Belanger to seek re-election

by Phil Ambroziak

Buckley Belanger’s job isn’t finished yet.

That’s how the veteran Athabasca NDP MLA feels about remaining in office if successful come the next provincial election. Belanger, who has served in the role since 1995, made the official announcement concerning his re-election bid today (Feb. 3) after several months of what he called tough decision-making.

Buckley Belanger

Buckley Belanger

“These decisions, of course, involve your family and a lot of your support base,” Belanger explained. “I wanted to take enough time to talk with the people who are supportive of me and to ensure I still have the energy and enthusiasm to continue fighting for my riding and for the entire Northwest. But, the tough part is over and now we can get to work.”

Belanger went on to say he’s seen Premier Brad Wall and the current Saskatchewan Party government ignore the North, something he said has to stop.

“People have been evicted from their homes, there’s no plan for highways and there is no vision for the people of the Northwest,” Belanger continued. “Highway conditions is an issue that’s especially important in northwest Saskatchewan and I get angry when I see the total disdain Brad Wall has for this part of the province.”

The MLA also said he’s worried about provincial debt, noting – in 2007 – the debt had been paid down to $11 billion. By 2014, however, that figure had soared to $19.1 billion because of what Belanger called “wasteful government spending on pet projects like the John Black Lean program and dangerous smart meters.”

Belanger also said the debt is a big concern for people in the North because they’re already coping with a high cost of living.

“What this debt means for northerners is fewer and weaker services, higher utility costs and the sale of the Crown corporations that we count on,” Belanger said.

He also said the growing debt and shrinking services happened in a booming province.

“After 10 years of a boom, why do we still have dangerous highways in terrible shape and a lack of services and opportunities in the North?” he remarked.

Today’s announcement also quashes rumours that had been circulating about Belanger possibly throwing his hat into the upcoming federal race instead of seeking to hang on to his provincial seat.

“I certainly gave it some thought,” he admitted. “I’d not be truthful if I said I wasn’t approached about representing the federal NDP, but I feel provincial NDP leader Cam Broten has a plan for Saskatchewan that’s very inclusive of the North. This new generation of leaders like Cam Broten are who really gave me confidence the NDP is on its way back in this province and I could not leave our provincial NDP team because of that.”

In the past, Belanger has served as minister in various portfolios including Northern Affairs, Environment, Community Resources, and Highways and Transportation. Currently, he’s the official Opposition critic for Highways and Infrastructure, SaskEnergy, SaskWater and the Water Security Agency.

At this time, no other provincial candidates for Athabasca have come forward, but Belanger said that doesn’t mean he’s in for a free ride.

“You can never underestimate an opponent,” he said.

Prior to entering provincial politics, Belanger served three terms as mayor of Ile-a-la Crosse from 1988 to 1994. He has also worked as a journalist with the aboriginal publication New Breed and a programmer, producer and administrator with the Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation in La Ronge. Belanger and his wife, Beckie, have three daughters – Michelle, Kellie and Taylor.

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