by Phil Ambroziak

Good things are worth the wait.

That’s the message the provincial government shared with Meadow Lake and area residents yesterday (March 20) when, upon release of the Saskatchewan Party’s 2019-20 budget, it was revealed the long-awaited provincial funding for a new long-term care facility in the community has finally been approved.

“The 2019-20 budget continues to improve care for seniors by investing to replace the Northland Pioneers Lodge in Meadow Lake, fulfilling the government’s commitment to replace 13 long-term care facilities for seniors across the province,” noted provincial finance minister Donna Harpauer.

With an estimated price tag of close to $40 million, the new long-term care facility will be funded 80 per cent by the province while the additional 20 per cent will come from the combined contributions of the City of Meadow Lake and the RM. The lodge has also had a fundraising committee in place for the last several years which is responsible for covering the cost of furniture and fixtures at a cost of $2.5 million.

According to Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison, the budget is a good news one for Meadow Lake.

“I’m very excited we’re able to move forward with the new Northlands Pioneer Lodge,” Harrison stated. “It’s a major project for the community and both I personally and the government as a whole appreciate how patient the people of Meadow Lake have been as we’ve worked to return to balance. We said, as soon as the budget was balanced, this project would top our list of priorities and it has.”

The government is committed to providing $12 million this year, but Harrison said the funding will continue over the course of two years and, no matter how much work is completed this year, the government will still cover its share. He also believes construction of the new lodge could begin very soon.

“I expect things will move very rapidly now,” he said. “Tenders will be put out, a plan is already in place and a location has been selected. I suspect we should see some progress on the new lodge within a matter of months.”

The 2019-20 provincial budget is balanced with a projected surplus of $34.4 million. Higher surpluses of $49 million, $72 million and $84 million are projected for the three fiscal years to follow.