#TransformSK Seeks ACEC-SK Board Feedback

#TransformSK is the largest pan-industry consultation in Saskatchewan history, mandated to develop the collective vision and action plan necessary to shape the next generation of provincial economic and social prosperity. This initiative will culminate in a final set of recommendations to be tabled with the Premier, and will focus on four priority areas: transforming government; transforming the economy; transforming infrastructure; and transforming education. Representatives from TransformSK recently facilitated a session with the ACEC-SK Board of Directors to seek the consulting engineering industry’s perspective. 

A roundtable discussion offered many observations that focused on our perspective about what currently influences the province’s social and economic drivers.  All acknowledged that our economy is still founded on natural resources and therefore will always be influenced by external conditions. However, Saskatchewan can still do a better job of developing value-added industries that do their work locally to support the extraction and distribution of these resources.

As well, Saskatchewan is challenged by low-population density.  This has always impacted the cost-effective delivery of infrastructure. Many Saskatchewan municipalities are currently experiencing restrictions to their ability to grow because they do not have the funds to deliver necessary or regulated infrastructure. Asset management and life cycle planning, while being undertaken in some local jurisdictions, is still not being rewarded to the extent that is needed to assist with the growth of this province.

Further, while there is obviously a cost to infrastructure development and implementation, there continues to be a lack of recognition that investment in modern-day design, technology and materials leads will lead to significant operations and maintenance cost savings which, in turn, will positively impact the province’s bottom line.

Regionalization opportunities for infrastructure investment are also a cost effective way to ensure public safety and quality of life while reducing the up-front investment costs.  The Saskatchewan consulting engineering community continues to observe smaller jurisdictions facing dire need without the funding mechanism to proceed.  Regionalization can address this need.

Specific to this industry, it is felt that overregulation and public procurement stalls innovation. Bold ideas are held back by unreasonable contracts, unbalanced transfer of risk etc.  This province’s approach, while it has improved in the last decade, remains fundamentally conservative, and is inclined to swing more strongly conservative as we face an economic downturn. What we have to remember is that we cannot grow if Saskatchewan is not willing to try new things, and do things differently.  Transforming how we do “infrastructure” is an important way we can do things differently.

December 2016

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