Provincial politicians are deep into barbecue season in the Battlefords and elsewhere.
On Tuesday evening, it was the Saskatchewan Party who held their barbecue for party supporters and other local residents at the North Battleford River Valley Visitor Centre.
Premier Scott Moe was there as were MLAs Herb Cox of the Battlefords and Larry Doke from Cut Knife-Turtleford. They were there serving up roast beef and potato salad to the supporters in attendance.
This event came just one day after local New Democrats also held a barbecue in which opposition leader Ryan Meili and Saskatoon Fairview MLA Vicki Mowat attended.
The Battlefords had hosted Moe at a Sask Party barbecue the year before. While it is a break from the usual meetings and announcements that are part of the job of a public official, Premier Moe pointed out these events do form an important role in gaining feedback on what policies are working or not working.
Moe himself has been out and about at several Sask Party barbecues and events lately, “engaging with citizens and listening, doing a lot of listening,” he said.
“This is part of the political process, to engage with the citizens that we represent,” said Moe.
Moe added that local residents had a “great conduit” in both Cox and Doke to “all of the ministers, myself included. Today is about reaffirming that conduit and representing the people.”
Council of the Federation
The event in North Battleford came just a week after Moe hosted premiers from all the provinces and territories at Council of the Federation meetings in Saskatoon.
The premier said it went well. There were a few areas in which they didn’t all agree, such as on “building infrastructure like pipelines,” Moe said.
“But the fact of the matter is we accomplished a great many things with respect to internal trade, working together for how to advocate for trade with our international partners.”
He pointed to his attendance earlier in the day at the Ag in Motion show near Langham as an example of “celebrating really what that industry is all about and showing our wares to the world.”
Moe also pointed to their efforts engaging on the issue of mental health care, and said a symposium would be put on in the near future to discuss what is working on mental health care, as well as what isn’t.
“We look forward to that, look forward to sharing some of the continuum of care for example that we’re offering in North Battleford in the new facility, the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford, which is the first of its kind and unlike the continuum of care of any facility in the nation.”
The topic of NDP criticism of Saskatchewan Hospital drew the most animated reactions from both Moe and Cox.
The NDP has been critical of the use of the P3 (public-private partnership) for construction and management of that project. The NDP also called for a full facility audit in the wake of news that the entire roof, which had leaked during the spring melt, needed replaced.
“The way to not have had a leaky roof would be to allow the NDP to make decisions, because they simply wouldn’t have built it,” Moe said.
“They had ample opportunity to replace that facility, and never took that opportunity. The fact of the matter is that the facility is replaced. The roof will be fixed. There has been local contractors involved and included in the bid process throughout from across Saskatchewan and from the region here … people right from here that have benefited from the construction. That would never have happened under the leader of the opposition or his predecessor or his predecessor before. So I take great issue with those comments.”
Moe called the facility a great facility that is conducive to healing. “I think it is in poor taste to criticize this type of investment that is made on behalf of so many families, not just in the North Battleford area … but around the province.”
Cox added every effort would be made to “make the disruption as minimal as absolutely possible,” and added that under the P3 model the repairs are not costing taxpayers. The P3 partners “will have to make it right and make that hospital in like-new condition when they turn it back to the province in 30 years time.”
“That’s the part that Mr. Meili seems to miss in all of this, and some of his colleagues as well do,” Cox said. “That the advantage, one of the many advantages, of going to P3, plus the fact that we saved $90 million by going to a P3 project.”
Crime has been back in the news, due to some local incidents including murder charges, as well as the Ashley Morin awareness march on the weekend.
Moe pledged crime would be addressed “step by step.”
“It’s not just in North Battleford. I don’t live far from here and we are having similar conversations in rural areas and in communities as well.”
He pointed to neighbourhood crime watches, investments in additional police officers and task forces including a “guns and gangs” group that could address spikes in property crime.
“There’s no one answer to what we’re doing here, but there most certainly is an effort that all of us can make and all of us are making including government,” said Moe.