As Saskatchewan became settled as a province, there was a growing need for a highway system to connect the numerous communities that were emerging across the province. These growing communities required a transportation system to move goods and services, as well as people, and these needs led to the birth of the road building industry in Saskatchewan.
As the number of road builders in the province increased, it soon became apparent that they shared similar concerns and wanted to move forward together on common issues.
In 1945, a group of innovative road builders from across Western Canada formed the Prairie Roadbuilders Section of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA). This group was the forerunner to the Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association of Saskatchewan (known today as the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association or SHCA), which incorporated in 1956 and became the provincial voice of the road building industry in Saskatchewan.
The Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association of Saskatchewan remained a member of the Prairie Roadbuilders in an effort to maintain contact with its counterparts in other western provinces and to work together on items of mutual concern. The Prairie Roadbuilders, in conjunction with the CCA, were instrumental in lobbying the federal government for the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Road construction, maintenance and repair are issues that have been top of mind for many a provincial government in Saskatchewan. In 1958, then Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas made the following comments to the Canadian Good Roads Association’s Annual conference:
“In the last 25 years, we have gone through a transportational revolution. The internal combustion engine and the inflated tire have changed the whole economy, not only of the North American continent, but of the western world. Roads….have become as essential a part of our economy as railroads were 75 years ago. And I think that we completely underestimate what the demands of motor-vehicle traffic are going to be in the next quarter of a century. I think that if we could look into the future tonight we would realize that we are under planning highway construction all over Canada.”
In 2009, the Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association of Saskatchewan became the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association.
Today, Saskatchewan highways continue to play an integral role in the province’s economic growth and ensure that we continue to be a strong competitor on the international stage. What our members do isn’t just about building roads and infrastructure – it’s about building the economy. Strong infrastructure literally lays the foundation for strength in agriculture, the natural resource and mining sectors and is vital to trade and export. Solid, reliable roads and infrastructure also ensure access to health care and education and enhance business development.
There are few industries in which company owners spend one day sharpening their pencils to ensure they have the most competitive bid and the next day they are phoning one of their competitors with a request for a piece of heavy equipment, gravel or something else needed for them to complete the job. Such is the case for the road building and heavy construction industry in Saskatchewan. The competition can be fierce as companies pore over tender documents, but that competition quickly fades away as they laugh and joke with one another at SHCA conventions, golf tournaments and other social functions. Long-time rivals can be lifelong friends and everyone agrees to lend a helping hand when it is required.
(Banner Photo: Horse team construction crews work on building a rural road in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B3721. Source: From Trails to Highways)