Rural delegates raise concerns at SARM ‘bear pit’ session

Saskatchewan rural leaders lined up with their questions on Wednesday for a “bear pit” session at the annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon.

While some delegates thanked the provincial government for certain initiatives, others raised their rural concerns and wanted answers.

Many leaders asked questions regarding access to health care and mental health supports in their communities.

“The resources are limited in local communities. Yes, the [Saskatchewan] Hospital was important, but we need people in our workplace, that can recognize issues and help direct staff to the proper resources,” RM of Mervin Reeve Tom Brown said.

Saskatchewan Health Minister, Jim Reiter, hinted the upcoming budget might have some answers.

“Please stay tuned next week for the budget. Next Wednesday, you’re going to see some significant investment in mental health and addictions treatment,” Reiter said.

Arlynn Kurtz, reeve of the RM of Fertile Belt, said he wants to see emergency responders equipped with both red and blue lights.

“Our first responders are out at accident scenes long before the police arrive, or sometimes long after the police leave directing traffic,” Kurtz said. “They are only given a red light.”

“A blue light is way more visible in all kinds of weather and there’s a lot more respect for red and blue lights flashing. We’ve lost one first responder in the last year. That’s one too many,” Kurtz said.

“It’s something that we are looking at. I am looking at, and we’ve been meeting with the RCMP and municipal police forces,” Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave said.

Hargrave said while recent changes allow tow trucks to have amber and blue lights, RCMP currently have the full rights for the red and blue lights.

“It’s an issue that we’re looking at. We’re definitely very interested in coming to an outcome on that very, very soon,” Hargrave said.

The SARM convention comes to a close on Thursday.

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