Saskatchewan

Sask. wildfire $100K disaster relief fund 'isn't enough,' dig into agriculture surplus: NDP

The Opposition NDP is calling on the Saskatchewan government to use its $90 million surplus in agriculture expenses to provide supports for producers affected by the October wildfires.

Province announced it had a surplus of $90M in agriculture spending during the mid-year budget update

The fires burned about 34,000 hectares of land, killing more than 700 livestock, in southwestern Saskatchewan back in October. (Jenny Hagen/Backroad Photography)

The Opposition NDP is calling on the province to dig into a $90 million agriculture spending surplus to provide more disaster relief to producers affected by last month's wildfires.

Opposition critic Carla Beck says the $100,000 for disaster relief to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association "isn't enough" and is "simply inadequate" but the Sask. Party government disagrees.

In the mid-year fiscal update released on Wednesday, the province projected expenses of about $710 million in agriculture spending. It had budgeted $800 million at budget time.

Opposition MLA Carla Beck is calling on the Saskatchewan government to dig into a $90 million surplus to help producers affected by the wildfires in October. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

"While, in our hearts, we might like to stroke a big cheque from public funds to help these people, some of whom are actually hurting ... our programs do not cover losses on insurable assets," Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said during Wednesday's question period, adding that "virtually all" of the losses in the wildfires were insurable. 

Wildfires ripped through the southwestern portion of the province in October, burning more than 34,000 hectares of land near Burstall, Leader and Tompkins. About 770 livestock died in the blazes or were euthanized in the aftermath. 

"We have producers who are looking to replace their herds, who are wondering how they're going to come up with the dollars to feed their cattle over the winter, and to find pasture land to graze these cattle on in the long time," Beck said.

Earlier this month, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan called on both the provincial and federal governments to provide some assistance to producers after the fires.

Specifically, APAS was requesting assistance for replacing breeding stock, veterinary services and testing for the soil and feed affected by the fires.

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