Wotherspoon outlines plan for Saskatchewan’s north

NDP leadership candidate Trent Wotherspoon during the demonstration Wednesday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

NDP leadership candidate Trent Wotherspoon is pledging to provide support to northern communities, including financial and logistical support, if he were to become the province’s next NDP premier.

Wotherspoon was in La Ronge Monday to meet with northern leaders and to unveil his plan for the province’s north. He pledged to bring back the Ministry of Northern Affairs and promised core funding for the Northern Trappers’ Association.

Wotherspoon was off to Meadow Lake Tuesday, stopping in Prince Albert to meet with Mayor Greg Dionne and chat with media.

“It was a great day yesterday,” Wotherspoon said.

“I was able to stand together with my colleague Doyle Vermette and announce a commitment to build back the Ministry of Northern Affairs to work with northern people in northern communities, and organize the efforts of government through crown corporations and ministries.”

Wotherspoon acknowledged the province’s north faces many challenges, but also emphasized the “tremendous strength and possibility and potential within the north.”

He also accused the governing Saskatchewan Party of ignoring their northern neighbours.

“We have a government right now that’s neglected the north and thinks they can make all the decisions out of the premier’s office,” Wotherspoon said. “That’s just doesn’t work for the north.”

Wotherspoon said the ministry had been reduced over years of neglect, but recently had been all but done in by the Sask. Party. He spoke of empty offices in the north, and what he described as a premier’s office with little understanding, relationship or collaboration with northerners.

“We have real challenges we need to tackle throughout the north. I have a serious commitment around advancing mental health services and addiction services in a universal way with wraparound supports and different emergency approaches along with that,” he said.

“The only way you’re going to succeed with proposals like that, or others from an education or economic perspective, is working hand-in-hand with northerners.”

Hi plan to provide core funding to the Northern Trappers’ Association will allow them to properly organize and work with government to take advantage of their role as stewards of the land.

‘This will be a bit of a new commitment,” Wotherspoon said.

“They are a tremendous resources. The 4,100 trappers have immense knowledge of the land. They are on the land on the frontlines of observing changes to our climate and changes environmentally. They also play a very important role in the health of the north.”

Wotherspoon indicated the trappers could be mobilitzed to help the province monitor environmental changes. He also praised their work in maintaining northern heritage.

“They lay a very important role in the social health of the north, the ability for young people and families to connect with the land in a traditional way on trap lines. Hunting and fishing is a positive, healthy activity that brings a lot of health to many who are suffering,” he said.

‘This is an important heritage industry, important from an economic perspective, but certainly from a social and cultural perspective as well.”

Wotherspoon is running for NDP leadership against fellow caucus member Ryan Meili.

Both have vied for the position in the past.

Wotherspoon is the only one of the pair to release a northern strategy to this point, though Meili has promised to re-establish a Ministry of First nations and Métis Relations.

NDP members will vote on their next leader at the leadership convention on March 3, 2018 at the Delta Hotel in Regina.

The Sask. Party is also in a leadership race, where the winner will take over from Brad Wall as premier of Saskatchewan.

Sask. Party leadership candidate Tina Beaudry-Mellor also visited northern Saskatchewan as a part of her campaign. She visited Pinehouse Lake and unveiled her plan for the north about two weeks ago.

Beaudry-Mellor said her plan will provide northern Saskatchewan communities with resources to help eliminate poverty, low graduation rates and high birth rates.

The Sask. Party choses their new leader on Jan. 27.

Firefighter association endorses Wotherspoon

Wotherspoon also added to his growing list of endorsements Tuesday.

Saskatchewan Professional Firefighters’ Association gave their endorsement.

“Trent is a person I’ve known for many years and he’s shown that he has the vision, integrity, and leadership to be a great premier,” said Lloyd Zwack, association president.

“Trent works as hard as any firefighter I know, and it’s obvious to everyone who meets him that Trent wants to build a province that works for everyone.”

The association represents over 900 professional firefighters and paramedics in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, North Battleford, Yorkton and Weyburn