Preeceville – Stacey Strykowski is the New Democratic Party candidate for Canora-Pelly in the upcoming Oct. 26 provincial election.
Strykowski, 36, grew up in the Usherville area. She is currently a member of Preeceville’s town council, having been elected in 2016. She volunteers her time with healthcare services in Preeceville. A fulltime insurance agent, for the last 18 years she has worked at an insurance agency in Preeceville.
Four years ago, the closure of Preeceville Hospital’s emergency room motivated her to get involved. Strykowski and her husband Jonathan have two children, now 10 and 13, and one of them has an anaphylactic nut allergy. Faced with the prospect of him having a serious and potentially deadly allergic reaction and the local ER closed, she decided something had to be done.
“Four years ago, the emergency room closed here in Preeceville,” Strykowski said on Aug. 18. “I have a son with anaphylaxis, so I want to be close to an emergency room. When that happened, it was a big scare to the community. I got involved right off the bat, within the first few hours off the announcement, and it catapulted from there.
“I’ve been an advocate for rural health for the last four years. I really got tired of knocking on politicians’ doors for answers, and not being given any answers, so I thought I would try being on the other side of the door for a while.”
As Canora’s emergency services are only part-time, she explained that the closest ER is an hour away, in Yorkton. That length of time could be fatal. “When the next stop is an hour away from here, that really makes you panic, because you know you don’t have an hour,” she said.
“I’m on every committee you can possibly think of in a community, and I’m door knocking,” she said.
She’s now the chair of the Preeceville and District Health Focus Group, trying to be proactive to replace physicians before one leaves. Preeceville has faced physician shortages for several years now.
When her daughter was in Grade 4, she had a unit in social studies on politics. Her daughter could explain every role like the premier and parties, but she couldn’t say what an MLA does. “That got me thinking – she’s right! Our area doesn’t really have a voice in the Legislature right now. If my kid knows everything about the whole political system in the province, but doesn’t know what the MLA can do for her, maybe it’s time for a change.”
Strykowski was nominated Oct. 26, 2019, exactly a year to the day before the election. She’s been door knocking since mid-July. She’s spent the last year visiting communities in the and talking to constituents.
Asked what are the issues in the riding, she said, “Speaking with seniors, they’re definitely most concerned about the loss of STC (Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation), the lack of the bus service. They’ve lost their independence. We’ve lost a lot of residents to the city because they have no way to get to medical appointments. Either their families have moved away or thy can’t afford to pay someone to take them.”
She’s heard similar concerns throughout the riding, such as in Kamsack and Veregin.
The private bus service operating out of Yorkton isn’t feasible, she said. Strykowski would like to see a smaller STC with smaller buses and fewer routes. “It’s a public service. It shouldn’t be treated as a business. That let a lot of rural residents down.”
“We’re three hours away from everything, where we’re situated. That’s a big deal, especially for the aging population,” she said.
Rural emergency room closures in the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic were premature, she said. “The consultation just wasn’t what they said it would have been. There’ really wasn’t a proper one at all, so we were on the forefront, fighting to get our ER back as well.”
Preeceville lost a doctor as a result, but will be getting one in October, she said.
On the doorsteps, Strykowski said the province’s COVID-19 back-to-school plan is a concern, especially for parents of immunocompromised children, as well as people who have family members susceptible to the coronavirus.
“I would say it’s split right now, for the moms I’ve been talking to, whether they’re going to send their kids physically to school, or whether they’re going to do a homeschool plan. But in a lot of cases, it’s not possible, with parents that are working fulltime.”
Poor ventilation in schools is an issue, she said, with Preeceville’s elementary wing being an example where ventilation is terrible.
Long term care is another concern of Strykowski’s. Her mother works in the field, and says there’s not enough hours in the day to address patient’s concerns.
“These little stories get to me,” Strykowski said.
“I’m really proud of this constituency,” she said. “Small town Saskatchewan is really where its at. We come together in times of crisis. We raise money like you wouldn’t believe. These are the best people in the entire world, and I’m happy to go out and meet them all,” she concluded.
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury