Sask. NDP calls for $10m emergency funding for north, interprovincial checkpoints

The Saskatchewan NDP is pushing the province to take urgent action in stopping the COVID-19 outbreak in northern communities.

NDP leader Ryan Meili made the call on Thursday asking for the following from the government.

  • Provide the requested $10 million in emergency funding to northern municipalities;
  • Implement COVID-19 testing for every resident of La Loche, Clearwater River Dene Nation, Patuanak, and English River Dene Nation; and for everyone who is being advised to self-monitor because of visits to the Beauval General Store;
  • Establish field hospital capacity in La Loche for COVID-19 patients;
  • Work in collaboration with municipal leaders, First Nations, and the Métis Nation on a plan to stop the further spread of COVID-19 in the North, including supporting efforts to control travel into the North and between communities in the Northwest;
  • Introduce a plan to ensure all residents in the North have access to affordable and nutritious food.

“Be in touch with the chiefs and the mayors, listening to what they are identifying, and bring forth that $10 million needed for northern municipalities to help do the work they have to do,” announced Meili.

MLA for Athabasca Buckley Belanger and Northern Affairs critic and MLA for Cumberland Doyle Vermette joined Meili on Thursday’s NDP online conference.

Belanger admitted he’s frustrated by the government rejecting five requests for them to step up their support for northern Saskatchewan residents during the pandemic.

He said they feel like they are standing alone in this.

“We knew this was a significant threat for our northern and Indigenous communities,” stated Belanger.

“Nobody is blaming the Sask. Party government for the virus, but the reaction is where the blame has to be placed in terms of the lack of leadership, and certainly not responding to some of the issues raised by northern leaders.”

Vermette echoed his colleague’s frustrations, adding that northern residents feel like their voices are not being heard by the government.

“When you hear them saying this after conference call after conference call that they feel as leaders they are in this alone in the north and that we don’t have a provincial government, it’s so upsetting.”

Meili is also calling for road checkpoints at the Saskatchewan-Alberta border to help limit the spread of COVID-19 into the province. This comes after the La Loche outbreak was traced back to an oil worker who travelled from around Fort McMurray.

The NDP leader believes Premier Scott Moe needs to do more to make sure Saskatchewan’s borders are well protected with back and forth travel.

“I think some guidance needs to be said to our neighbours and friends in Alberta. We love that you come here to camp, we love that you come here to fish and hunt. We want you to keep doing that, but not right now,” said Meili.

“That message needs to come clear that this is not the time to be coming to visit another province.”

He suggested that those checkpoints should ask travellers where people are going, if their reason for travelling is essential or not and keep track of movement going across the border.

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