Skip to content

Health professionals, infrastructure, crime all issues for SARM

President Ray Orb speaks to reporters on the hot issues at the Sask. Association of Rural Municipalities convention
Ray Orb, President of SARM, speaking to reporters March 14.

REGINA - A number of topics are on the minds of delegates from rural municipalities at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in Regina.

Ray Orb, President of SARM, pointed to a host of issues facing rural areas in meeting reporters Wednesday, following his speech at the convention. One big issue he pointed to was rural health care, and the shortage of health care professionals.

“Rural healthcare is really important. There are places out in rural Saskatchewan that don’t have adequate healthcare coverage. Either they are short of nurse practitioners, in some cases nurses and doctors. And so we’re pushing the province, and we know the province is aware of the shortage in particular nurse practitioners, and they are looking like they are making some adjustments to that. However, we’re going to listen further in the bear pit when we listen to the ministers talk about that.”

Another issue Orb points to is rural crime.

“We still get a lot of notices every day: and keeping in touch with the RCMP with more break-ins and thefts. It doesn’t seem to be really slowing down, unfortunately. We know the RCMP are short of officers, many detachments are short staffed, and we’ve been trying to advocate both to the federal government and the province. We need to fully fund the officers in this province, but with it goes availability. We need to have officers here in rural Saskatchewan. When they go to the training at Depot, we need some of them to stay here, and some of them don’t stay here — they leave to go back to other provinces, maybe to the province that they came from. So we know that Assistant Commissioner (Rhonda) Blackmore is working more with the trainees it come through to try and show them rural Saskatchewan and the things that are in rural Saskatchewan. It’s starting to help, but there’s a lot more work to do on that front.”

Orb also spoke about the need for infrastructure, noting that there is just one program that SARM has input to through their membership, that being the Rural Integrated Roads for Growth.

“And with that go bridges — we have over 1300 bridges. We have hundreds of thousands of kilometres of gravel roads in his province that are the responsibility of RMs, so we need to step up. Again, we need more funding again from the federal government, and from the province."

But a major concern is the end of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program which has sent federal dollars to partner the province and municipalities on many infrastructure projects in Saskatchewan.

“Unfortunately, we’re hearing from the federal government… that it appears there may not be a new infrastructure program going forward. Right now we’re hearing it’s over-subscribed. We’ve been pushing the feds to bring in a new program. The importance of the contribution of the province of Saskatchewan does add to the national economy. It is important, so does our rural area have a large contribution to provincial GDP. So we need to step up that game as well.”

Orb said he hoped “maybe we’ll hear an announcement in the next couple of days”, saying that those are the large issues SARM members are facing.