Published on August 11, 2014
Mayor Greg Dionne is seen with one of many Daily Herald editorial cartoons by artist Joanne Panas, which he‚Äôs had blown up and on display at the second floor of City Hall.
Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
The province will help fund a second North Saskatchewan River crossing at Prince Albert, Premier Brad Wall confirmed during a Monday visit to the city.
The only catch is, the city would have to enter into a P3 agreement.
Wall clarified his P3 stance during a stop at Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens‚Äô constituency office -- a stance he‚Äôs made in generalities for months.
‚ÄúOur provincial government is committed to funding our share of a second bridge for the City of Prince Albert,‚ÄĚ he announced, clarifying that ‚Äúour share‚ÄĚ remains ambiguous at this stage.
‚ÄúThere are no set ratios in the program, so I think that‚Äôs something we could work together and explore what the right ratio is for all three partners ‚Ä¶ and maybe there‚Äôs a role for the private sector to join in, as well.‚Äú
P3 Canada filters P3 agreements, which link various partners -- government and/or private -- together to fund infrastructure projects. The funding formula is different from case to case.
With a second bridge‚Äôs cost estimated in the ballpark of $150 million, Mayor Greg Dionne noted that the P3 agreement is a far cry from the 100 per cent provincial funding he‚Äôd set his sights on.
However, Wall clarified that the provincial government is sticking to its guns in support of the Prince Albert and Area Second Bridge River Crossing Study.
Released in January, 2013, the report -- commissioned by the province and city -- clarified that the Diefenbaker bridge will ‚Äúbe in service for primary weigh trucks for another 25 years.‚ÄĚ
Before that time is up, the P3 model is the only way the province is willing to fund the bridge, Wall confirmed.
A few hours after Wall‚Äôs announcement, Dionne was reserved in ushering support for the P3 funding model, clarifying, ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no saying we‚Äôll go down that road.‚ÄĚ
On the plus side, if the city goes with a P3, they know that both the provincial and federal governments will be at the table, he summarized.
On the other hand, Dionne said that the city has to do its due diligence in hashing out the pros and cons that come with P3s.
‚ÄúIf you notice in the province of Alberta, a lot of them are steering away from P3s, so we want to know why,‚ÄĚ he said.
Whether the city goes with a P3 funding model or another means of funding, the city will be ready, Dionne said.
At Monday‚Äôs city council meeting, the city‚Äôs elected officials awarded a contract to Vermax Management Canada to develop a new second bridge report.
Although the city‚Äôs elected officials have long complained about Stantec Consulting‚Äôs bridge report -- namely its argument that a second bridge is not required for more than 20 years -- with some massaging, it can argue in favour of a second bridge.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre using the STANTEC report, but we‚Äôve hired someone, now, who can interpret it to our advantage,‚ÄĚ Dionne explained.
One line from the initial report that the city‚Äôs consultants are likely to grip onto is Stantec‚Äôs estimate that the provincial economy lost $14.2 million over the first six months of bridge restrictions following the discovery of a crack on Aug. 30, 2011.
The city‚Äôs elected officials also approved the creation of an eight-member steering committee on Monday to help drive the city‚Äôs future bridge aspirations.
If the city agrees to a P3 funding model, their updated bridge report, complemented by the work of the steering committee, will help bring partners to the table, Dionne said. Partners might include surrounding municipalities or even private industry.
Our provincial government is committed to funding our share of a second bridge for the City of Prince Albert. Premier Brad Wall
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a northern bridge, and we haven‚Äôt wavered off of that,‚ÄĚ Dionne said, noting that a significant portion of the more than 20,000 vehicles that cross the Diefenbaker bridge per day are not city residents.
Wall appeared to mirror this sentiment at Monday‚Äôs press conference, noting; ‚ÄúThe mining industry is going to significantly benefit from a better route.‚ÄĚ
While Dionne joined Wall in welcoming, with some skepticism, the possibility of a P3 agreement, the Saskatchewan NDP projected a more dismissive argument against P3s on Monday.
Whenever governments turn to private corporations to help fund infrastructure projects, the end cost to taxpayers is typically greater, the party argued in a release.
The Sask. Party‚Äôs stance on a second bridge is ‚Äúcompletely lacking in common sense,‚ÄĚ Saskatchewan NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon said in a release.
‚ÄúIf Prince Albert families and municipal leadership wants to build a second bridge and own it themselves, the province says a second bridge is absolutely not necessary in Prince Albert,‚ÄĚ he summarized.
‚ÄúBut, if the city wants to allow an out-of-province or international company to build a bridge then rent it back, with interest, and pay more in the long run, then all of a sudden this government thinks maybe Prince Albert does need a second bridge.‚ÄĚ
Jurgens a second bridge advocate
Although dialogue in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan debates and previous interviews with media implies otherwise, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens said that she‚Äôs always been a second bridge advocate.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs always work being done on behalf of Prince Albert, and I‚Äôve worked very hard to make sure that the voice of Prince Albert is brought forward,‚ÄĚ she said.
Premier Brad Wall confirmed on Monday that it was because of the insistence of local MLAs that they‚Äôve agreed to fund their share of a P3, whatever that might be.
Local MLAs haven‚Äôt let up in ushering support for a second bridge during caucus meetings, Jurgens said.
While she said that she understands the province‚Äôs stance in supporting the second bridge study, which notes that traffic counts aren‚Äôt great enough to necessitate a second bridge, she‚Äôs recognized the area‚Äôs professed need.
A P3 model is a means of speeding things up, she summarized.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a way for Prince Albert to get the bridge if they so desire to do it,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúIf we did it strictly with traffic counts, we would have to wait until the growth of the city warrants that.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve worked very hard with my colleagues to bring the issues that are important to Prince Albert down to Regina, and this shows our commitment to Prince Albert and area, and now we are hoping that the area responds in kind.‚ÄĚ