There were a lot of great conversations today at the SaskForward event here in Regina.
SaskForward was organized in response to the government's Transformative Change agenda, with the goal of taking Saskatchewan in a direction that focuses on Indigenous peoples and anti-colonialism, workers, environmentalism, social justice, policies that address the social determinants of health, affordable housing, and anti-poverty initiatives. I made sure to join the "Poverty and Housing" breakout group. At the civic level the group committed to working on a roadmap to end homelessness in five years. I look forward to building these community based responses to problems facing our city.
Here is my submission on urban renewal and infrastructure.
It’s tough to figure out where we should start. First off, real “transformational change” would include an ambitious homelessness strategy that makes massive financial commitments for Housing First initiatives that are already off the ground in Regina and Saskatoon. Included in this funding arrangement would be resources adequate to provide wrap around services in addition to investments in social and affordable housing.
Second, our province needs a rigorous urban infrastructure renewal strategy, one that looks at modernizing “conventional” civic infrastructure like sewer and water systems, along with roads. To this list I would add investments in public transit operational and capital expenditures. The province desperately needs to boost investments in green infrastructure, which includes retrofitting provincial and municipal buildings through a dedicated capital fund on top of a growing municipal operating grant. To this end SaskEnergy and SaskPower should be tasked with leading this programme on a wider scale across the province, with money being spent on wind, solar, and thermal power systems. Our universities in Saskatoon and Regina, along with the Sask Polytechnics, should be enriched with funds to launch renewable energy centres of excellence. Here, we could attract skilled trades, engineers, social scientists, and policy experts to make our province a leader in green energy policy, infrastructure, design, and construction.
Third, Saskatchewan needs to boost the amount of educational and settlement supports services for newcomers, which includes foreign workers, refugees, and permanent residents. This involves investing more money in ESL programmes in the community and in our province’s public education system. Documents related to accessing public services, employment standards, labour relations, housing, health care, and occupational safety should be translated into various languages.