Residents in the southwest part of Saskatchewan were able to address their concerns directly to the top last week.
Premier Scott Moe was able to accompany MLA Doug Steele for a tour of the southwest, where they visited a variety of communities for a series of townhall like meetings.
Steele does these tours of various communities throughout the year, where he takes in the concerns of his voters to better assess the situation in the Cypress Hills region. This time, he was able to invite the Premier to come along and listen to constituents, face to face.
"We had a great tour today," said Moe. "Engaging with folks in the area, in Leader. Engaging with folks that are employed up in that area, with the short line rail. Several community leaders came down for a town hall environment in Maple Creek, which is always great."
The goal of these tours is to access discussion of issues in the communities, that they think are pertinent. It allows the MLA and Premier to figure out what the priority issues are in a community and its surrounding area.
"It's a great opportunity for us to really dig into in a very short period of time," praised Moe. "We had a great day and I just thank Doug Steele for putting it together and allowing me to be part of it."
Some positive effects of the tour were seeing people come out in person to the town halls after two years of restrictions, and actively engaging with their local and provincial governments. In Leader, folks were eager to share and have discussions on local problems, and have them addressed by their elected officials.
"As you wander through, you know various businesses and whatnot in our rural communities," began Moe. "People are out and about and that's so very good to see. It's something that, personally, I'm never going to take for granted again."
A lot of the issues brought up in the various meetings they had throughout the tour were not exclusive or specific to Saskatchewan, but Moe was happy to listen to these concerns, as they helped give him a basis for bringing other Premiers together to discuss how to tackle them. Things like healthcare, which in rural communities is a constant fight for access and supply, are of course at the top of a lot of people's list of concerns. While it is a nationwide problem in rural communities, it is still a big challenge in Saskatchewan towns.
"It's not just you know physicians or nurses, it's across the board in our facilities," said Moe. "That shows up quickly in our rural facilities. I live in a rural community and I see. We're working our way through this across the province."
Moe was excited by the dialogue that was opened with communities on these and other issues during their meetings, as well as the opportunities brought to light during these conversations. Moe said there may be a chance to work closely with communities on these issues.
There was also some discussion about the economy in the southwest and the exciting future ahead for producers and other industries. Moe is excited about the huge investments coming to the province, as various natural resource industries are on the climb provincially, including the southwest.
These days, billions of dollars are going into developing the province's natural resource sectors, with the canola crush industry, the pea protein industry, the potash industry, and even the energy industry on the climb. All of these sectors are present not just in the southwest, but across Saskatchewan as a whole, and open up jobs for families and help prop up small communities.
"We're seeing up in my area of the province over a billion dollars invested in the timber industry," said Moe. "There's a lot of interest in the opportunity that we are finding ourselves in, in Saskatchewan with the sustainable natural resources that we produce and how we can develop that opportunity into long-term jobs and long-term growth in our communities."
Touring the southwest and being able to tell communities firsthand about the opportunities that are happening in the province helps to smooth out some of the worries people have had over the last two years, as many rural communities had their livelihoods and incomes disrupted during the pandemic.