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Healthcare, funding concerns dominate Lloydminster meetings with Sask NDP critic

The Saskatchewan NDP municipal affairs critic Erika Ritchie held meetings in the Border City on Thursday with the city and as well the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce.

Ritchie also holds the opposition files on SaskEnergy, WSA and SaskWater and the Crown Investments Corporation.

One of the hot button topics raised at both meetings was related to healthcare, mental health and addictions.

Ritchie says right across the province they are hearing the concerns over healthcare.

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“Issues of struggles within our healthcare sector, whether that’s wait times, access to primary care physicians and emergency wings being overburdened. In addition to that, those who are in mental health crisis and have nowhere to go.”

Ritchie says she is hearing many heartbreaking stories of people having to wait in some cases eight hours in emergency rooms to see a doctor. She says these problems inclusive of a lack of housing and homelessness are the result of failed social policies on the part of the province.

Mayor Gerald Aalbers said he was grateful for Ritchie’s visit as they discussed health concerns and as well funding challenges inclusive of a lag time in the payment of revenue sharing from the Saskatchewan government.

“It’s a great program. It follows the taxes from the government of Saskatchewan that they collect – .75 of one per cent on the PST is put into revenue sharing. Some of the challenges – it’s a two-year lag time. We are  just starting to see the recovery of the economy.”

Aalbers noted the city will await the Saskatchewan budget on Mar. 22 to see if the revenue sharing might be increased.

At the meeting with the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce, Ritchie heard the concern over the PST.

Executive Director Teri-Lynn MacKie said they raised healthcare, along with funding for policing from the Saskatchewan government. Only Alberta contributes to the RCMP bill, but the service also covers the Saskatchewan side of the city.

MacKie took up the matter of PST on hotel rooms on the Saskatchewan side.

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“We always talk about our bi-provincial issues and making sure that people are aware that we don’t necessarily get adequate funding. Even issues like our hotel businesses on the Saskatchewan side; they have to pay PST on the rooms, and on the Alberta side there is no PST. So that gives them a disadvantage to doing business in Lloydminster.”

Across Saskatchewan there is also discussion on how the PST affects construction projects. A Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association statement says at least one-quarter of the municipal revenue sharing money goes back to the province via PST on construction projects.

Ritchie also said they have heard that the PST is an impediment to growth and economic development when applied against construction projects. She said the feedback from municipalities is that it results in a 24-39 per cent reduction in revenues for municipal infrastructure projects.

The NDP critic also expressed concern for what she termed the Saskatchewan government’s removal of revenue from SaskPower and SaskEnergy and at the same pushing up rates for consumers.

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