Saskatchewan has injected the equivalent of $1.45 billion into the Canadian province’s two-year capital plan as a way to stimulate economic recovery. The additional funds come on top of the billions of dollars already planned for transportation and civic projects.
“Over the next two years, our government will invest CA$7.5 billion in schools, hospitals, highways, Crown utility projects, municipal infrastructure and other important capital projects designed to build a strong Saskatchewan,” Saskatchewan Premier Scot Moe said in a statement. “This is a CA$2-billion economic booster-shot over and above the CA$5.5 billion our government had already planned to invest in capital projects over the next two years and will be an important step in our province’s economic recovery.”
The additional funds will focus on smaller, short-term projects to jump-start economic activity, while balancing longer-term, large-scale projects to leverage multiple sectors over the next several years.
The capital injection includes new capital funding of more than CA$200 million for highways projects, $100 million for health infrastructure and $96 million for education infrastructure. About $106 million in a per capita payment through a new Municipal Economic Enhancement Program will support infrastructure projects in communities across the province.
Statistics Canada reports Saskatchewan lost 52,900 jobs in March and April, with the construction sector one of the hardest hit areas. The province's unemployment rate rose from 7.3% in March to 11.3% in April.
Ray Orb, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities president, says spreading the money throughout the province, including to rural areas, will help the entire province to recover economically.
The highway projects will include thin membrane surface upgrades, passing lanes and upgrades to municipal roads and airports.
Mark Cooper, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association, says the announcement is “absolutely fantastic news for Saskatchewan’s construction industry” and says the government stepped up. “They heard what industry has been telling them, and they responded,” he said in a statement. “While many construction companies have continued projects during COVID-19, this stimulus package will undeniably give an incredible lift to our industry and the province’s economy.”
Cooper says he’s confident the province will get as many projects going immediately and start funding municipal projects soon, but he vowed to watch the effort closely and “press the government to act fast.”