The high cost of living, housing and industry-specific labour shortages are high priorities for northerners, said New Democrat leader Carla Beck, who recently travelled to La Ronge, Cumberland House and Air Ronge.

With housing, Beck and the NDP have long discussed the need to renovate vacant Sask. Housing homes, which she claims roughly 3000 units remain empty. To spur new housing starts, the opposition have wanted the provincial government to remove PST on construction labour. Ottawa last week announced a similar move on GST to motivate the building of new homes.

“People are falling further and further behind, albeit with power bills, that was a huge issue in the North. The cost of housing, the cost of groceries. People feeling they couldn’t keep up,” Beck said in an interview.

The province has recognized affordability, by discontinuing a planned rate hike for SaskPower and slashing SaskEnergy bills.

Beck met with the Woodland Wellness Centre, Lac La Ronge Indian Band councillors, La Ronge councillors, Air Ronge council, the Northern Saskatchewan Indigenous Teacher Education Program, the Scattered Site Outreach Program.

“A lot of concerns on the ability to attract health care workers and attract people in the education system,” she explained.

As the province seeks to fill vacant health care staff positions internationally, Beck said there are reservations on how staffing positions at the new La Ronge long-term care facility and Lac La Ronge Indian Band Wellness Center will be achieved. She discussed that northerners have local solutions to their problems, pointing to the NORTEP Program as a success.