Taking the time to check in with rural communities is important for all political bodies.
That's what Erika Ritchie, the NDP representative for Saskatoon Nutana, was doing in Swift Current yesterday. She is the Municipal Affairs Critic for the opposition, and was making sure that things in Swift Current were agreeable to the residents.
One of the things that folks who met with her touched upon was concerns regarding the provincial budget and medical spending.
"Here in Swift Current, they're probably more fortunate than other places and not seeing the degree of social challenges that other communities are facing," said Ritchie. "I think I've heard more desperate circumstances elsewhere--but hearing that they're starting to see a change here in Swift Current in terms of more theft and mental health and addictions issues, starts to mean that people don't necessarily have public washrooms available for their patrons, and different little things like that are starting to creep up and could make a difference over the long term."
Ritchie responded to the issues presented to her, offering her insights into how the budget is being utalized.
"We talked about using some of the windfall revenues from our resource sector and how that could have been utilized," said Ritchie. "Debt pay down is an important piece of a balanced budget. But we were very disappointed not to see there be more in the way of either social support or tax relief for citizens in the last budget."
Perhaps more importantly, she also heard a discussion about immigrant retention. She was briefed on how the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre helps people arriving from the world abroad get situated, and then discussed how to keep them interested in remaining in the southwest.
"Certainly, we've heard about a lot of the frustration with long delays and wait times to bring in employees from out of country, and you know we heard some priority and changes announced with the recent budget to quicken up that process," said Ritchie. "I guess it remains to be seen."
Ritchie was happy to be able to talk to community members one on one, enabling them to voice concerns she may be more open to.
"I think there's a lot of people who have values and ideas that align, but that maybe just haven't felt that they can be very open and vocal about them," she said. "When I'm out in the communities and people can enter into a conversation and talk one-on-one, we start to realize that we have more in common with one another than differences. We all want what is best for the province and the people of this province; at the end of the day, it's a good rich conversation with very common interests at the heart of it."