By Mervin Brass and Manfred Joehnck

The Opposition is calling for a forest fire inquiry.

The NDP wants to focus on the government’s policies and the cutbacks to government spending on firefighting.

NDP leader Cam Broten says he wants the inquiry to be independent, and one that includes northern leadership, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan.

“The starting point is an independent inquiry getting independent folks to look at our experience over the last months,” says Broten.  “Look at the facts, look at the questions being raised by northerners, by northern leadership and First Nation leadership. Provide recommendations and a report.”

Broten says there needs to be an inquiry because there are some outstanding questions that need answers.

“What steps were taken to engage northerners who were trained, up ready to fight fires?” asks Broten. “What can be done to improve instances where we have evacuations?  Could there be better partnerships with First Nations?”

Broten is calling for immediate actions including a joint strategy with northern leadership and First Nations to hire and train more firefighters, a formalized partnership for First Nations to be involved in providing shelters for evacuees and an improved communications protocol.

Broten made the call for an inquiry this morning in Saskatoon.

Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter says there will be a complete review of how the forest fire crisis was handled in Saskatchewan this year, but he is dismissing the NDP’s call for an inquiry.

Jim Reiter is accusing the Opposition of trying to score political points.

“Those kind of comments . . . . . I guess they can play politics if they like,” he says. “But especially in the middle of an operation like that, it’s not appropriate.”

Reiter goes on to say there will be a complete review involving northern communities and First Nations. He says the process will be open and transparent and the government will take the appropriate action.

“I would just point to past behaviour when we had issues resulting from the floods, which we’ve had a number of them over the past years” he says. “We reviewed. We made improvements to process. It was open and transparent and I see something similar happening in this case.”

There is no indication of when the review will be done.

 

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