Many mayors across Saskatchewan hope their communities get their share of a $1 billion federal stimulus package expected to flow to Saskatchewan and Alberta.
On Monday, Bloomberg news reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would consider fast-tracking $1 billion in infrastructure money to the west to stimulate the economy in response to the downturn in oil prices. The report also said that money was already ear-marked for infrastructure projects by the previous government but it hadn’t been delivered yet.
Lloydminster Mayor Rob Saunders said it’s no secret his city has suffered with the price of oil dropping. But even still, he said they still need major infrastructure upgrades to service a population that grew rapidly during the boom years. And, he added, they still generate plenty of revenue for higher levels of government.
“We feel that we’re contributing. So we feel we should be recognized for that with some further investment into our infrastructure,” he said.
Saunders said one of the biggest needs is for a new mechanical wastewater treatment plant — which he said is a must in order to get the city in line with legislation on water quality.
Along with addressing needs, Saunders said stimulus would have other positive effects. He said it would provide a psychological boost in troubled economic times to see projects going forward. Most of all, he said new projects would generate much-needed jobs.
“We really want to help support some of the people that have maybe been laid off and some of the skilled tradespeople and those that are looking for work,” he said.
In Kindersley, Mayor John Enns-Wind said they have major needs for a regional landfill site and an expansion of the communities sewage lagoon. He said that, much like Lloydminster, the community has a lot of catching up to do to provide services for the influx of people that came during the days of $100-a-barrel oil.
While he said he’d like to see investment in his community’s infrastructure Enns-Wind said he hopes Ottawa is also looking at the bigger picture.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in municipalities. We also need to look at some other infrastructure, like pipelines to get our product to the coasts,” he said.
For his part, Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison said he’s waiting to see the details on any stimulus — but there’s no shortage of shovel-ready projects that could use an injection of federal cash.
“We could get them dusted off and put into action A.S.A.P – so the sooner the better,” he said.
Atchison said potential projects ranged from sewer line upgrades to interchanges, like ones needed at Boychuk Drive and Highway 16 and McCormond Drive and Highway 5.
Recognizing that several municipalities across two provinces will be vying for a finite amount of money, Atchison said council and city administration will be ready to get applications put together once they have more detail from Ottawa.
Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig recognizes it could be longer than expected for the price of oil to rebound and says he hopes his community might see some stimulus money directed to infrastructure projects in their region.
“In Estevan, our oil sector is hurting, and any help that we can get – be it from the province or the federal government – would be welcome,” he said.
Ludwig says upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and a new intake for water supply would be top priorities for the city if it were to see any stimulus money.
“Wherever the oil sector is in our communities, those are the areas that are hurting the most, not to take away from other areas that may be under the gun, but there’s no question that with the low oil prices, those of us that it’s one of our main economic drivers, we’re definitely hurting,” he said.
He says stimulus money for infrastructure projects would help turn around the confidence level in the region and help get people working again. He says any positive news is welcome during these difficult economic times.
Opposition leader says infrastructure contracts should go to Sask. companies to help economy
NDP Opposition leader Cam Broten said it’s important to have more federal money coming to the province, but said the economic situation shouldn’t be as dire as it is. He said the SaskParty government drained away the rainy-day fund during years of economic prosperity.
“When we look at dollars coming into the province for infrastructure, that’s good, but what we can’t have is the track record that we’ve seen with the SaskParty by Mr. Wall when it comes to how those dollars are spent,” Broten said.
He pointed to rising costs for projects like the Regina Bypass and said the government is sending contracts out of province and out of the country.
“If we’re spending infrastructure dollars, it’s necessary to make sure that it actually does stimulate the provincial economy,” Broten said, noting that contracts for those infrastructure projects should go to Saskatchewan companies.
While the premier has been talking about relative strength in the diversified economy for the province, he did note that the oil prices will present a deeper and longer-lasting challenge than people were predicting. He said the province is talking with small oil-field service companies and operators about other ideas to stimulate work specifically in the energy sector.