SASKATOON — Opposition leaders are calling on the provincial government to come out with a concrete plan in creating a better road strategy that could spur economic growth in communities in Northern Saskatchewan.
Sask-NDP Leader Ryan Meili and NDP candidate for Athabasca MLA Mayor Georgina Jolibois are hoping the provincial government improves infrastructures in Northern Saskatchewan, in particular, fixing Highways 155 and 905.
The 155 and 905 are major highways going further north that are part of the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District that connects communities like Buffalo Narrows, Green Lake, and La Loche.
Jolibois said that community leaders and members in the north have been reporting on the conditions of northern highways where some are in deplorable and dangerous conditions that resulted to a number of accidents.
Highway 155 — connecting Île-à-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, and La Loche — is an example as it was included on the Canadian Automobile Association’s worst roads list five times in the last eight years.
Highway 905 needs to be upgraded to an all-weather working road to further prevent fatal accidents that had happened in the past. The 905 connects the northern hamlet of Stony Rapids to the rest of the province.
Municipal leaders had also reported the deplorable conditions of the 600-kilometer Highway 9, hoping the road would get a major overhaul as the wear and tear was caused by logging trucks that travelled within the area.
The highway going into the settlements in Wollaston Lake and Hatchet Lake also needed an upgrade to be turned into an all-season road and it took almost six years, courtesy of a 2014 Northern Business Task Force report before work finally began.
Both Meili and Jolibois challenged the provincial government to pour additional funds to infrastructures in the north and sustain the improvement of major roads within the NSAD area. Jolibois mentioned a Northern Road Strategy would help the people in the north.
“The quality of life on the Northwest side is very important to all residents. Therefore, it is important that we have a good road system. We are in the process and we will create a Northern Road Strategy that will look not only at Highway 155, 905, 9 and others on the northwest side,” said Jolibois.
“Northerners shouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail to ensure their roads are safe and driveable. The Sask. Party government has benefited from the strength of the North and the resources so vital to our provincial economy.”
She added that the provincial government moves slowly in addressing their concerns. "But we have not seen an investment back into the roads and highways that connect our communities and make this resource development possible. It needs to go both ways.”
“I want to emphasize that people in the northwest side, local leadership and other agencies in the communities, we’re often creating models that are effective and that can work. But, when we reach out, the [provincial government] is not really listening to some of our suggestions.”
Meili added unsafe highways are bad for economic development.
“When communities are connected with crumbling and pothole-ridden highways, it’s unsafe, and it’s bad for our economy.''
“Saskatchewan is stronger because of our North. We need immediate investment to fix the highways in disrepair and create a strategy that prioritizes upkeep and ongoing maintenance to these vital arteries into the North.”