It is hard to believe December is here already, but with everything that has taken place over the last 12 months, I have been fully focussed on the work that our members expect of me and the association. A look at the calendar shows me I’ve got just a couple weeks to get my Christmas preparations complete!
But before I handle that, I appreciate the opportunity to explain what I have been doing on your behalf to ensure the heavy construction industry remains at the forefront of policy decisions.
Keeping close to government
Maintaining close contact with governments of all levels means a lot of discussion and organization. Sometimes I work to ensure SHCA is fostering a direct, one-on-one connection with governments. Other times, SHCA partners with those who share common interests to form new groups or support existing ones.
SHCA’s approach to working with government has always been strategic. Work is underway on a new policy paper highlighting the importance of a National Infrastructure program with a specific focus on Western Canada. It will be presented to the federal government by the Canadian Construction Association along with our partner organizations to highlight the importance of our supply chain and the transportation logistics that underlie them.
This paper will also help Saskatchewan’s government with its own infrastructure planning by pointing out the pinch points in its transportation system and explaining what can be done to keep the economy strong. Saskatchewan suffers from what is known as “first mile access issues.” If we want to attract investment into our province, the gaps that exist within our local supply chain must be identified and I am working to accomplish that. This paper has created a renewed opportunity for political leadership and public discussion of the role that trade infrastructure plays in Canadians’ quality of life.
It is not just the federal and provincial government that needs to know about our industry. I also maintain a connection at the municipal level as well. I, along with members of the SHCA Board of Directors, meet regularly with members of Regina City Council as well as the executive director of Citizen Services. Most recently, I participated in the City of Regina’s operational efficiency review. The review focused on several areas of interest to our members, including fleet services, procurement, parks, facilities, roadways and information technology.
I keep up to date with what is happening in Saskatoon through members of the SHCA Board and our Saskatoon members who meet quarterly with the City of Saskatoon’s Transportation, Utilities, Procurement department heads. They are discussing procurement, contract specifications and current supply chain issues.
There are issues beyond infrastructure planning and funding that I bring forward to government. I work with other groups, partnering SHCA with those that share a common concern.
Advocating shared common interests
The Western Canadian Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association Another is one of those groups. While economic growth continues to be its advocacy priority, a pressing need by our industry to address climate change is accelerating its advocacy.
SaskBuilds is another group I am active in. SHCA is a part of an industry task force tackling the challenges related to Saskatchewan’s post-pandemic recovery and our province’s continued economic growth. There are quarterly interactions with government to identify possible pinch points in the supply chain or industry capacity changes. The province has committed to sharing with industry its entire capital program and work has begun with us helping with planning. It’s a work in progress, but an important start.
Having a competitive, equitable and predictable municipal tax system in Saskatchewan and the policy changes required to achieve that is the focus of another Saskatchewan group I am in. The Saskatchewan Growth Coalition is made up of 20 industries critical to Saskatchewan’s economic recovery and continued prosperity – rail, agriculture and agri-food, mining, oil and gas, pipelines and the business chamber organizations.
The coalition met with Minister of Government Relations Don McMorris, Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer, Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre and Colleen Young, Chair of the Standing Committee on the Economy. It was made clear to them the risk to investment and competitive disadvantages of allowing tax policy inequities to continue, which was a message well received by the ministers. To continue to spread that message through Saskatchewan, an email campaign and a series of radio ads asking government to take action will be launched by the coalition.
Then, there is the labour need that is growing in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is heading into another cycle of growth that will require a strong labour force to meet the demand as many developments and projects come online.
To address the labour shortage, SHCA co-founded the Saskatchewan Workforce Alliance. Industry leaders will continue to discuss solutions that will allow them to fill positions to keep businesses strong. An idea that is coming together is the Saskatchewan Workforce Retention Program to be presented to the provincial government to encourage more people to choose to live and work in Saskatchewan for years to come. Saskatchewan’s labour situation and this solution are described in detail in the Q1 2022 issue of SHCA’s magazine, Think Big.
You will also read in that issue about the work being done by the Heavy Construction Safety Association of Saskatchewan (HCSAS). My work involves explaining why changes by other organizations that impact ours are necessary and this year, I have had a focus on Saskatchewan’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB.)
For the past number of months, SHCA has been lobbying the provincial government about changes made to the funding application agreements between WCB and the various industry safety associations. The new agreement makes safety associations accountable to WCB – not the industries funding them. WCB has reduced funding to the HCSAS by $100,000. This reduction will impact the safety association’s ability to deliver services and fulfill its workplan.
Letters have been sent to the CEO of WCB, Minister Don Morgan and the premier. A complaint has been filed by SHCA with the Government of Saskatchewan’s Red Tape Reduction Unit. I have also met with the official opposition, who agree with our position. In the coming weeks, an ad campaign targeting WCB and the provincial government will be launched with further action planned.
Keeping SHCA at the forefront
You will also have noticed SHCA began a very calculated radio and social media campaign targeting both the provincial and municipal elections. The campaign was very strong and got great results. There was a lot of interaction and comments during both campaigns.
Social media is a great tool for our members to participate in SHCA’s communication efforts. I encourage you to tag SHCA in your company posts or comment on SHCA’s posts.
I am also committed to continuing to share with you through our strong publications – Think Big and The Interchange – updates about this work and our industry.
As 2021 winds down, I hope each and every one of you has the opportunity to reflect on the good that you experienced during the year. As you look forward to 2022, I hope you have plenty to look forward to in your business and at home. The last few years have been challenging for all of us in Saskatchewan and around the world, but working with great people – like you – makes it worth all the effort. Have a Merry Christmas and fulfilling holiday season!