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Premier Scott Moe attends town hall forum in Assiniboia

Premier Moe suggested that meetings such as this — where government listens to people’s opinions and concerns — are important in aiding his government to plan a more effective strategy for the future.

ASSINIBOIA -  Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and David Marit — Sask Party MLA for Wood River Constituency — made more than just a whistle-stop in Assiniboia last Wednesday. They came to host a town hall-style forum open to all members of the public. The purpose of their visit was to hear the voice of the people, whether it be good or bad.

This forum took place at the Prince of Wales Centre and lasted from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Some 120 concerned citizens showed up to voice their concerns and share their opinions. Dressed in blue jeans and casual attire, both Premier Moe and MLA Marit appeared well at ease, considering they were often on the hot seat. They fielded most questions with respect, and handled themselves with a fair measure of decorum.

In an interview, Marit confessed: “It was a long day.” Their day began at nine in the morning with a one hour meeting south of Swift Current, then on to Hazenmore for a meeting with the Redcoat Feedlot and its board of directors. From there, they made a pit stop in LaFleche for a brief meeting with a young Ukrainian family who had just arrived in Canada six months before.

The next stop on their agenda was Assiniboia for a tour of the new sports arena and complex, then on to Coronach for a meeting with the town and RM concerning the closure of the mine and power plant in 2030. The final leg of their journey took them back to Assiniboia for the town hall forum they had planned.

The premier opened the meeting with a few brief comments about the government’s performance and their plans to move forward in the future.

He suggested that meetings such as this — where government listens to people’s opinions and concerns — are important in aiding his government to plan a more effective strategy for the future.

He explained the need for agriculture and food security, pointing to the importance of Marit as Minister of Agriculture. The premier quietly boasted that Saskatchewan is home to one half of all the farmland in Canada, producing some of the highest quality crops in the world.

He stressed the need for Saskatchewan to preserve its rural way of life.

Over the course of the next two hours, Moe and Marit tried to address all concerns and questions from the audience.

Health care, doctor and nursing shortages and long wait-times for operations were all questions and matters of concern expressed by many in attendance.

Moe explained that these all were province-wide concerns, affecting everyone. He explained also that the government is looking at new incentive plans to attract more workers to the province, but are competing with all of Canada, which is also facing the same problems.

Currently the government is working to bring 150 new registered nurses to Saskatchewan from the Philippines to help alleviate some of the problem. He suggested that we need not only a long-term plan, but a short-term plan as well. He mentioned a $20,000 tax exemption and incentive for anyone wishing to enter a two- to four-year health care or nursing program. He stated that there were other incentives in place as well.

One gentleman in the audience stood up to say how he had recently lost his wife because of the health care situation, and expressed his firm belief that health care administrators were “lying” to the public. Applause from the audience followed.

Someone in the audience wished to know if the premier himself had been vaccinated. Moe stated that he had, and that he himself also had contracted COVID-19.

The exodus of our young people to Alberta appeared to be a sizeable concern for some. One gentleman wondered why Saskatchewan had introduced an entertainment tax. He felt that even “more young people would leave Saskatchewan” because of this. He reminded Moe “our children and youth are future taxpayers.” The premier responded that this was certainly an issue that could be revisited in the next budget review the end of August.

Many of the premier’s comments Wednesday evening were dedicated to distancing Saskatchewan from the federal government in Ottawa.

Much of the remainder of the evening’s conversation revolved around gun control, land ownership, the high cost of food, fuel, electricity and energy. Among other things, he talked a lot about climate change and energy security. He explained that these problems affect us all. Most of the blame for these issues was laid squarely at the federal government’s feet. He stated that the supply chain issue was also to blame for many of our current problems. He then expressed his belief that the forest and mining industries were essential to help Saskatchewan move forward into the future.

Near the end of the forum, one gentleman rose to thank Moe, Marit, and the Saskatchewan Party for their leadership and standing up to the federal government.

Marit, in an interview Monday morning, stated that he and the premier were both impressed with the large turnout of concerned constituents at Wednesday’s town-hall forum. “We need to just keep doing what people want us to do: lower taxes, keep building roads, schools, and hospitals,” stated Marit. “We knew going into this meeting, that people would be here to voice their concerns over our actions during the pandemic this past two years. Some [folks] were concerned with the actions we took, and others, with the actions we didn’t take. There was also a great deal of frustration expressed [Wednesday evening] with the federal government.”

In the end, Marit said he and the premier felt it very important to “meet face-to-face” with their rural constituents to hear their concerns.

“People want to know what we can do about Ottawa’s behaviour,” stated Marit. “Let’s face it, the Coronach mine and power plant wouldn’t be shutting down in 2030 if it weren’t for the federal government. This [decision] will affect not only Coronach, but everyone here in the south country.”

Marit said that he and the premier were both quite happy with the town hall forum. He concluded by saying that a number of folks approached him afterwards just to say, “thanks for hosting the meeting.”