Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to attack it at the root.While the small group of Dore Lake residents who attended a recent sitting of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan would likely argue their intent was not to “attack” the provincial government, they undoubtedly believe – by bringing their concerns forward in a direct manner – they may finally have achieved the first step toward the positive result they’ve long been looking for.

The proof however, will be in the pudding.

For years, Dore Lake residents have expressed their concerns about the horrific state of Highway 924. Also known as the Dore Lake Road, Highway 924 serves as the main access to and from the small, northern community. It’s also used as a logging road, however, and the large volume of trucks, along with the heavy loads they carry, has left the highway in less than immaculate condition.

It’s possible the lines of communication were indeed opened last week when a contingent of four from the northern hamlet made their way to Regina to listen to Athabasca NDP MLA Buckley Belanger once again press the government for improved highways in the North. He also requested a meeting between the residents and Premier Brad Wall, but it was Nancy Heppner, the provincial minister of highways and infrastructure, who answered the call.

Sure, the people of Dore Lake were finally granted an opportunity to argue their case to someone in a position to possibly do something about it, but whether or not the government was truly listening remains to be seen.
According to Heppner, the Sask Party government spent $365,000 on upkeep to Highway 924 in 2012-13. The current budget, she added, has $1 million earmarked for similar maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, gravel and grading isn’t going to quite cut it.

Shirley Feszyk, one of the four Dore Lake residents who met with the minister last week, admitted the road is better than it was in past years, but if – as she claims – the highway was built on a muskeg, the province’s efforts are nothing more than a Band-Aid solution. If anything, this road needs to either be rebuilt or entirely overhauled. Otherwise, the Sask Party is simply masking the problem with wasted taxpayer dollars.

All the gravel in the world also won’t do much to address the narrow width of the highway, which makes travelling on it a living nightmare for both residents and tourists alike. Fortunately, no one has been killed or seriously injured as a result, but how long is the government willing to put people’s lives at risk? Catastrophe shouldn’t be the catalyst for real results.

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