Current La Loche mayor and former MP, Georgina Jolibois, will be the NDP candidate for the upcoming provincial byelection in Athabasca.
The provincial NDP announced Jolibois’ candidacy on Friday. She said issues in northern areas often are related to sparse populations and distance from services, and that has been exacerbated by the health system slowdowns brought on by the pandemic.
“The concerns around COVID-19 raise a number of issues. The residents that need health care services are getting further and further delayed,” Jolibois said. “The issue is when the appointments are available and sometimes they get delayed and they don’t get the appointment. Health care delays due to COVID-19 is a really big issue.”
She said northern residents are seeing delays in all areas, from patients with cancer or diabetes, to less time-sensitive areas like optometrist appointments. Mental health and addiction services have also suffered, she added.
“Mental health issues were put aside and now they are slowly coming back, but there has to be more support around mental health services for all ages, but especially the young people,” she stated.
Food security is another issue that’s hitting Canadians hard, but Jolibois said the problem has impacted northern residents for a long time.
“The food prices and things are getting more and more expensive for all of us, not only those in northern Saskatchewan,” Jolibois said. “It’s going to be interesting how we tackle this particular issue.”
She added that housing and access to resources continue to be problems for northern residents.
Jolibois has multiple reasons she chose to run for the NDP candidacy but it is a sense of shared purpose that really drew here.
“There’s the Canadian society, there’s the economy, the industry, the infrastructure and the programming,” she said, “When you look at statistics for people on the North West, the number of inequalities that exist, the NDP addresses those inequalities. They help improve the quality of life for all residents.”
Jolibois is no stranger to the political scene. From 2015 to 2019, she served as the Member of Parliament for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River and introduced a Private Member’s Bill that led to the creation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. She is also a fifth-term mayor.
NDP leader Ryan Meili welcomed Jolibois’ decision to run for the provincial party.
“The Athabasca constituency will be well-served with a proven and experienced leader like Georgina,” Meili said. “Her service to her community as a Mayor and a Member of Parliament is exactly the experience and expertise that the people of Northwest Saskatchewan need from their MLA. With her proven track record, I know she will be an outstanding representative for Northwest Saskatchewan, and a wonderful addition to our NDP team.”
Jolibois is running in constituency that has consistently voted orange in the last few elections. The NDP has won in the Athabasca riding in every election since 1998.
No date has been set for the upcoming by-election, according to Elections Saskatchewan, but it must be held before Feb. 15, 2022.
The Saskatchewan Party also announced their own by-election candidate on Dec. 17. Former RCMP officer Jim Lemaigre will represent the Sask. Party in the riding. The Herald will have more information on Lemaigre’s campaign in an upcoming issue.