Notwithstanding the fact that rural Saskatchewan voters will likely determine the next Premier, there has been surprisingly little discussion about what rural Saskatchewan will look like.
That might partly be because it’s a difficult conversation to have.
One candidate who has at least tried to start this conversation within the Saskatchewan Party leadership debate is former Justice Minister and Saskatoon Northwest MLA Gord Wyant.
Wyant recently released a policy statement outlining his plan “to conduct a comprehensive review of legislation pertaining to rural land use management in Saskatchewan.”
“Saskatchewan’s wide-open spaces are enjoyed by local residents and tourists alike and we want to ensure that everyone can enjoy recreational activities like snowmobiling and hunting in a safe and responsible manner,” Wyant said in a prepared statement.
It sounds innocuous, but, really, it isn’t. It’s an increasingly complex issue.
Wyant rightly points out that disputes between landowners and those entering their property persist. In the worst-case scenarios, it produces incidents like the one played out in a Biggar area farmyard that resulted in the shooting death of Colten Boushie and charges against farmer and property owner Gerald Stanley.
“This commitment is a natural next step following the province’s announcement of the Protection and Response Team (PRT) to aid in the reduction of crime in rural Saskatchewan,” Wyant said.
However, what he is proposing will extend further into farming and ranching and other livestock operations.
As pointed out by Wyant supporter, Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart, tighter crop rotations and fall seeding are vulnerable to those driving over farmland for hunting or sightseeing. Also, a growing variety of livestock can be jeopardized by the spread of disease.
Wyant’s review would also insure that laws and regulations would protect protect farmers and ranchers “against nuisance complaints related to standard farming practices” and would further insure that laws effecting against urban encroachment on agricultural land are up to date.
“This includes reviewing issues around the ‘right to farm’ with the goal of encouraging more value-added opportunities for producers, including intensive livestock operations (ILOs),” Wyant said, noting the importance of water protection and waste management to large-scale hog and poultry barns, and feedlots.
Wyant also said his rural caucus members would lead the consultation on several pieces of rural-land-use legislation issues like the Agricultural Operations Act, the Wildlife Act, the Snowmobile Act, the All Terrain Vehicle Act, and the Trespass to Property Act.
In a recent interview, Wyant stressed increasingly complex inter-relations between urban and rural residents means that we have to rebuild the framework in order to have proper framework.
In an interview, Wyant explained what is needed is a proper framework to deal with a changing rural Saskatchewan where governance is becoming increasingly complex.
This aspect may be difficult.
Consider the latest report from Saskatchewan Ombudsman Mary McFayden in which she ruled five councillors from three Saskatchewan rural municipalities were in conflicts of interest following recent investigations.
McFadyen found that a Grayson council member managing his father’s construction company participated in his council’s rezoning decision on a $500,000 campground development.
McFadyen also reported that, in Orkney, the RM’s waterworks operator was also a council member and was “at the meeting when the council first appointed him and at meetings when his invoices were approved”.
In Beaver River, McFadyen reported three RM council members, “participated in discussions and decisions to test for gravel on leased Crown lands when they were in a conflict of interest.”
Having received a thousand complaints since 2015 , a third of them involving RMs compared with only 22 involving cities and 17 per cent involving towns, McFadyen’s work suggests there is much to do on the governance side in increasingly complex RMs.
This, too, needs to be discussed in the Sask. Party leadership.