by Shantel Lipp Shantel Lipp
Shantel Lipp - SHCA President

I am seeing evidence that a conversation very important to our industry is being taken seriously by others in this province.  

I discussed in my President’s Message the report titled From Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy: The Path to a National Trade Infrastructure Plan for the Next Generation of Economic Growth that was completed by the Canada West Foundation (CWF). 

We know this is a report that matters not just to our industry, but to our province, our entire country and the future. Saskatchewan people continue to hear announcements about private businesses increasing their production to meet the world’s needs. As the report explains, we need the world to have confidence that what Canada produces for export will be moved through the country efficiently and reliably so we, as a trading partner, are competitive globally. 

For more than a decade, those in the know have watched Canada spend money on projects that are ready for construction. Instead, a better use of that money would be to invest in projects that will provide a return on that spending by improving Canada’s supply chain competitiveness. 

The Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association (WCR&HCA) helped initiate the Shovel Worthy report, but it has been endorsed by several associations and organizations concerned with the current investment, the lack of coordination and planning on a long-term strategy as well as the state of the federal trade corridors fund. 

Many stakeholders were involved in the preparation and release of the report, and since then, they have been sharing why this report matters. A coalition of five national organizations – Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Construction Association, the CWF and the WCR&HCA – are approaching the three orders of government to advocate for a national building strategy to invest in Canada’s trade corridors, which will amplify trade-based economic growth. 

We hope their advocacy will persuade the federal government to commit to a national plan for trade corridor infrastructure in the budget year 2024. This would help Canada reinvest in the assets that have shaped our country – and can make our country even better going forward.

Restoring Canada’s global reliability reputation ranking is critical and will require leveraging a coordinated investment commitment of the municipal, provincial and federal government partnering with the private sector. That collaboration will be part of what Goldy Hyder of the Business Council of Canada will be delivering during his speech at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce Business Conference at the end of May. 

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce represents the Saskatchewan business community and is known as the “Voice of Saskatchewan Business.” The theme of their2023 Conference is “Transportation and Infrastructure: Connecting Saskatchewan to the World.” The chamber says that those speaking at this event will address how we can unlock Saskatchewan’s transportation and infrastructure potential to position our province as a global supplier.

Hyder is going to speak about how Canada’s economy depends on reliable physical infrastructure to connect supply chains, enable people and goods to move freely, support millions of jobs, facilitate the energy transition and ensure that the economy continues to grow. 

Building new infrastructure in Canada has been made difficult – even though it does not need to be such a challenge. He will explain that governments must work with the private sector to expedite approvals for major, game changing, nation-building projects. The Shovel Worthy report makes the point that the private sector should be brought to the table as an ongoing contributor of sophisticated supply chain expertise and front-line operational experience to complement the best features of public-sector policy.

Also speaking at this conferenceis Highways Minister Jeremy Cockrill. He is expected to describe how being a landlocked province presents challenges – making a safe, reliable and sustainable transportation system essential if this province is to compete in the global marketplace. 

Knowing that the “Voice of Saskatchewan Business” values this province’s infrastructure enough to dedicate an event to discussing its importance is highly encouraging. Watch for a report on his speech, as well as Hyder’s, in the next issue of Think BIG magazine. 

Just last month, I applauded Cockrill for signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Manitoba and Alberta to strengthen the economic corridors between our provinces. That MOU focuses on four areas of cooperation between the three governments. First, improve efficiency of inter-provincial highway and rail networks. Second, encourage the federal government to fund infrastructure and national supply chain solutions. Third, keep their economies competitive and grow capital investment, and fourth, harmonize regulations to support businesses, industries and shippers. 

That relationship between Saskatchewan’s government and Alberta and Manitoba’s should encourage the province to look at what we have been promoting for our industry here. 

Those neighbouring governments are making three-year commitments, but we know provinces would see more value from five-year investments. That will provide the industry, as well as those supplying it, some certainty so you can develop even better business plans and make sound investment decisions. That way, you are even more efficient and productive. Those supplying the industry – including those in design and engineering, materials, fuels, aggregates, oils and equipment supply – would also be able to organize themselves better so they are prepared for the level of investment made by the government. 

But it’s about more than the industry. It’s about the economic growth in this province and the benefits that has for us living here.  When you invest in the infrastructure that will get what Saskatchewan produces to market more efficiently, our province becomes more competitive in the world – which means even more trade. That grows our economy so even more revenues can be generated to support areas such as healthcare, education and social programming to make Saskatchewan an even better place to live.