The Saskatchewan provincial election will be taking place October 26. The World-Spectator spoke with local candidates in the Moosomin, Cannington and Melville-Saltcoats ridings about economic growth and development with a focus on how they can continue to help bring businesses to their constituency, the impact of Covid-19 on small local businesses, and the importance of keeping seniors in their home communities.
Steven Bonk, Sask Party
Moosomin’s Saskatchewan Party candidate, Steven Bonk, says the best way to help attract businesses to rural communities in Saskatchewan is to make it easier on them with less government obstruction.
“This is something that the Saskatchewan Party takes very seriously,” Bonk said. “It’s something we believe strongly in. By reducing taxes and regulation, trying to reduce the footprint of government, and making it easier for businesses to get ahead and prosper, I think that’s the best way that we can attract new businesses and keep businesses sustainable in our constituency.”
With some local businesses struggling through the pandemic, Bonk thinks one of the best ways to help them through these times is to step back and allow them to focus on their business rather them have government overstep.
“The job of government is to make sure that we have regulations in place to protect the public,” he said. “But also not have onerous regulations where we’re actually impeding business or causing harm to business. That’s why I think the people of Saskatchewan, particularly this area of Saskatchewan, just want to be able to run their businesses and live their lives without undue government intrusion. I think that’s one of the foundations of the Saskatchewan Party.”
With the effort put in over the last few years to improve home care and develop long-term care facilities, Bonk believes rural communities are continuing to grow for both young families and senior residents.
“I don’t see it as one or the other,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to attract young families and keep young families here in Saskatchewan because they’re are future, they’re our greatest resource. At the same time, our seniors are the people who built this province and built our communities. We have the utmost respect for them and we’re trying to keep them in their communities as long as possible. To do that we’ve increased the amount of long-term care space in Saskatchewan, greatly over what it was in the NDP days. We’re continuing to build long-term care centres. For example Grenfell, which was promised for years under the NDP, the Saskatchewan Party is now brining that to fruition.”
Ken Burton, NDP
Ken Burton, NDP candidate for Moosomin, says the best way to continue to bring businesses to the area is to work closely with the community leaders.
“We’re going to be announcing our platform soon and it will certainly cover the importance of new local businesses,” said Burton. “The first thing we’ve got to do is identify what’s needed in the constituency and you get that from working with your local people, councils, and other people involved in the community. With them we can identify what is needed.”
With a possible second wave of Covid-19 coming, Burton says small businesses need the federal government to lean on to push through potential revenue loss.
“We’re going to have one (a second wave of Covid-19), I don’t know if we’ll have it in Saskatchewan, but we’ll feel the impact across the borders” he said. “Federal contributions and encouraging federal contributions is our biggest role here in Saskatchewan. They need to fund the EI and extend the rental subsidies for local businesses—they need federal money to offset businesse’s revenue loss.”
There’s been shortfalls in rural communities with support for seniors, Burton said. He wants to see more invested into home care and hiring at medical facilities as well as travel options to larger centres where they may need medical treatment.
“I’m a senior citizen at 65 and often older people in the community need more services than the younger generation,” he said. “Health care in particular is huge. We have to ensure that we have available health care to people who can’t travel easily outside of their community. Otherwise they’re going to be moving to bigger centres like Regina or Brandon. Centres where there are services, particularly diagnostic services, that are available. We have to have these types of services available in local communities. That’s one of the things we lack in this constituency. Over and over again this is an issue.
“We’re seeing our local hospitals close because we don’t have access to lab technicians, X-ray technicians, and nurses. We have to fund these services and ensure there are people available that are willing to move to the rural areas to do it. Right now we’re seeing significant problems in Broadview and Wolseley with the shortfalls around lab techs. That’s one thing that needs to be dealt with to keep seniors in local communities.
“We also need to have services that allow them to get to diagnostic services if they have to go to the city,” he said. “I drive an awful lot of people into the city for different tests and treatments. I think STC buses would be a good solution to the problem. A lot of people are unable to make the trips to the city alone because of age or conditions that won’t allow them to drive themselves.”
Warren Kaeding, Sask Party
Melville-Saltcoats Saskatchewan Party candidate Warren Kaeding points to communication with communities as the biggest factor in attracting new business to the area.
“We need to continue to engage with the local communities to determine what they’ve got and what they’re looking for,” said Kaeding. “We need to encourage them to get out and have discussions with industry and support them however they may come to us with proposals and ideas. “We might be able to do small local encouragement or we may need to go to cabinet and determine what we may need to do at that level to encourage business to come to the province overall.”
Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the importance of supporting local business and Kaeding hopes people understand that all businesses in small communities need that local support going forward.
“It’s an interesting dilemma” he said. “How do we support our local businesses? I would say we need to continue to talk about our small businesses. We need to promote and support them whenever we get the opportunity, whether it’s buying gas at the local convenient store or buying locally the best we can to support everyone in the community.
“So often though, people overlook the big box stores or the big chains and say, ‘well that’s really not local.’ I’d really like to remind people that there’s local management, maybe local ownership if it’s a franchise, there’s local people behind each and every business regardless of how big or small they are in the community. I think they all need our support.” No matter the demographic, Kaeding says, communities and government need to work together and focus on providing the best environment for residents including services for seniors to be able to continue to live in their homes.
“We always talk about how it takes a community to raise a child,” he said. “I would say it takes a community to support its residents, whether they’re young or older adults. I think it’s important we continue to encourage communities to provide services to keep our older adults engaged and make sure they’re appreciated for their participation, work, and abilities they have and make sure we’ve got environments that are welcoming to older adults as well as for young people.
“There’s municipal elections coming up and I would say that’s going to be the challenge that they have in front of them. How do we make our communities welcoming for everyone? From people that are within the province, from within the country, and outside the country. How do we make our communities welcoming and create an environment that they can succeed in and raise a family with confidence in each of our communities? Support is the focus.”
Bonnie Galenzoski, NDP
NDP candidate in Melville-Saltcoats, Bonnie Galenzoski, thinks focussing on programs that assist businesses is the best way to help bring them to small communities in Saskatchewan.
“The NDP’s plan is to bring back start-up loans for small businesses,” Galenzoski said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at. Also, just investing more in people, investing in home care to train more people for home care to offer more services to allow for more people to live in rural communities, and just trying to get business back to small communities.”
Galenzoski says the NDP’s plan is to focus on health and education to help communities and businesses survive through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If Ryan Meili is elected to lead Saskatchewan, his mandate is to invest back into those communities and provide more money to health and education” she said. “Right now health and education are suffering in those communities. By putting money back into health and education we can protect those communities and help them grow with small businesses.”
Home care is the best way to help keep senior residents in their communities says Galenzoski, and she believes the province must invest more into it.
“My father is in a home, so that’s one of the things that really is important to me,” she said. “We’re looking at investing more in home care to keep people at home longer. Even in our care facilities we’re looking at creating higher standards to make sure that our seniors are being looked after. But not only does investing in home care help seniors stay home longer, it can also keep them close to family which is so important as we age.”
Daryl Harrison, Sask Party
Oil and agriculture are the heart of rural communities says the Saskatchewan Party’s Cannington candidate, Daryl Harrison, and he thinks promoting those industries is the best way to attract new business.
“Our constituency consists of an oil and agriculture base,” Harrison said. “Most of the businesses are related to one or both of those industries. That’s the attraction to southeast Saskatchewan, but certainly there’s tourism and other avenues as well. But agriculture and oil will be our mainstay here for years to come and that’s what attracts people.”
With guidelines in place for small businesses to safely operate during the pandemic, Harrison thinks as long as the rules are followed businesses will be able to stay open.
“I think as long as the public health guidelines are followed, our businesses can remain opened and can continue to adapt,” he said. “If they’re a retail business they’ve developed ways to conduct their sales and deal with their customers in safe ways within the public health guidelines.
“We certainly don’t want to shut them down, they’ve got to be able to survive through this. Dustin Duncan and Scott Moe announced today, a 10 per cent savings on your SaskPower bill. That will obviously help families out month-to-month.”
The most important factor in keeping senior citizens in their homes and around their family is ensuring rural communities have consistent access to home care, says Harrison. “Home care is a big part of allowing seniors to remain in their own homes and ensuring they’re receiving the care they need,” he said. “Being able to have that independence to live in the home they grew up in and raised their family in is important. That’s certainly a driving force behind the importance of home care and having them come in to be taken care of while having family close by to help out.”
Dianne Twietmeyer, NDP
Cannington NDP candidate Dianne Twietmeyer says the best way to bring business to her riding is to keep projects provincial.
How does she think economic development can be promoted in the area? “I can’t speak to that,” Twietmeyer said. “I’d have to consult Ryan Meili and other people for what they might be thinking for this riding. I know that they really would like to make sure that infrastructure projects go to Saskatchewan companies. That would probably be the biggest thing and also the climate plan, which is to have new and previous actors in the energy industry develop new clean energy, especially with an emphasis on the search for geothermal energy that provides sustainable clean energy for the province.”
With the tough situations the pandemic has put local business owners in, Twietmeyer believes that the focus on shopping local will help them rebound.
“I think people have to stay the course and I know how hard it is on small business, especially in the food service industry,” she said. “I think that with the help from the federal government hopefully people can hold on until we’re out the other end. If people can hold on, I know that businesses will be able to thrive again. I think that perhaps people in their local communities have learned the value of what might be lost and will be more willing to support their local businesses. This could be a really positive outcome.”
Twietemeyer thinks the best way to help senior residents is to invest in better home care options.
“This is something that came from Ryan Meili recently, he talked about more support for home care in helping senior citizens stay home,” she said. “Home care is something I’ve always thought would be the best way to help people. After a certain point some people need long-term care, but people who could stay at home and have home care staff come into help them with what they need and have enough home care staff to be able to take care of all the people who could stay at home if they had that help. I think that would be the best thing and I think most small communities do a good job already of having support places for seniors to go to commune with other people.
“These community living places where seniors can live with other seniors without being in long-term care homes. Most small communities lift up seniors that way, but having that commitment to having home care for seniors to stay home is a wonderful idea.”