OTTAWA – NDP Critic for Western Economic Diversification Georgina Jolibois (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River) raised major concerns that Northerners are the forgotten people in both federal and provincial budgets. Northerners are struggling with precarious employment, rising cost of living, and record household debt and concerns remain.

The Liberal and SaskParty budgets focus is to make Canada’s economy work for them, where the wealthy and well-connected are rewarded and the vulnerable are pushed further into poverty. The budgets push forward plans to privatize public infrastructure that will leave Canadians paying higher prices and creates a climate for private investors to get richer.

The north is being hit with austerity provincial budget cuts and the federal budget simply fails northerners. There is no mention of concrete plans to address precarious work or a strong plan to create sustainable full time jobs.

The federal government has yet to identify the implications of the Infrastructure Bank’s public and private sectors initiative. It represents a great concern for municipalities in Northern Saskatchewan.

“Many mayors and councillors have expressed concern. Plans to privatize public infrastructure will line the pockets of wealthy investors while leaving everyday Canadians paying the bill” said Jolibois.

Sadly the federal budget missed an opportunity to make the cost of medicine more affordable for Canadians and to save billions by implementing a pharmacare plan. Meanwhile the north is in the midst of complex social crisis’s’. HIV-AIDS, homelessness and child suicide clusters are rising and many northern communities across the country are facing these struggles. Although some federal funding for First Nation mental health in the 2017 federal budget, Health Canada officials testified at the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs that the needs were two to three times higher.

“It is not clear how this announcement will close the gap, since the Minister herself described last year’s First Nations Health infrastructure as a “drop in the bucket”” said Jolibois.

The reality of Indigenous communities in Northern Saskatchewan is very precarious. The Liberals have again broken their promise to remove the 2% cap on core funding for Indigenous peoples. There are no details on how or what amounts will be allocated for Indigenous housing, clean water or childcare. This is a major concern for constituents of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Although the government voted unanimously in support of an NDP motion to immediately invest the $155 million required to end discrimination in First Nations child welfare delivery this budget provides no funding to comply with the ruling of the Canada Human Rights Tribunal.

“This is appalling. I have heard far too many stories of families being ripped apart with no support. For a government that has said on many occasions that no relationship is more important than with Indigenous communities, I find this behaviour to be dishonest” added MP Jolibois.

Indigenous Post-Secondary Student Support Program is short changed and the promises delayed by another year. The liberals promised $50M/year but are giving just $90M over 2 years starting in 2017-18. Furthermore, the liberals and the Saskparty ignored Nortep-Norpac students, staff and the North’s voiced direction and concerns over changes to the program.

The federal Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy $50 million investment is a one year deal and is part of a string of broken liberal promises. What is the long-term employment, skills and training plan and how does northern youth needs fit into this? These questions have yet to be answered by this federal government.

The federal Budget 2017 states starting in 2018-2019, the Government will invest an additional $4 billion to improve Indigenous communities. The breakdown of how much of that money will go to improve community infrastructure is unavailable.

Meanwhile there is nothing to stop the growth of precarious work or the lack of access to services.

What about the needs northern pensioners, children, youth and people living with disabilities? What about families, where do they fit into the budgets? The 2017 budgets are attacks on the poor and vulnerable.  Even the meager provincial support to people of social assistance is being changed. The Saskparty government will no longer pay for social assistance recipient’s funeral costs leaving some with no support.

“The NDP is committed to reducing inequality and building a strong economy for Canadians who have been left behind by parties that do not work for them. Unfortunately the federal and provincial budgets falls drastically short” said MP Jolibois.