January 22, 2017
The federal Minister of Northern and Indigenous Affairs claims there has been investment in additional housing, mental health support, post-secondary education and school improvements, but there is little to show for it.
The provincial government boasts of new investment in La Loche, but they seem to be playing a double game by warning that funding for the crucial NORTEP/ NORPAC teacher training program will be changed. NORTEP's future as a fully funded, autonomous program, in existence for two generations, has been re-routed. It must consolidate under another instituton and share funding -- this despite great success, with 92% of its graduates returning to their own communities to teach! The provincial government's boasting rings hollow.
The question we need to ask is: Is it in the best interest of province and country to scrimp on funding to northern communities? Any short-term savings here will cost Saskatchewan in the long run. Failing to provide support to the North means sacrificing future economic gain and diminishing the lives of valued citizens.
A good part of every dollar spent in our urban centers comes from the resource wealth of northern Saskatchewan. It is hard to believe that our response is to weaken northern programs that are working.
The unique problems faced by northern residents are not new; they have existed under NDP and Saskparty alike. These problems have cost millions year by year and they will continue on if we cannot free the capital to help the North now.
Not only does short-sighted lack of investment cost future dollars, it also robs opportunity. The strong, resilient people of the North want to go beyond using their energy for coping with the outrageous cost of food, the promised but non-existent housing stock, the unaccountable resource industry polluters, the consequent health risks, the continued violation of agreed-upon traditional rights, and so on. On an equal playing field, northerners could use their talents and their relationship with their resource-rich land to contribute heavily to our common economy.
A generation of northern youth need proper investment in their education, health and community services to reach their potential personally and economically. Shortchanging them is shortchanging Saskatchewan's future.
Saskatchewan Green Party Leader Shawn Setyo believes:
"It is in the province's best interest to help the North. Programs such as NORTEP/ NORPAC are working and should continue to be funded as they are. In fairness, support across the board is called for so that northern communities have a living standard and an expectation of life comparable to what is taken for granted in the rest of the province."