A new year brings some new reasons to be enthusiastic about what’s ahead for Saskatchewan as well as opportunities to address challenges for our members and industry.
Last year, there were a number of announcements of high-profile projects for Saskatchewan, which I see as a signal there will be a boost in the amount of earthwork available for members in 2022.
Those projects include construction of three canola crushing facilities, which is expected to begin this year – Cargill and Viterra’s two plants at Regina and Ceres Global Ag’s one in the southeast part of the province.
This year is also when BHP expects construction of the world’s largest potash producing mine will be complete. Its Jansen Stage 1 project was already 93 per cent complete when BHP announced in August 2021 it was investing $7.5 billion into the project.
When the highway construction season wrapped up in November, the provincial government highlighted the passing lanes put in on Highways 2, 3, 7, 14, 16 and 39. It told the people of Saskatchewan that there had been 175 kilometers of repaving, 635 kilometres of pavement sealing and medium preservation treatments and 240 kilometres of thin membrane surface and rural highway upgrades done in 2021.
The fall tender included $157.3 million in new highways projects for Saskatchewan. The projects the province highlighted from that include repaving Highway 1 west of Moose Jaw and resurfacing 15 kilometers of Highway 16 near Saskatoon. It explained to the public that tender releases are published in the spring and fall so “industry can thoroughly prepare and bid on upcoming projects, mitigating the risk of price increases and delivering the best possible value for taxpayers.”
This year, I will continue to bring the message to governments that funding for infrastructure should ideally be planned years ahead of construction being scheduled. A policy paper highlighting the importance of a national infrastructure program with a specific focus on Western Canada is imminent. It will be presented to the federal government by the Canadian Construction Association along with our partner organizations. I look forward to sharing more about that paper and governments’ response to it with you this year.
Until then, I know you will be busy lining up employees for the coming construction season and making sure they are adequately trained for their responsibilities. We are all hearing from other industries how their workforces are being impacted by COVID-19 and the rate at which this most recent variant is spreading. Finding enough people to work was a challenge in 2021 for members and we expect that challenge will be present this year, but I am working with others to address it.
The Saskatchewan Workforce Alliance is a group of industry leaders who are discussing solutions that will allow them to fill positions to keep businesses strong. One idea from the group is the Saskatchewan Workforce Retention Program, which is described in detail in the Q1 2022 issue of SHCA’s magazine, Think Big. I’ll let you know what movement there is from government on this idea.
As the year unfolds, I look forward to working with you and on your behalf on this and many other initiatives that SHCA is involved in. I hope your year has started off on a positive note and that the months ahead are filled with work that is prosperous and personal time that is satisfying.