Now that we are in November, the end of 2022 is within sight. The end of a year is a good time to reflect on what has happened and what to expect in the future.
What I am watching now are two developments that I expect will be more fully explained in the coming year. The first is project carryovers. I’ll be watching to see what impact they will have on the upcoming 2023–24 budget. You will recall that the current budget did not include money for new projects. The province said it was dedicating $453 million in that budget to capital projects, but virtually all the work available from the ministry had already been tendered before the spring tender was out.
Numerous projects were completed for the Ministry of Highways this year, including paving work on Highway 1 west of Moose, Highway 6 south of Naicam and Highway 37 in the Shaunavon and Gull Lake area. Passing lane projects on Highways 7, 12 and part of 16 have wrapped up. There have been numerous resurfacing projects, including ones near North Battleford on Highway 4 and west of Humboldt on Highway 5 as well as south of Kindersley on Highway 21. The fall tender was slightly smaller than is typical, but we understand the ministry will be releasing schedules throughout the winter – projects such as small span bridges, crushing and hauling and trapline jobs in preparation for spring.
Meanwhile, there are highway construction projects continuing at this point. Through the winter, some work can be done, including hauling heavy materials in preparation for next season. As that work moves ahead, I’ll be maintaining my relationship with Highways Minister Jeremy Cockrill, making the case that Saskatchewan must continue to spend on its infrastructure to continue its economic momentum and encourage investment in this province. I’ll be looking to gain information from the ministry that I can share with members.
I’m also monitoring what the provincial government is calling “historic legislation.” The Saskatchewan First Act was introduced earlier this month to assert the province’s legislative jurisdiction over exploration for non-renewable natural resources as well as developing, conserving and managing non-renewable natural and forestry resources and operating sites and facilities for generating and producing electricity.
This legislation would create an Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal. Its purpose would be for “conducting economic impact assessments in relation to federal initiatives.” The members of the tribunal would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, who could refer to the tribunal any federal initiative that could cause economic harm to Saskatchewan.
The tribunal would complete an assessment and report its findings and recommendations to the minister. Those recommendations could be about the nature of the economic impact on projects, operations, activities, industries, businesses and residents in the province. It could include steps to be taken to minimize the impact as well as unintended consequences.
While there has been plenty of discussion about friction in the relationship between the provincial and federal governments around policies such as the carbon tax, The Saskatchewan First Act is still new and many are in the process of reviewing it, including me.
You may recall a white paper, Drawing the Line: Defending Saskatchewan’s Economic Autonomy, released in October that provided some insight into the government’s introduction of this legislation. In that paper, it is stated the Government of Saskatchewan is exploring all its options and has an objective to protect this province’s economic future so that natural resources can continue to be extracted and developed responsibly, trade corridors can be expanded to provide the world what it needs and the residents and businesses are protected from “harmful” federal policies.
SHCA has an interest in this province’s trade corridors and continues to discuss this matter with the provincial government, so I will be interested to know how this legislation and these objectives could impact our members. I’d also be interested to know what you think of this white paper and the legislation that has been introduced.