With the election of Colin Ratushniak and Julie Baschuk, and the re-election of Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, the leaders of the Lac La Ronge Tri-Community are excited to start working together to improve the Lac La Ronge area.
This has included some quick work by the leaders and their administration to push for a mandatory masking policy in the tri-community area that matched provincial regulations.
When the provincial government brought in a mandatory masking policy for all Saskatchewan communities over 5,000 people, the communities of La Ronge and Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band did not individually fit that bill.
Mandatory masking mandates were slowly increasing as the number of new cases in the province started to grow and policies in Saskatchewan’s major cities were announced on Nov. 3. By Nov. 13, all communities over 5,000 were required to have mask requirements for public spaces.
Together, the Lac La Ronge Tri-Communities did have the necessary 5,000 person population for the government to include them in the masking policy and a letter to the province was quickly drafted and signed by all three leaders that same day. Thanks to the Village of Air Ronge staff the letter was drafted and signed as quickly as possible with the letter even being taken to leaders’ homes at 10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, Ratushniak said.
Even though the province has since expanded its mandatory masking policy to include the entire province, this letter is still a sign of something bigger, said Ratushniak, La Ronge’s newly elected mayor.
“It shows our willingness to work together to work for better things in the communities and safety in general. Masking is just one part of the equation, I think that there's much more that needs to be done.”
Baschuk unseated long-serving former Air Ronge mayor Gordon Stomp, who had an uninterrupted reign since 1977 when the village was incorporated.
While people respected the work that Stomp has done, the voting results showed that they are excited for the potential that Baschuk brings to the table, she said. A diverse and inclusive council was something that she wanted coming into the mayor's chair, Baschuk said, as well as a more modernized way of communicating and being transparent with residents of Air Ronge.
Seeing how women are underrepresented in government and business, seeing the mixed council at the table is great to see, she said.
“It's nice to see the community be able to stand with me and support me along in this. And we saw two other women elected to our councils. We now have two women and two men [and] we've got a lot more equality happening, which is fabulous.”
Cook-Searson has worked with four different mayors from La Ronge and Air Ronge during her time as chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and was re-elected for her sixth term in May. When she was first elected in 2005, she was the youngest among the three leaders. Now she finds she is the oldest, she laughed.
With Ratushniak and Baschuk new to the mayoral roles, Cook-Searson is excited to continue the various partnerships among the three communities, including their shared sewer, water, and fire services. Now, she said, the relationship is even more open between the three with Cook-Searson saying she can text the other two and have discussions whenever something comes up.
With a diverse leadership team, Baschuk said they are going to bring fresh perspectives to the table with a community that has room to grow.
“Right off the hop we're willing to work together in a co-operative way, so we know that and improve the quality of life within each of our communities.”
While Baschuk knows that they are not the only ones in the province working together as municipal partners, she hopes that the tri-community can be role models to other communities who want to join together to solve local issues.
Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist