Moe money, Moe investing

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Never has a man looked more bewildered and confused while promising to give people cash. Kirk Fraser via CBC

Long-term growth is less exciting, but helps more people than a one-time rebate

by katlyn richardson, contributor

As announced in August, the Saskatchewan government will be issuing $500 cheques to all Saskatchewan residents above the age of 18. While for some this $500 allows them to catch up on bills or buy some clothes or maybe repair something on their vehicle because they couldn’t afford to have their money so tight, for others this is just another $500 that won’t make a big difference. The $450 million could have been better invested to boost the province for years to come.

Personally, if I were put in charge of this large sum of money with as many options as Moe had, I would have invested it across several different initiatives to uplift Saskatchewan. As someone who works in a non-profit that directly sees the impacts of addiction, homelessness, and food insecurity, it has somewhat influenced my ideas on the matter. These are my big five ideas with the attached financial amounts I would apply to it.

My first plan would be to provide $200 million towards affordable housing. To enact this, I’d purchase a few vacant lots across the province, with the amount of lots and units built to be determined by population of the specific town/village. The goal would be to build multi-unit complexes and gain feedback from those in charge of that municipality on how many units would be needed and what areas to target specifically, keeping in mind the location of free food programs so that people aren’t traveling over an hour by foot just to get a meal. I’d also make sure these dwellings are physically accessible for the intended occupants.

The second plan would be to provide $50 million to harm reduction services and another $100 million to psychological treatment services across the province. People need to be given the proper tools to battle their addictions if they are going to get to a point where they are no longer actively using substances. Harm reduction strategies are severely underfunded and prevent so many deaths, and so investing in these services really does help remove some of the stress on the healthcare system.

With the boost to psychological services we can help more people handle the root of their addictions and heal from their traumas, as well as prevent some people from becoming users in the first place. Included in this boost would be having more treatment centres for treatment resistant depression that are completely covered and can be accessed with a referral. There is no reason that in a country as wealthy as Canada we cannot help those who need mental health services get the help they need. It actually saves more money in the end to save lives through investment in services that people may need to access.

For my third plan, I’d invest $50 million in the healthcare system that would be spent bettering the treatment of nurses, hiring more medical staff, and providing the resources needed to make nurses feel safer, and let the nurses of the province make the call on how much of the provided funding goes where. I know $50 million cannot completely fix the problems our nurses are facing at the moment, but when you’re a Premier of a province, sometimes they best you can do is offer up some cash and resources. Because I know very little about nursing or healthcare, certain decisions should not be up to me to make. But in a position of power like Premier, it is important to consult those more knowledgeable so more people can be taken care of in our healthcare system.

For my fourth plan, I’d invest $25 million in forgiving provincial student loans. No one should be in debt, regardless of what program they studied in school. Saskatchewan could have a very well-educated population as we have good schools, and the fear of immense debt shouldn’t be a factor in whether someone decides to pursue post-secondary education. It won’t matter if someone became a plumber, a graphic artist, or a lawyer, they will all get a level of forgiveness based on the provincial amount they owe. As someone who would benefit I do acknowledge the perceived bias here, but I also know even if I weren’t someone with student loan debt I’d still like to see more people get help they need to attempt to level the playing field that is the workforce.

For my fifth and final plan, I’d spend that final $25 million to implement a proper affordability plan to be split up among residents and business to cut the prices of food. How this would be done would be dependent on the specific location that the money goes to, but there would be a level of surveillance put in place to make sure this money is properly spent and accounted. This would also be done by independent bodies to ensure transparency and that it benefits as many people as possible.

I know my plans will not be perfect and might be hard to implement, but there is no reason that Saskatchewan, a province that prides itself on beauty, cannot help its residents to live the best lives possible. Saskatchewan has the potential to be a good province, but right now has received little guidance to move in that direction. There are many I have met that have ideas that could make this province better; the biggest issue is that no one has listened. If properly invested in, Saskatchewan could become one of, if not the most, affordable provinces in the country. I would love to see Saskatchewan become a standard that the rest of the country is held to. We may be a small province, but that just means it’s easier for us to help more.

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