Employment transition teams are on the way to northern Saskatchewan as layoff notices are being given to mine workers.
It is one of the few things the Saskatchewan government can do as it reacts to the news Cameco has temporarily let go 845 workers from its two uranium mines.
At the legislature Thursday, Premier Brad Wall called the news disappointing, particularly for how it will impact First Nation communities because 48 per cent of Cameco’s workforce is Aboriginal.
“That’s a source of great concern because the gap between Aboriginal unemployment and overall unemployment persists, even though we see it reduced somewhat, it persists,” Wall argued. “And when you have layoffs like this, even if they are only temporary obviously, it is going to disproportionately impact on Aboriginal people who want to be a part of the work force.”
Wall is confident that Cameco intended these layoffs to only be temporary.
Wall said the government can be doing more for the uranium industry in the long-run.
“We need to recognize that Saskatchewan’s responsible for 15 per cent of the world’s uranium production and so we should work to expand markets as we have been,” Wall maintained.
He added while nuclear power is likely not going to make economic sense, Saskatchewan could be involved in refining uranium once it is out of the ground.
As for any hit this will have on provincial revenues, with low royalties and prices, Wall maintained it is unlikely to have any major impact.
The NDP argued transition teams wouldn’t be necessary if the Wall government had done more for the north.
“Having training programs fine but for what industry?” northern MLA Buckley Belanger asked. “The government has not invested in northern Saskatchewan at all. You’ve got to not just count on the mining sector as the be all and end all for the north.”