The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), alongside their member RMs, is encouraged by the ongoing support for rural Saskatchewan in this provincial budget.
The budget increases total investment into the province’s severely strained healthcare sector by 6.7%, which is desperately needed. Service disruptions, aging facilities, and the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain healthcare staff have been further highlighted and are more critical than ever. SARM will continue to work with our provincial government to ensure this new funding and programming reaches rural areas effectively.
The total Municipal Revenue sharing pool was increased from just over $262 million in 2022/23 to $297.9 million in this budget. SARM is pleased with the increase, recognizing that RMs are a key component in driving our economy. “More funding is needed so RMs can continue to provide a level of service expected by sectors driving Saskatchewan’s economy including preparing for future growth in the critical minerals sector. We are hopeful more can be allocated in the near future,” says Ray Orb, SARM President.
Funding for rural road and bridge infrastructure is imperative for RMs to continue to provide key economic sectors with a strategic transportation network that is effective and well maintained. “We were pleased with the continued investment of $15 million for the Rural Integrated Roads for Growth (RIRG) program but more is needed if we want to revitalize and sustain this critical rural network into the future,” says Orb.
Increased funding for Saskatchewan farm support programs is also welcome news. The province is providing an additional 25 percent to further enhance programming offered via the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership. “Increased support for farmers and ranchers signals to Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector that our government will be there to assist when they need it,” says Orb. “This assurance is critical. It allows our agriculture sector to compete on the world market with countries like the EU and the US, who provide similar supports to their industry.”
SARM is also encouraged by new and continued funding for crime reduction initiatives as well as $8.9 million for the Saskatchewan Firearms Program. SARM looks forward to meeting with the RCMP and provincial government to discuss how to effectively use this increased investment to fill the gaps in the current policing system; many of those in rural Saskatchewan. When so much of rural Saskatchewan is already underserved SARM is asking for a coordinated effort between all stakeholders targeting crime reduction, one that ensures we aren’t duplicating efforts.
Rural broadband is an essential service; this is something SARM has been promoting for over a decade. We appreciate the $412.7 million for the SaskTel 5G and rural fibre network but substantial investment is needed to reach our goal of broadband infrastructure parity for all Saskatchewan residents regardless of location. Neither people nor industry can thrive in rural Saskatchewan without reliable, affordable broadband. It’s often the best option to access, markets, banking, social services, and recently healthcare. At our most recent convention our members highlighted the need for better access for rural schools to effectively deliver education programming.
SARM looks forward to working with the province to provide input on what works best for rural Saskatchewan as these new budget investments and programs are implemented. “They will go a long way to support the continued economic growth and livelihood in rural Saskatchewan; and the entire province,” says Orb.
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