questions brought forward by municipalities ranged from homelessness – specifically the Saskatchewan Income Support program, mental health and addictions, healthcare, and issues with elections.
La Ronge Councilor asks about SIS and tent cities
The first northern leader to bring a question to the provincial cabinet was La Ronge Town Councillor Jordan McPhail, who asked about tent cities and the Saskatchewan Income Support program.
McPhail believes SIS is failing in its promise to reduce homelessness in Saskatchewan.
“We are hearing time and time again from people at these tables that SIS is contributing to (homelessness) you can’t expect them to believe SIS is going to be part of the solution. What is the government going to do to take people from tent cities to shelters? And if we pass the bylaws will you pass the budgets?” asked the La Ronge Councillor.
While in his response, Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky didn’t specifically address the SIS program, he did speak on investments the government has made in emergency shelters across the province – specifically naming the Emergency Wellness Centre run by the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
Stony Rapids mayor asks about infrastructure in the far north
Stody Rapids Mayor Daniel Powder brought a question forward in regard to what he feels are infrastructure issues in the far north.
Powder believes their should be more provincial investment in northern infrastructure as the north provides billions in revenue from the mining sector.
“I think that the government of Scott Moe should upgrade our operating budgets in municipalities so we can offset these challenges we face everyday,” said the far north mayor.
In response, the government spoke on municipal revenue sharing, which they say are funds any municipality can use on any project they wish.
Prince Albert Councilor asks about surplus allocation for Indigenous people
Prince Albert Ward 3 Councilor Tony Head aked the government about the recent $1 billion surplis and if any of that money will be allocated for Indigenous investment.
“I want to know if the government of this province is willing to invest a tenth of that surplus to invest in nearly half of its citizens? Will the government make real commitment to make safe spaces and ongoing services to treat the mental health issues that drive so many of our citizens into poverty and addiction,” asked Head.
In response, the government says the $1 billion surplus will be used to pay off debt accrued from the Covid-19 pandemic and also spoke on $249 million available for First Nations and Metis organizations through the provincial gaming agreement.
(PHOTO – the 2023 SUMA Convention annual bear pit session. Photo by Joel Willick)