by Shantel Lipp Shantel Lipp
Shantel Lipp - SHCA President

The leaves have turned colours, the temperature is dropping and as summer turns to autumn, we look forward to working through changes that have come up in this industry.

At the end of last month, numerous changes were made to Saskatchewan’s cabinet. That includes Lori Carr becoming the Minister of Highways, taking over from Jeremy Cockrill who moved to the Ministry of Education. I thank Minister Cockrill for his interest in learning about our industry and its successes and challenges, and I look forward to bringing Minister Carr up to speed along with her executive team.

I, along with the SHCA board, will be meeting with Carr in September and October to talk about this construction season, including what was built and what work may be carried over. I have heard that during this season there was only one asphalt plant processing material for highways work, when during a normal season we should see at least four or five mixing material. I will also be pointing out to her the fact that many Saskatchewan contractors were building outside of the province this year.

I have questions for her and her officials too, to learn what they see coming up in the months and years ahead. I want to discuss project planning and the upcoming budget. Then, there is the memorandum of understanding that was signed in April by our province and Manitoba to strengthen the economic corridors between both provinces. We would like to know more about what the next few years of work between the provinces will include.

Also, I will take the opportunity to point out that our neighbouring provinces have made multi-year commitments to highways in recent budgets. In Manitoba’s last provincial budget, the government announced a $2.4 billion, three-year capital plan. The plan commits to investing a minimum of $500 million per year into highways. In Alberta, the provincial government announced it was investing $7.3 billion over three years in its Transportation and Economic Corridors capital plan. 

I will be sharing with Carr that inconsistent and uncertain funding burdens our industry. It makes it difficult for members to prepare for the future when the amount of capital investment can swing up and down by tens of millions of dollars from one year to the next. Deciding to invest in equipment becomes difficult, as does creating jobs and retaining employees. Those neighbouring governments are making three-year commitments, but we know provinces would see more value from five-year investments.

I know you are busy evaluating what you can realistically complete this season. With the temperature taking longer to rise in the morning, the number of hours you have in a day for pavement to cure is shortening and so being efficient matters a lot right now if projects are to get done. However, I also know you are looking forward to what other projects are coming up to bid on, so it is important that we discuss the fall tender schedule. We are working with the ministry to better identify when projects will hit the market.

Then, next month, I have an opportunity to join those gathered at the 2023 provincial Area Transportation Planning Committees Convention in Saskatoon on Oct. 10-12. Those who attend tend to be government officials, rural, urban, and Indigenous leaders, and industry specialists from across the province.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Transportation for Growth & Prosperity in Saskatchewan.” I have been asked to present on how SHCA hopes to shape a growing Saskatchewan and where we see opportunities for growth. I will be sharing who we are as an association, why strategic investing in trade infrastructure can encourage Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s economic growth, and the advocacy SHCA undertakes on behalf of our members. I will also be sharing the support we have in the province from those in other industries who recognize the importance of the work you do and the infrastructure you build and maintain for their own growth and success.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at the board meeting and a first-of-its-kind event that SHCA is developing for our industry in November.

The first-ever industry summit for Saskatchewan, which SHCA is excited to spearhead, will bring together contractors, suppliers, engineers and other professionals to focus on infrastructure and transportation. There will be great industry education sessions, an innovative trade show and awesome networking opportunities spread over two days on Nov. 29 and 30 at the Delta Hotel & Convention Centre in Regina. More information will be published on SHCA’s website as well as in the next issue of Think BIG magazine.

Until then, I know you will be working safely and efficiently to complete everything on your to do list as the board and I work to get your challenges and successes recognized and addressed.