MLA’s reports illustrate ongoing indifference to P. A.’s changing needs

Ever since former NDP MLA Lon Borgerson suggested that our local MLA’s and MP be restricted from utilizing the vehicle as an opportunity for them to campaign, our local MLA’s reports have actually become readable. In their May 15th and 17th submissions, both Joe Hargrave (P.A. Carlton) and Alana Ross (P,A. Northcote) stick to the “facts” of the government’s legislative progress, even offering up hints as to progress and expectation of completion of a task, and providing a welcome “plus” in informing the public how much is being spent on these items.

However, even with such improvement of information flow, given that we are now at the mercy of governmental policies that run counter to mainstream notions of progressivism and “improvement”, it’s my feeling that our media should now be spending more time in monitoring the progress and success of such programs, as opposed to the antics of those who have put such ideas into play. 

Unfortunately, the machinations of the politicians themselves often take away from the idea of monitoring the performance levels of their legislative efforts. Last week, you may recall, the Speaker of the House, Randy Weekes, himself a Sask Party MLA, took the last day of the current sitting to reflect upon the behaviour of his caucus, in particular Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison, towards their “treatment” of the Speaker and government employees with whom they worked on a daily basis. Asked to comment upon Speaker Weekes allegations regarding Mr. Harrison, Ms. Ross chose to deflect such criticism by without referring to Harrison, but rather focusing upon the positivity of cordiality she received as an MLA. Not particularly surprising, Premier Moe instead offered up only snivelling contempt of Weekes’ allegations, referring to the Speaker as a “sore loser” for having lost the October candidacy nomination to Kindersley newcomer Kim Gartner, leaving no doubt in the public’s mind that despite Weekes’ 24 years of service to his riding and the Party, Moe’s objective over the next few weeks of damage repair will be to try and do everything in his power to delegitimize the Speaker’s resume.

Unfortunately, the premier’s remarks immediately indicated that Ms. Ross’s reserved comments were not going to be the Party’s approach to Mr. Weekes’ allegations; however, this nod of appreciation to her taking a more kindly route in critiquing her May 17th Report does not keep me from denoting the serious weaknesses highlighted by the SP’s even favourably viewed accomplishments on record, particularly in the areas of competence as a health care worker and nurse Ms. Ross has practised, before entering the savage arena of politics.

In her describing the massive changes that are now being made to the operational capacity of the Victoria Union Hospital, Ms. Ross and Northcote and Carlton voters should be reminded that over twenty years ago, in shutting down operations at the second hospital on Sixth Avenue East, the Calvert NDP caucus warned of such changes already being required, as the structure leaked dangerous asbestos fibre insulation into the environment, making the building unsafe for both staff and patients. Now with the Vic enhancing much-needed laboratory, operating capacity and over 200 new patient beds, she has failed to address questions of future vital interest to themselves, such as where are the extra health professional bodies going to come from in fully staffing the hospital once it opens. Will we finally be rid of the need to wait as long as three weeks for routine blood work or a simple radiology procedures to be performed, and, most importantly, who are the specialists who will now be afforded extra operating time, when we neither have enough specialists here in Prince Albert or a program that will eventually provide such critical needs?

In also including steps being made in tackling equally critical social issues such as low-cost housing ($3.7 million for 12 “affordable” housing units), another “$42.6 million over the next three years to deliver critical support and services to those impacted by violence and abuse”, and $800,000 to the Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Community Response Fund” to support similar work in the most vulnerable of our Indigenous communities”, Ms. Ross has succeeded only in highlighting what are but four of the province’s most depressing and critical issues of concern for which this government has no “cure”. Speaking to our housing needs alone, we also need homes for middle income earners to buy or rent, and bury the types of NIMBY-ism we have just witnessed when Calgary’s Council voted to implement block rezoning so as to qualify for new federal housing monies.

Mr. Hargrave’s May 15th Report requires an equal savagery, if only for exacerbating already critical social issues by their implementation. For instance, allocating $617.1 million for the operation, maintenance, building and improving our highways may benefit may improve the highway between Regina and Weyburn as but one objective, but HOW and WHERE are the $73.5 million in funds going to be prioritized in a nebulous structure such as to build, operate and maintain “the” transportation system in northern Saskatchewan demands an explanation as to WHAT this phrase is even describing. For instance, does it FINALLY include Prince Albert getting its second bridge finally built?

Who knows?

There’s also $719.4 million going to the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety for increased RCMP operations and their First Nations Policing Program. Nothing, however, is mentioned as to how these monies will be used to combat our increasingly deadly drug distribution being created by major gang networks in Canada’s major cities, or whether there will be increases to funding rehabilitation programs, at least for first time offenders or those requiring treatment for addiction or propensity towards violence. 

However, our harried taxpayer base will be pleased to note that 160 new municipal police and 17 Combined Traffic Services will be giving out tickets to help pay for these services.

If we want to have the public vote with “knowledge” come October, 2024, we not only have to have knowledge as to the SUCCESS of programs initiated by the provincial government for the past two decades. The fact is, no matter what types of plumage the Sask Party tries to put on its budgetary efforts, their solutions have yet to reach the cause requiring repair by such legislation. Among others, these include the fact that we have to stop listening to the lobbyists from Big Oil or Big Agra.

Our concerns should not just provide for infrastructure that will allow increased export-bound product, but include programs that will have to be created as a result of our delay in addressing climate change and global weather issues, but food sustainability, the annihilation of the “small” producer due to the “efficiency” of larger market share, destabilization of our northern forest areas through clearcutting and failure to reclaim these lands through reforestation, planning road access to the north so that we can better monitor the industrialization efforts of the forestry industry and our new mines’ environmental practices.

Only making things worse for Prince Albert residents, we are still reluctant to demand that the Sask Party cease and desist their crass and classless program for the sale of Crown lands in the north.

The future wealth of Prince Albert must come from that north, and that land’s exploitation that will invariably result from such lack of regulation only has the future capacity to drown us in its inevitable toxicity. In short, our “second bridge” isn’t the only item missing from May’s MLA Reports…