LA RONGE, Sask – With just seven days left until ballots are ticked, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall waded into NDP territory, visiting the riding of Cumberland. He gave a passionate speech about his local candidate there, Thomas Sierzycki.
“There’s a real opportunity for the Saskatchewan Party here, and I would argue an opportunity for constituents to have a first class MLA,” Wall said.
On the campaign trail was Robertson Trading in La Ronge, Sask. , the last real trading post in Saskatchewan.
Wall heads north in election campaign to boast of Saskatchewan Party record
“We like to joke that we’re more like the Hudson’s Bay Company than the Hudson’s Bay Company,” owner Scott Robertson, said.
His father quit the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1967 and started the business as a free-trader. To this day, Robertson buys and sells furs, outfits trappers and supports exploration work. But Robertson, along with many northern business owners, are feeling the effects of plunging commodity prices.
“Because of the commodity slowdown, we’re seeing much less activity in that respect than we have for years and years,” Robertson said.
No big surprise then that Wall is paying the community a visit. He cites the economy as the top election issue, and commodity prices are closely linked.
READ MORE: Wall heads north in election campaign to boast of Saskatchewan Party record
“Saskatchewan produces about 15 per cent of the world’s uranium,” Wall said, while talking about his trade missions to China and India to open more uranium markets. He claims about 40 per cent of front-line mine workers are Northerners, and that they’d be better served by Sierzycki.
Twenty-seven-year-old Sierzycki has served as La Ronge’s mayor for four years, and was on council before that. In those roles, he’s worked quite closely with the NDP incumbant Cumberland candidate, Doyle Vermette.
“Unfortunately, I disagree perhaps with the politics and the ability of Vermette to deliver on some of these things, and hence why I stepped forward,” Sierzycki said.
He may face one obstacle; there’s no new promises for the north in the SaskParty campaign. Instead, they’re reminding voters what they’ve done for northern Saskatchewan lately.
Full Coverage: Saskatchewan Election 2016
“Record investments. More than the NDP in the same time period. It’s not to say that there aren’t things we need to improve on, but it shows the Saskatchewan Party doesn’t neglect the North as our opposition has tried to make out.”
Sierzycki seems to be gaining support in town, but the riding won’t be easy to crack. Cumberland is perhaps the safest NDP riding in provincial history. Voters there have chose NDP, or it’s predecessor, the CCF, in every election since 1952.
“I hope he [Brad Wall] travels on some of our roads, because they’re terrible,” Vermette said.
“Maybe he’ll do something about them once and for all.”
Vermette argues Wall is only visiting the north for his own interests, and that the mostly rural riding is much larger than just the town of La Ronge.
“They’ve had over $100 billion to spend in eight years and Wolliston Lake was not their priority. In 2008 they announced they would do the Wolliston Lake road and in the end they turned their back on that community,” Vermette said.
He says the main issues facing his riding have been brought up multiple times during question period, but says not enough action has been taken to change Cumberland’s voter’s minds.
“Whether it’s senior’s care, highways, health care, homelessness you name it, we’ve raised it with government,” he said.
“These are the important issues to northern people and we want some action and the government has turned their back on the people. So, let’s see April 4th what the people of this constituency say to this government.”
With such a tight race, both parties are likely relying on undecided constituents like Robertson to decide what the North’s future holds.
“It’s always a good thing to have people wandering into your store, even if it’s politicians,” Robertson laughed.