by Devin Heroux
A prosperous Saskatchewan means big bucks were being thrown around during this year’s budget. As part of the $14.7 million immigration budget, the Saskatchewan Party is doling out $1.8 million in new funding for additional settlement and integration supports.
Rob Norris, Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration, says the government continues to make it easier for immigrants to call Saskatchewan home.
“These are new dollars within the Ministry to help ensure there are greater settlements and supports. We don’t do this in isolation; we do this with many partners from the private sector to the community from post-secondary educational institutions and educational institutions as well,” said Norris
The opposition feels this isn’t enough. Cam Broten, NDP opposition critic for Education, Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration, says it comes down to issues of affordability for newcomers.
“Some of these immigrants are very well to do, but many are not,” said Broten. “Many are struggling while starting a new life and the issues of housing, rent, and general affordability is a real concern.”
And while Norris admits there is still work to be done concerning housing issues in Saskatchewan, he is quick to state that having too many people in the province is a good problem to have.
“This isn’t a problem,” said Norris. “When we were elected we said we would rather address the challenges and opportunities that come with growth then those that come with a shrinking economy and shrinking population.”
Prior to the 2007 provincial election, it was no secret that people were leaving the province. An estimated 30,000 people fled Saskatchewan and most of them went to Alberta. Since then over 50,000 newcomers have come back to the province. NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter says you have to be careful when you look at population growth in Saskatchewan.
“It’s really difficult to see a continued immigration policy where you’re attracting more and more people but you’re not building the infrastructure to look after them,” said Lingenfelter. “That’s a big failing of the Wall government.”
But Norris continues to boast about the population growth.
“Saskatchewan is now the fastest growing province in Canada,” he said. “For too many years Saskatchewan was a good place to be from. Now it’s just a great place to be.”
With the budget being called the ‘Saskatchewan Advantage,' focusing on the quality of life for all those living in the province, Lingenfelter worries about what exactly this new look is going to mean for new-comers to Saskatchewan.
“If they’re talking about the new Saskatchewan being a province where you have anti-labour, if you’re talking about huge housing shortages, or if it’s the long line-ups for daycare and childcare in the province, we want to make sure the new Saskatchewan is in fact a better Saskatchewan,” said Lingenfelter.
“I’m just not sure many families feel they’re a part of the booming economy.”