I grew up on a farm near Courval, southwest of Moose Jaw, with a deep appreciation of the values inherent in rural community life. When rural Saskatchewan does well, the whole province does well. The land provides us with enormous wealth, but too often the people living in rural and northern areas see that wealth leaving their communities and leaving little in return.
In recent years the NDP has been seen as disconnected from rural Saskatchewan. Today the Sask Party is increasingly being seen as taking rural support for granted. We must reconnect to our party’s rural beginnings, and that starts with listening to the voices of Saskatchewan’s rural residents, and having the courage and commitment to act on what we hear.
As leader of the Saskatchewan NDP I will re-establish an active rural issues caucus within the NDP, with representation from across the province. I will work to ensure that rural interests are prominent in our election platform and that policies in all areas, including health, seniors issues, education, justice and the economy meet the needs of rural communities. I’m committed to working alongside people across Saskatchewan to enrich rural life and to ensure that agricultural producers have what they need to succeed.
Enriching Rural Life
Rural communities are great places to live, work and play. For them to continue to thrive and grow, we need to work with rural residents to design and deliver the services needed to enjoy a high quality of life.
- Give rural communities greater say in local delivery of healthcare, from emergency services to long-term care;
- Return the power of school boards to set their own local mill rates and repeal Bill 63 to return autonomy to local school boards;
- Help keep rural schools open by incorporating early childhood education and other community services in existing facilities;
- Work with renewed Regional Intersectoral Committees and other local bodies to develop greater opportunities for rural involvement in democratic decision-making;
- Retain professionals in health, education and other fields in smaller communities by recruiting local students and offering more training experiences in rural areas;
- Develop crime prevention and early intervention strategies to support at-risk youth;
- Design a new provincial transportation system that meets the needs of today’s travellers and restores efficient freight service;
- Work with small towns, reserves and farms to develop capacity to generate revenue and power through local renewable energy production;
- Use the strength of SaskTel to deliver high-speed internet and quality cellular service across the province;
- Work with local stakeholders, experts and oversight bodies to develop a strategy to deal with water drainage problems and the preservation of wetlands;
- Support aging-in-place through maintenance of senior housing units and accessible, affordable, high quality long-term care in smaller centres;
- Cover medically necessary ambulance transport, as Saskatchewan has among the highest ambulance fees in Canada — an unnecessary barrier to care;
- Re-establish a school dental care program, starting with the highest-needs urban and rural communities;
- Develop and implement a comprehensive environmentally sustainable waste management strategy that doesn’t burden smaller communities.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of our rural communities, both a way to make a living and a way of life. It provides food for Saskatchewan people and the world and acting as an important economic engine for the province. For these benefits to continue, we need to help producers and communities to respond to the rapid social, economic and ecological changes that are our current reality.
This can be done by adding value with manufacturing and processing, providing support for producers to succeed in changing times, and through stewardship of the land that sustains us.
- Enhance food security and develop economic opportunities through value-added diversification with processing facilities for grains and pulses, livestock and forestry products;
- Support supply management and work to protect the interests of Saskatchewan producers in international trade negotiations;
- Protect Saskatchewan land from excess out-of-province and hidden foreign acquisition and other non-productive market forces that inflate land prices;
- Two thirds of young farmers in Saskatchewan have left the profession since 1991. We need to maintain an agricultural workforce and support local communities by mentoring young farmers, supporting new Canadians to start farming, and providing support for small farms;
- Discontinue the addition of PST to insurance, including crop and hail insurance, and bring pricing and coverage into parity with neighbouring provinces;
- Support expansion of short-line rail, and support producer efforts for shipper protections to access existing rail services at reasonable rates;
- Enhance the role of Rural Extension Services to support producers with research, marketing, and other objective assistance in agronomic decision-making;
- Renew Saskatchewan’s commitment to agricultural innovation for the benefit of local producers and national food security through public research in plant and stock breeding;
- Support technological advances to further enhance zero till and reap the economic and environmental benefits of emerging industries such as organic agriculture, fruit and vegetable farming and other small and mixed farm operations;
- Ensure that any carbon emission reduction policies, including carbon pricing, are designed in a way that protects and supports farmers while incentivizing agricultural practices that decrease carbon inputs through crop choices, fuel-efficient farm equipment and on-farm electricity production;
- Provide landowners with tax incentives for conserving wetlands, woodlands and grasslands in ways that sustain natural carbon sinks;
- Work with local communities, producers, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders to renew the province’s commitment to retain, protect, and actively steward crown lands—in particular, all community pastures and lands originally placed in the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act;
- Task Sasktel’s Securtek division with designing special programs for farm and acreage monitoring that are affordable, effective and work in conjunction with local police detachments.
Our rural communities and landscapes are at the heart of Saskatchewan’s culture and legacy. With policy and programs that support healthy people, healthy economies, and healthy land and water, rural Saskatchewan can be safeguarded against the cycles of boom and bust that undermine our greatest strength: the self-reliance and neighbourly cooperation that enrich rural life.