Saskatchewan minister wants rural delegates of pending funding cuts

SASKATOON – Saskatchewan’s minister of government relations says funding cuts for rural municipalities in the province could be a reality in the new year.

Donna Harpauer told delegates at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities mid-term convention Wednesday that recent drops in oil and potash prices are having a negative impact on the provincial treasury and could mean cuts for municipalities.

“In our budget, we implemented a number of restraint measures, but we know that more measures will be needed to be made mid-year,” Harpauer said.

She was responding to concerns from SARM president Ray Orb, who said rural areas need more money to address crumbling roads and bridges.

Saskatchewan has more kilometres of roads and highways than any other province, Orb said. Repairing and upgrading the rural road systems is becoming increasingly costly.

“We feed and fuel a significant part of the world, yet we rarely see a proportionate contribution of our transportation infrastructure from upper levels of government,” he said.

Harpauer said providing additional funding to help rural areas improve roadways will be difficult. She also noted decreased revenues from the provincial sales tax could lead to a drop in revenue sharing funds for municipalities.

“They are the frontline that does that work for our citizens. We hope to be able to keep that commitment going forward, but we also acknowledge that we’re experiencing extreme fiscal pressures right now,” she said.

In other issues, Orb is suggesting reviving the rural crime watch to address rural policing after some farmers have armed themselves following what some believe was a string of crimes in rural Saskatchewan earlier this fall.

He also believes in the Crime Stoppers program, and would like to see more communication with police to deal with rural crime.

(CTV Saskatoon, CJWW)