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2024 SUMA wraps up with Sask. MLAs facing questions about provincial concerns

On the final day of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention, provincial ministers took the stage where questions were thrown at them on their recent decisions and the province’s plans for the future.

As part of the bear pit session, hundreds of community leaders and members were in attendance to bring their concerns forward to the government.

Strasbourg mayor Kelvin Schapansky asked about infrastructure funding, focusing on emergency services.

“I asked if we could get some funding for the purchase of fire equipment and the building of fire halls because small municipalities just don’t have the money or the means to do that,” Schapansky said.

According to the Fire Chiefs of Saskatchewan, 38 communities in the next five years will need a fire hall as equipment becomes unserviceable.

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Schapansky posed his questions to Saskatchewan government relations minister Don McMorris. McMorris outlined that funding for these types of projects comes from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, which provides more than $900 million in federal funding for all types of Saskatchewan infrastructure projects.

Schapansky was asked if he was satisfied with the answer from Minister McMorris and said: “To be honest, no. It’s kind of typical of what we have heard before. We need to go further than that.”

Others questioned the province’s response to mental health and addictions, including the elimination of funding for harm reduction services to provide drug tools.

“What are you going to do to build capacity for addictions, treatment and support for rural communities?” one audience member asked.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Tim McLeod said the province is working to add 500 more addiction treatment spaces.

“We are expanding those spaces across the entire province and across the continuum of care,” McLeod said. “Some of those spaces would be for detox, in person treatment, some would be virtual, some would be transitional living spaces.”

McMorris said people’s concerns on many issues throughout the bear pit were heard.

“We have MLA’s in every party of the province that are in touch with communities on a regular basis but to have it all kind of come together in one room was valuable,” McMorris said on SUMA.

The 2025 SUMA convention is expected to be held in Saskatoon.

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