Sask. Opposition calls for strategy to repair northern roads amidst by-election for Athabasca seat

·2 min read
Former MP and current La Loche Mayor, Georgina Jolibois, says the Saskatchewan government needs to address road issues in the province's north.  (Submitted by Georgina Jolibois - image credit)
Former MP and current La Loche Mayor, Georgina Jolibois, says the Saskatchewan government needs to address road issues in the province's north. (Submitted by Georgina Jolibois - image credit)

Saskatchewan's Opposition is calling on the pprovince to turn its focus to northern infrastructure, which NDP argues has been ignored by Premier Scott Moe.

During a news conference on Friday morning, Opposition NDP leader Ryan Meili and Georgina Joilbois, the NDP candidate for Athabasca and current mayor of La Loche, directed their attention to highways in northern Saskatchewan.

"The quality of life on the northwest side is very important for all residents. Therefore it is very important that we have a very good road system," said Jolibois, who insisted people in northern communities know how to address these issues if given the chance.

Jolibois is running for the NDP in a by-election for the Athabascan region seat. She is hoping to fill Buckley Belanger's former seat. He resigned to pursue federal politics and chose not to return to his seat after losing his campaign bid. During his tenure, he was the longest-serving MLA.

No date has been set for the by-election, but it must be held by Feb. 15, according to Elections Saskatchewan.

Jolibois said the NDP is in the process of developing a northern road strategy that would look at several highways including Highway 155 and 905.

Meili said the cost of the northern road strategy still needed to be assessed. When asked about the timeline, Meili said short-term repairs of severe potholes are needed right now. Jolibois suggested that the timeline of a potential plan would depend on the current provincial government.

CBC News contacted the provincial government about the NDP's criticism of the management of northern highways, but did not receive a reply before publication.

Jolibois said that while the province meets with people in northern Saskatchewan, there's no effective follow-through or investing.

Highway 155 near La Loche was listed as the worst Saskatchewan road by CAA in 2017. The NDP also pointed to Highway 905, noting fatal accidents on the highway.

Highway 155 runs about 300 km from Green Lake to La Loche and Highway 905 extends about 450 km Black Lake to an intersection between Southend and Brabant Lake in northern Saskatchewan.

"Having driven [Highway 155] myself, I know it's full of potholes," said Meili. "You get north of Shellbrook, north of the Premier's hometown … and not very long after, the road starts to deteriorate."

Meili said if the province is going to see life improvements in the north in areas like illness, poverty and suicide rates, there needs to be "good, quality, safe road access."

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