Premier Brad Wall weighed Prince Albert’s need for a new bridge and hospital following his presentation of the provincial government’s newly released growth plan on Tuesday at Ches Leach Lounge.
© Herald photo by KJ Dakin
Premier Brad Wall unveiled the six components the provincial government says are necessary to meet the goal of increasing the population to 1.2 million people by 2020 at the Ches Leach Lounge during a luncheon on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our MLAs have also been talking about the hospital. Our MLAs have been talking about the bridge,” he said.
According to Wall, engineers are still deliberating over bridge construction and its need to accommodate traffic in Prince Albert.
“The engineers have a formula as to when a bridge is needed, as to when traffic requires another bridge or expansion, and so we’re letting them do that work,” he said.
Speaking to the question of whether there is an economic need for a new bridge, Wall said the focus is mostly on future growth of resource projects in the north.
“We should think about the bridge and the infrastructure in this city in terms of what’s going to happen in five, 10, 15, 20 years, not necessarily what’s happening right now,” he said, alluding to several industries, including the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, which will be fully open next year.
“That mill will open up fully,” he said. “Forestry will reanimate. We see some signs of some hope there. Mining is going to continue. We’re going to connect a road up north, and we worked hard with the federal government to open up China to Canadian uranium.”
The growth plan, made up of six components, includes a $2.5-billion investment in infrastructure over the next three budgets.
While he did not dismiss the possibility of provincial funding for a new hospital, Wall said it would have to fall within the growth plan’s sixth component of maintaining a balanced budget.
“We might not get to all of the projects that are out there, not just in terms of health care, but in these other areas,” he said.
The provincial government will also put in place the SaskBuilds Fund, which will be established with $150 million from the province’s Growth and Financial Security Fund.
“I think we’ll be listening very carefully to what the municipal sector says on what SaskBuilds can accomplish,” Wall said of the crown corporation.
Wall noted that there is only one infrastructure project that has been announced specifically as part of the growth plan.
“That’s Highway 914 in the Athabasca Basin,” he said. “It’s a $30-million investment by the province matched by uranium companies. It’s going to be significant for Prince Albert, because, of course, that economy, that uranium, that mining economy in the north is a driver for the Prince Albert economy.”
The overarching goal within the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth is to increase the provincial population to 1.2 million people by 2020.
Its components, which were based on feedback provided by MLAs, are composed of improving infrastructure, addressing the labour shortage, ensuring competitiveness, innovation for natural resources and agriculture, engagement in export development and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
“It’s a living document,” Wall said of the growth plan. “This thing can change and be improved as we go forward, because the economy is always changing and the needs of the economy are changing.”