The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), alongside their member RMs, emphasizes both highlights and concerns regarding rural communities across the province in this year’s provincial budget.

“Today’s budget includes many priorities that our members have been asking for, although not perfect, we feel items in this budget go a long way to support our RMs and the people who live in rural Saskatchewan,” said Ray Orb, SARM president.

SARM is pleased with the increase, recognizing that RMs are a key component in driving Saskatchewan’s economy.

“More funding is always welcome, RMs have a major responsibility to provide a level of service and infrastructure expected by the major sectors driving Saskatchewan’s economy,” said Orb.

The municipal revenue sharing model is unique to Saskatchewan and SARM is pleased with the increased dollars being invested by the province. This funding goes a long way to supporting RMs in the future.

Agriculture is the backbone of rural Saskatchewan and SARM is pleased with the record investment in the Ministry of Agriculture this year. Key asks from SARM, such as increased Business Risk Management program funding, increased investment in weather stations for data collection and the commitment to irrigation are all being addressed. SARM supports the direction the province is taking in these critical areas.

As stated in the lead up to SARM’s annual convention, SARM has been advocating for the launch of the water management infrastructure known as the Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Project. This project has been in the making for a long time and will positively impact RMs into the future, increasing crop diversity and farm profitability through irrigation.

SARM is appreciative of the province’s investment of $20 million and commends their commitment to this transformational project. 

“We appreciate the government’s recognition of the importance of this project,” said Orb. “Irrigation is a key component to economic growth in rural Saskatchewan and this project will go far in supporting that.”

The competition to attract and retain qualified medical professionals is particularly fierce. As the pressure on urban health care facilities increases, there is an equally dire need to support, maintain, and grow rural health care programs.

It will take a collaborative partnership with the government, along with health care partners, to create a wholesome, informed and triaged approach to ensure the people living in rural Saskatchewan receive the health service and care they deserve.

The funding towards rural recruitment and nurse practitioners is something that SARM members have been asking for. These steps in the budget are encouraging in the path towards proper rural health care.

Funding for rural road and bridge infrastructure is imperative for RMs to continue to provide key economic sectors with a strategic transportation network that is effective and well maintained.

While there is a modest increase in Rural Integrated Roads for Growth funding, the challenges and expenses of maintaining critical rural infrastructure continue to rise and there are concerns regarding the level of investment in vital services such as roads and infrastructure. With the current inflation and the vast inventory of rural infrastructure, RMs will require stronger support going forward. SARM will continue to ask for more funding to allow RMs to renew and maintain rural roads.

“While we recognize the challenges in balancing various priorities within budget constraints, we urge the government to ensure RMs have sufficient funding to maintain critical rural infrastructure across the province,” Orb said. 

Moreover, SARM emphasizes the need for continued collaboration between the provincial government and RMs to address ongoing issues such as agricultural sustainability, health care, rural policing and rural infrastructure investments.