BY MARCUS DAY
Efforts are under way to get Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment to reverse its decision to close front-counter services at its Maple Creek field office.
A petition has been launched by members of the Maple Creek Fish and Game League.
Copies of it have been distributed around town and can be found at Pattison Agriculture, Cypress Motors, A & B Hardware & Ag Supply Ltd, Mainline Sales & Service, Rockin’ Horse, Midwest Surveys, Kirk’s Tirecraft, and Caroline’s.
One of those spearheading the petition is Trent Empey, from the Fish & Game League.
“The Maple Creek office has always been a very busy place, helping people obtain licences and giving good information,” he said.
“I think it provided very important services and I believe it is worth fighting for them.”
Empey said doing things online was no substitute for speaking to someone face-to-face. Those wanting a front-counter service now had to go to Swift Current, which was inconvenient and acted as a deterrent.
“I hope people will support us,” he said. “I will collect all the copies of the petition at the end of July and then present them to the Ministry of Environment.”
Daniel Buye, from Fox Valley, helped put the petition together.
He said research showed that the Maple Creek office had been used quite extensively when compared with bigger offices.
“They were providing services unique to Maple Creek,” he said.
Buye was unsure whether the same services, such as logging permits, could be got online.
He added that the Ministry of Environment’s decision would also have a negative economic impact on Maple Creek.
“The office brought people into town, and when they came they usually spent money,” he said.
It was on May 14 that walk-in services at the Harder Street field office were ended, with the loss of a part-time job.
Counter services were also discontinued at 18 other field offices: (April 2) Preeceville; (May 14) Assiniboia, Buffalo Narrows, Estevan, Humboldt, Kindersley, Leader, Lloydminster, Moose Jaw, Outlook, Pinehouse, Shaunavon, Spiritwood, Wadena and Weyburn; (August 30) Big River, ile a la Crosse; and (October 1) Southend.
Clients formerly served in these locations were encouraged to use electronic self-serve options such as HAL, private licence vendors or one of the Ministry of Environment’s 13 offices with front counter services.
Conservation officers have remained working at the offices serving the impacted communities, including Maple Creek. However, there are no long front-counter or walk-in services to the public.
In a press statement, the Ministry of Environment said that in 2018 there were more than 409,000 hunting and angling licenses sold in the province. The 19 impacted offices accounted for about 2 per cent of all provincial licence sales.
Government was heavily criticized by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employers’ Union, which accused it of trying to balance its books on the back of workers, while reducing vital public services.
Bob Bymoen, SGEU president, called on the Sask. Party to reverse its decision.
The petition in Maple Creek gives statistics about activity at the local office. These show that in 2017, the office provided: HAL (Hunting, Angling and Trapping) sales – 847; Forestry Permit Issuance – 14; CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) Collection – 31; Specimen Collection – 28; SCIS (Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation) Services – 12; FORIP Enforcement Permits – 45; Mount/Retain Permits – 108; and CRM (Customer Relationship Management): General Inquiries – 103.
According to the petition, comparable figures for the Swift Current office are: HAL Sales – 1,221; Forestry Permit Issuance – 1; CWD Collection – 208; Specimen Collection – 32; SCIC Services – 24; FORIP Enforcement Permits – 52; Mount/Retain Permits – 32; and CRM: General Inquiries – 75.
“The Maple Creek Office provided services which are not (easy/available) online thus making it very impractical to obtain such licences/permits from the nearest office,” the petition says.
It adds: “We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment to act immediately and reverse their decision with regards to the field office located in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan as it provided some unique services to a unique environment in South West Saskatchewan.”