by Shantel Lipp Shantel Lipp
The Saskatchewan Legislative building as seen from the shore of Wascana Lake in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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

Last May, I explained 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, which was completed by the Canada West Foundation. 

We know it is a report that matters not just to our industry, but to our province, our entire country and its 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 in the world. 

For more than a decade, those in the know have watched Canada spend lots of 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 and 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 – the Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Construction Association, the Canada West Foundation and the WCR&HCA – are approaching the three orders of government to advocate for a nation-building strategy to invest in Canada’s trade corridors to enable and harness trade-based economic growth. 

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

When we invest in the infrastructure Saskatchewan produces to market more efficiently, our province becomes more competitive in the world 

– which means even more trade.

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. Goldy Hyder of the Business Council of Canada explained the significance of that 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 their 2023 conference was “Transportation and Infrastructure: Connecting Saskatchewan to the World.” 

The speakers at the event addressed how we can unlock Saskatchewan’s transportation and infrastructure potential to position our province as a global supplier. 

Hyder spoke 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. I encourage you to read more about his presentation in this issue because he provides some encouragement to those in business to speak up about the challenges they face that are limiting Canada’s growth, which will have an impact on the quality of life future generations enjoy in this country.

Also speaking at this conference was Highways Minister Jeremy Cockrill. Just last month, I applauded Cockrill for signing a memorandum of understanding 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 for infrastructure funding and national supply chain solutions. Third, keep their economies competitive and grow capital investment. And fourth, harmonize regulations to support businesses, industries and shippers. He discussed this MOU during his presentation, which also covered what was contained in the latest budget to develop that transportation infrastructure and how earlier commitments have been fulfilled. 

Our industry knows the economic growth that investing in infrastructure would encourage in this province and the benefits that has for us living here. When we invest in the infrastructure 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. 

Knowing that the voice of Saskatchewan business (also known as the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce) values this province’s infrastructure enough to dedicate an event to discussing its importance is highly encouraging. The ideas and information shared by Hyder and Cockrill at this event suggests to me that what our industry is advocating for is being taken seriously by other key players in the province and country.