Skip to content

SUMA convention wraps up in Saskatoon

Hospitals, housing and recycling were top issues

Issues ranging from the funding for new hospitals and revenue-sharing to housing and recycling were the hottest topics at the annual convention for SUMA (Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association), which wrapped up in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

From the City of Weyburn, Coun. Nancy Styles was the lone representative of council, along with city manager Bob Smith, with Mayor Debra Button missing out on the event due to illness.

One of the highlights of the convention for Coun. Styles was being able to ask Premier Brad Wall and members of his cabinet at the bearpit session to change the government's requirement for the community to raise 35 per cent of the cost of a new hospital.

The councillor, who is a health care worker who has worked at the Weyburn General Hospital in the past, personally took MLA Dustin Duncan on an extensive tour of the facility a couple years, and has talked to Premier Wall about the issue.

"I said 35 per cent is an onerous amount of money for a community to raise," she said, pointing out that facilities in Regina and Saskatoon are 100-per-cent paid for by the government. "I said you have to change things, or do the right thing. I asked the premier, will you do the right thing?"

She noted Health minister Don McMorris replied by saying they are considering changing the funding split to 80-20 - "but that's not a done deal, they need to take a look at their finances. Basically, I got up to promote the city and to say we need a new hospital."

Coun. Styles also brought up the issue of recycling, when she had a private meeting with MLA and Environment minister Dustin Duncan and asked him if the government will provide any infrastructure monies along with the multi-material recycling program (MMRP).

"If Weyburn built a central building for recycling, will we have to wait for the MMRP to come through? He said that's more for the operating of the program than for infrastructure. Every place has to have a recycling program in place before MMRP will happen," said Coun. Styles.

Minister Duncan, who was in Weyburn on Friday, said the department is working on finalizing some details so they can bring forward the MMRP in 2011.

Among the issues they are sorting out include whether municipalities will have a place on the Stewardship Responsibility Organization, which will be the governance board for the program. Municipalities made it clear at the SUMA convention they want a say in this board since municipalities will have to pay 25 per cent of the cost of the MMRP program, with 75 per cent paid for by waste producers.

Duncan said the government wants to change it so municipalities will have a voice on the board, but first they're going to approach industry and ask for their input. In terms of funding, municipalities were also asking for funding for curbside recycling even if their population is under 25,000 (like Weyburn's), and Duncan said they are looking into this request as well.

Overall, Duncan felt it was a very positive convention, his first as the Environment minister, taking questions both at the bearpit session and at the breakout session hosted by his department, where municipalities could bring up environmental issues.

A highlight of the convention for municipalities was the announcement by Premier Wall on revenue-sharing, in which he said funding will now be given on the basis of a full percentage-point of the provincial sales tax.

For the City of Weyburn, this will mean an increase of $301,633 in their revenues, which is the equivalent of 2.34 per cent of their expenditures, which last year were $12.9 million, said Smith.

On the convention as a whole, Smith commented, "I found it was really good, with lots of informative sessions that were really good. One of the top burning issues was infrastructure funding. This is a huge concern in some communities, while some are just beginning to feel the pinch. We're right in the middle of it."

He added, "Everybody's got a huge infrastructure gap they're trying to fill. They want long-term sustainable infrastructure funding, so they can plan accordingly."

He added that housing was also a huge issue, and Weyburn has been pro-active in forming their housing advisory committee.

"The Sask. Housing Corporation will be the lead on it, they're going to visit cities and other communities to get a feel of what their pinch-points are," said Smith, noting the city's own committee is getting a needs assessment survey done right now, so the city will have good, current reliable information to pass on to the provincial body when they come to visit Weyburn.

"We'll be ahead of the game," he added, with the visit to come between now and April, with a provincial housing summit to be held by the end of April, with the goal to have an action plan in place by June of this year. "They've got some serious work to do."

Coun. Styles had a second meeting with the Ukrainian delegation, as one of their members, Natalia Lazarenko, sat with her during the resolutions part of the meeting, and Styles was able to explain a number of the issues and procedures as they went through the meeting. The SUMA convention was the last stop for the delegation before they headed back to Ukraine.

Another member of the delegation, Sasha Alexander, commented to Coun. Styles that of all the places they visited in western Canada, their warmest welcome was in Weyburn.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks