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Carla Beck delivers pitch to rural audience at SARM convention

Beck brings NDP message to RM leaders from across Saskatchewan at SARM convention Wednesday in Regina.
Opposition Leader Carla Beck speaking to SARM on March 13.

REGINA - Day one of the 2024 Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention on Wednesday was highlighted by the afternoon address from Opposition Leader Carla Beck.

At the convention held at REAL District, the NDP leader spoke to an audience of SARM delegates representing rural municipalities that at the moment are overwhelmingly represented by the Saskatchewan Party in the legislature.

It underscored the challenge facing the NDP going into the fall 2024 provincial election: how to appeal to rural voters. In speaking to reporters, Beck spoke about the efforts the NDP was undertaking to gain support again in rural Saskatchewan.

“We’ve talked about it openly since the leadership almost two years ago, and understanding that they were too many rooms in the province, too many communities, that we simply hadn’t been in enough over a number of years… It’s time to be in those rooms listening to people, taking seriously the concerns that they have, their hopes for what could, and should be happening in their community whether it is affordability, whether it’s education, economic activity, and healthcare.”

Beck also pointed to was her party’s willingness to “not come to conclusions or solutions in small rooms.”

“These decisions… they need to be built with those on the frontline. They need to be built with delegates here at SARM or at SUMA, people in those communities who are most impacted, because not only do they know the challenges best, they also have solutions and we hear that every time regardless of the community that we’re out in.”

She also pointed to the importance of talking to people “about their hopes and economic opportunity that is present in this province.”

“We have abundant resources, we have people who have a history of hard work and creativity to get things done, whether that’s in the ag business sector, whether that’s in healthcare, the creative sector, something I’m incredibly proud of. And I find that the more that we’re out talking to people, not just myself, but our team, the more we are hearing that people are looking at us looking for change, and we hope to continue to build on that.”

Beck told reporters it was “good to stand in the room” and state clearly her party’s opposition to the carbon tax — something she said the Moe government was misrepresenting their position on.

But she also pointed to the importance that “all levels of government have a willingness to build solutions. As I said today, sometimes the hard work is getting to those tables and building solutions.”

Beck also told the audience how if you wanted to get the pulse of what rural Saskatchewan was thinking, she’d come to the SARM convention. Her impression in hearing from delegates is that there are “some real concerns out there in rural Saskatchewan, some of them unique to rural Saskatchewan, some not.”

“When I think of the cost of living, and think of health care, while the challenges may be different in urban centers, or rural centers, they are very much top of mind for people in this province. Education is another one. I also hear a lot of frustration from people — from decision makers here, from frontline workers in healthcare and education — that we have a government that has been in power for 17 years that is not consulting, that is building solutions or building shiny papers, or putting up videos about things that they’ve not been consulted about. And that’s really frustrating, whether that’s healthcare workers, whether that’s teachers, whether that’s people in the industry. So I think there is a mood out there. People are more and more saying they are looking for change… our job as the Official Opposition is to continue to bring those concerns forward. But as we move closer to the election in the fall, our job is to continue to build trust and build those solutions for Saskatchewan people who are looking for change.”

SARM has raised a number of concerns coming into the convention about issues facing rural Saskatchewan, recently calling for an increase in the number of nurse practitioners and reviving the “grow your own” model of health care recruitment. This week, the province made an announcement they would be expanding nurse practitioners, but Beck questioned whether it went far enough.

“I think it’s underwhelming that after 17 years of government, 10 years after that was initially put forth by the Brad Wall government, and after the very thoughtful and effective lobbying we had seen from SUMA, SARM and from nurse practitioners themselves and from communities, that the announcement from Minister (Everett) Hindley yesterday was very, very scant on details," said Beck.

"It seemed they have not consulted with very many people in the province. It’s only a pilot, at a time when we have one in six people in this province without access to a primary care provider, whether it’s is a nurse practitioner or a family physician. It’s underwhelming. It’s a step in the right direction, but I can’t help but notice the timing right before an election and a provincial budget and before SARM. They should’ve been working on this long ago.”

On Thursday, it will be turn for Premier Scott Moe to address SARM delegates in the afternoon, followed by a bear pit session where delegates will be grilling members of the provincial cabinet on the hot issues facing rural municipalities.