In Saskatchewan’s northwest, the community of La Loche is working hard on a project that will better its residents. A 12-unit staff housing project is taking shape, with the ultimate goal of recruiting and retaining health care professionals and teachers to the village.
“The final result will be 12 housing units. Six of the housing units will be leased to the Saskatchewan Health Authority for healthcare professions, while the other six will be rented to the Northern Lights School Division for teaching staff. Teachers and healthcare professionals are much needed in the community,” said Doug Gailey, the manager of Methy Housing Corporation and Methy Construction, which are overseeing the project.
Completion of the project is expected in May 2020, and construction is well underway. But Gailey says getting to this point hasn’t been simple.
“The need for this project goes back quite aways. Methy Housing is the only housing developer in La Loche, so we took this project on in December 2018. We worked with the town internally to see the financial viability of doing this, and did some preliminary calculations to see what was needed for initial monies to reduce the mortgage. If we can reduce the mortgage, then we’d be able to reduce the rental rate overall later on,” Gailey said.
They determined an estimated $2.5 million was needed for the project and approached the provincial government, which provided $900,000 in funding. But from there, Gailey says they had difficulty in securing a mortgage. Then Gailey remembered hearing about the Clarence Campeau Development Fund, and decided to take a chance.
“I had known about the CCDF for a long time and I decided to go over there unannounced and see if they would have any interest in this project,” he said. “Of course, they were really helpful and took an immediate interest in it. They even connected us with other places that could help too. Without the CCDF’s input, both initially supporting it and then the eventual financial contribution, this project would never have happened.”
The CCDF works to assist economic development activities of Métis people in the province and was originally established in 1997 by the Government of Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan.
With over 10 different programs and funding options, Methy accessed the CCDF’s Business Development and Community Business Development programs in 2019. The Community Business Development program is specifically for Métis communities to develop businesses or projects that result in an increase of both finances and job opportunities for Métis people.
The creation of jobs for the community is one thing Gailey says has been amazing to see.
“We have really good construction crews in La Loche, so it’s all local guys working on the building project. There’s 15 guys on the job as we speak, so it’s a big boost to the local economy in terms of people being employed,” he said.
Since its inception, the CCDF has created or maintained 11,400 jobs in the province, either directly or indirectly. In 2018 alone, the number of new and ongoing jobs was 418.
Gailey has been living and working in La Loche for over 40 years, and says that this type of development is much needed in the community.
“The town understands the need for this project and for healthcare and teaching professionals. We’re hoping that these particular units will provide more of an incentive package for these types of professionals, which will hopefully roll into future housing demand too,” he said, adding that he hopes this could also be a stepping stone for future community development projects in La Loche.
Gailey says they’re very thankful for the opportunity to work with the CCDF, and that the organization itself bridges a gap for Métis people in the province.
“I’ve known about the CCDF for many years and I think they are really good at addressing Métis peoples’ needs. They are one of the only options [in the province] for funding specifically for Métis people, so they really fill that gap,” Gailey said. “Overall the experience has been really great and very positive. Without them, this project would never have taken off.”
by Naomi Zurevinski