Sask. and Ottawa ink infrastructure deal worth nearly $1B

Regina Wascana MP Ralph Goodale, federal Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, SaskBuilds Minister Gordon Wyant and Government Relations Minister Warren Kaeding with the newly signed Sask.-Ottawa infrastructure agreement. Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

Nearly a billion dollars in federal infrastructure funding will be coming to Saskatchewan over the next decade. Saskatchewan is the final province to sign onto the Investing in Canada plan, locking in $896 million for a wide variety of projects.

Yorkton mayor and SUMA vice-president of cities Bob Maloney said this kind of guaranteed funding is huge for municipalities, which handle 60 per cent of infrastructure needs.

Under the old Build Canada fund, waste water projects were a major need in Saskatchewan, and Maloney said that hasn’t changed.

“Many towns and villages can’t afford to do the projects, and you’re not talking large dollars. Some projects, $1 or $2 million projects – Yorkton’s was $34 million, for those communities those are huge dollars when you’ve got 600 residents,” Maloney said.

“Going forward there will be a lot of work done and it will make a lot of those communities viable.”

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One of the points the provincial and federal government had to find a compromise on where projects would have to meet emission standards under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, an agreement Saskatchewan did not sign.

Instead, Minister responsible for SaskBuilds Gordon Wyant said they agreed to use standards from Saskatchewan’s climate plan, Prairie Resilience.

“Saskatchewan came with specific needs,” federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said.

“What has led to this conclusion today is the keen interest on both sides, at all levels of government, to deliver for the people. I’ve always said when you put people at the center of the equation you can reach any level of understanding.”

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Types of projects eligible for this funding include rural connecter roads, clean air and water projects, waste water, water management, transportation, telecommunications, and green infrastructure.

Sask. Government Relations Minister Warren Kaeding said that northern communities will be a focus in this spending.

“We certainly have to look at roadway improvements, airport improvements. We’re going to work to improve the quality of life for people across the province, and the north will be a focus as well,” Kaeding said.

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In addition to providing stability for cities and towns, the funding is also great news for Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA). Association president Chantel Lipp said governments are hands down the biggest purchaser of their services.

“One of the biggest challenges with the heavy civil sector is promising their employees job stability season over season,” Lipp explained.

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“With an investment like this we know that the investment is going to be there. We may not know what projects will be rolling forth from year to year, but there is some certainty now within the industry we will be able to keep our workers here.”

Lipp added the heavy construction industry typically plans two to three years in advance.

Wyant said the province expects to open up applications for this chunk of funding for next spring, in time for construction season.

The province will provide funding for around a third of a project’s cost, and municipalities will pay a portion too. Like past agreements, projects must be shovel ready.

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