POLITICS

Remote Saskatchewan First Nation pleads with government to build promised road

10/26/2012 02:49 EDT | Updated 12/26/2012 05:12 EST
REGINA - A remote northern Saskatchewan First Nation is pleading with the province to build an all-weather road that was promised four years ago.

The government said in 2008 that work was set to begin on a road for the Wollaston Lake community and Hatchet Lake reserve — and that it was expected to be completed this year.

But Chief Bart Tsannie of the Hatchet Lake First Nation said Friday there's still no road.

"It's a frustration," Tsannie said after making the trek to the legislature in Regina.

Tsannie said about 1,500 area residents have to take a barge for three hours each way in the summer, use ice roads in the winter or fly into the community. The chief said it's difficult and expensive to get food or fuel into the community.

He said it can also be dangerous. He noted that a teacher died falling through an ice road in 2010.

"There's a lot of close calls on winter roads. And also in the summer too. There's big waves. It's a big lake," said Tsannie.

"It's really, really a risk to get in and out from Wollaston, especially this time of year."

Highways Minister Don McMorris said some money has been put toward clearing an area for road, but not toward the full construction. He said "there are competing interests."

"We need to revisit this one and see if we can find money to move it ahead as well."

McMorris said he can understand the community's frustration. But he dismissed suggestions that the province is permanently putting the brakes on the project.

"I haven't said that we're dropping the road, but we haven't had money to move it forward in the last couple budgets," he said.

"We need to look at it in the overall highways budget of over $600 million and determine is that the one that we're going to continue to move ahead."