Sask. The opposition is calling on the province for a long-term solution for Highway 123

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The leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the provincial government for a long-term solution for Highway 123 after Cumberland House declared a state of emergency.

Highway 123 is the only road in and out of the northern village. Residents describe the highway as the “ugliest road” because of its 60 miles (97 kilometers) of potholes and ruts.

“We have been putting this to the Minister of Highways for the last seven years,” Cumberland House Mayor Ferlin McKay said in an earlier interview. “They neglected what we asked… I don’t know if they don’t care, otherwise it falls on deaf ears.”

On Monday, Opposition Leader Carla Beck was joined by Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette and Highways Critic Trent Wotherspoon for a long-term solution, days after Cumberland House declared a state of emergency.

“(Local leaders) rightly feel that the government is not doing everything it can or should do to address this very serious situation,” said Beck. “People in this community need to have access to a safe road that connects them to the rest of the province… action is needed today.

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Wotherspoon said the province has cut the northern highway budget by $16 million, which he called an “incredibly short-sighted and damaging move.”

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“This government must deploy road builders and resources to ensure road safety by working with local leadership in the short term and maintaining essential traffic for families, goods and supplies,” Wotherspoon said. “When the road is impassable, the community needs free airlifts for essential business and essential travel.”

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Last week, leadership at the northern village of Cumberland House said the community will now have to rely on a plane to deliver their groceries due to road conditions. The deputy mayor said emergency vehicles will also have to shuttle in the air.

“We need to sit down and (the government) needs to listen to us … people who drive on that highway every day,” Veronica Favel said. “We are the ones who feel the consequences.”

Vermette said Highway 123 seems to be getting worse year after year. He challenged Premier Scott Moe to meet him on the highway where the sidewalk ends.

“I’ll let him drive there, and he can see firsthand how bad the road is and what our community members have to travel on,” Vermette said. “I hope he takes me up on my offer and comes to see what exactly our community members are dealing with.”

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In response, Moe said the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency has been in contact with the Cumberland House community and ministers have also been in touch.

“(Ministers) will travel there to meet the leaders and the community. A little over $3 million will be spent on that road this year,” Moe said. “There are a few evaluators going on at the moment… I think we need to have a little bit more of a holistic, long-term discussion and not just that path, but many other paths.”

Moe said the province will get the investment and stabilize the roads this summer and that there will be a broader conversation about what the long-term investment in Highway 123 and other northern roads will look like.

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