What a pleasure to have wonderful summer weather over an entire weekend! Like many of you, I spent a good part of the weekend on the road going places and it was just a pleasure to drive along and look at the green country side, speculate on the yield of the crops, roll down the window and smell the air.
On Saturday, the PC Party Executive along with Caucus members and their families had their yearly family bbq in Melville. Grant and Sheron Schmidt were gracious hosts. They set up a large tent in their backyard and even provided a big screen tv so that we could all enjoy the last part of the Rider victory over Montreal while we enjoyed our wonderful meal.
Such events always bring about a great deal of conversation about issues besides attending to Party business that always must be done. One of those issues, I think, is very worthwhile because it is becoming more relevant all of the time and is an area that our provincial government will have to put its mind to.
The housing situation and the lack thereof for various groups in our society entertained a very rounded discussion. We all know that affordable housing has been a real challenge in Saskatchewan’s growing urban centres. Affordable housing for young people starting out, seniors in transition, students and finally new Canadians is very difficult to obtain - much less afford.
The area of new Canadians brought about a lot of discussion because these folks are very visible and are certainly now part of the work force especially in the service industries. There was much discussion on what we - established Canadians - should be doing to ensure adequate housing, what type of role should government play and what should be the responsibility of people coming to this country and this province and wishing to make a home here and raise their families.
Some of these questions are difficult to answer especially for Saskatchewan which is only very recently experiencing this phenomenon which has been occurring in places like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary for a long period of time. New Canadians are often willing to live together in larger groups than what most Canadians are accustomed to and obviously find our single family dwellings to be quite different than in many of their home countries.
A question was posed by a number of people at our meeting about whether new Canadians who are being assisted with housing should be able to continue sending money back to their homelands to their family members there while being subsidized by Canadian taxpayers for their housing requirements. A difficult question to answer but one I believe must be addressed so that all Canadians feel they are being treated in an equal manner.
Because of our climate, all of our ancestors upon arriving into this country had to struggle to provide adequate housing for themselves and their families. I remember well the stories my Grandmother told of living in a two-room sod house on the bald prairie southwest of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan with the nearest neighbour being several miles away. That must have been extremely challenging housing to deal with in our climate.
Today we would not think of asking anyone to live in that type of housing but if we have continued growth in our population and in our economy, the choices that governments of all levels are going to make are going to be extremely important for our society to evolve in a way for Canadians to continue being a welcoming society which embraces immigration rather than fears it because they perceive a double standard being implemented.
The Wall government has made much about their plan for growth. That plan is centred around the extraction of non-renewable resources and the employment that this extraction creates. If there is any hiccup in that plan, than what is going to be the economic fallout visa vie issues like immigration and adequate housing. I believe without a strong value-added sector and more emphasis on adding value to Saskatchewan’s resources, there will not be the necessary good paying jobs for new immigrants to aspire to, to build their own family homes and move on from the low wages that are historic in the service industry. That aspiration of moving up the ladder has made Canada and Saskatchewan a good place in which place to live. I believe our provincial government likes to talk about the upsides but does not finish the deal when it comes to either the housing or the creation of a stronger economy.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.