For Immediate Release
Rural Saskatchewan’s Federal Priorities
The Federal budget submission that the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) is presenting to the Federal Government for consideration for the 2017 budget consists of six recommendations. “These program and funding requests are designed to better the quality of life experienced by those individuals living in rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan and help ensure that families and businesses are able to participate in the local and global economies,” said SARM President Ray Orb.
Rural broadband access in rural and remote areas of the province has been a longstanding issue amongst SARM members. Without a reliable internet connection, it is difficult to participate in the Canadian economy as many services and transactions are conducted online. The result is that many outside of the larger urban centres are unable to meet their economic potential. SARM is recommending that any spectrum allocated for rural and remote areas that is unused by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for two years after acquisition should become available to an ISP that will use it – a use it or lose provision for spectrum.
As more climate change policies are created and enacted, SARM is also recommending that the Federal Government further consult with the provincial and territorial governments to expand the National Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP). SARM recommends that the list of eligible projects under Federal disaster mitigation and recover programs be increased, that consistent guidelines be developed and accessible to all applicants, and that the application periods be extended. “Municipalities require more funding and flexible programming to assist them in completing infrastructure projects that will mitigate damages caused by natural disasters”, said President Orb.
The third recommendation made by SARM is an initiative called the Emergency Response Fund (ERF). The ERF would be a monetary fund available for local emergency service providers to apply for compensation for services rendered but unpaid for a variety of reasons. This would allow local fire departments the ability to respond to emergency situations first without having to evaluate their response in terms of whether they will be paid for the services provided. A program such as this would complement existing service agreements local fire departments have with neighbouring municipalities and First Nations Bands.
SARM supports the Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant as a valuable tool for businesses and non-profit organizations to provide funding for employee training and education. However, the Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant currently excludes municipalities from accessing funding. SARM would like to see rural municipalities eligible to receive funding to train their core employees including administrators and operators.
The New Building Canada Fund (NBCF) is a long term funding commitment to Canada’s infrastructure needs. The 2016 Federal Budget makes reference to examining new innovative financing instruments to reduce the cost of municipal infrastructure projects. SARM recommends that the Federal Government allow funding under the NBCF for innovating programming like the Public-Industry Partnership Program (PIPP). PIPP would see financing from industry, the municipality, the provincial and federal government to cost share the maintenance and construction of municipal roads that are critical to the resource industry. Additionally, the Small Communities Fund (SCF), a component of the NBCF, was designed for small and rural communities to access funding for their infrastructure needs. However, the definition of small and rural communities in the NBCF does not align with the reality of small and rural communities in Saskatchewan. The result is that the eligibility criteria of the SCF severely limit the ability for small and rural communities to receive funding. SARM recommends that the Federal Government allow the provinces and territories to lower the criteria threshold, of a 100,000 population, for the SCF to more accurately reflect the size of small communities. It is also recommended that additional funding be provided for the SCF to ensure that RMs have a better chance of accessing federal funding.
“SARM is looking forward to working with the Federal Government and the Provincial Government on these initiatives as we are confident they will support economic development” said President Orb.
For more information, contact:
“SARM, the Voice of Rural Saskatchewan”