Premier Brad Wall discussed a series of issues pertinent to the Estevan area when he met with representatives from Estevan City Council and the City of Estevan on August 29.
Not only did he share that the government is leaning more towards twinning as opposed to passing lanes as a solution for Highways 6 and 39 from Regina to east of Estevan, but he discussed infrastructure, the proposed CT scan for St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan, and the long-standing housing shortage.
The federal government has a new infrastructure program coming that will require involvement from municipalities and the provincial government. Wall said the province will opt into that program.
“I asked them (council) what their priorities would be, and their priorities are the basics – roads and replacing cast-iron (water mains), and we're going to be there as a partner for those particular projects,” said Wall.
Wall said it would be unfair for the province to say "Thanks for the royalties," and not reinvest in the infrastructure of a region rich in oil or other resources. And he believes the government has done that previously with funding for Spectra Place, the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute and the integrated carbon capture and storage project at the Boundary Dam Power Station.
The CT scan for St. Joseph's Hospital is among the projects that will be on the table during provincial budget deliberations, which have already started. Wall lauded Estevan for taking the initiative on the project, as the health committee has pledged to help with the capital costs, the renovations at the hospital and the operation expenses.
"I don't know if there's another proposal like that in the province, so that's going to be very earnestly considered in the budgeting process," said Wall.
If the government was going to have non-budgeted expenses in the fall, it would likely be for infrastructure issues, and not a CT scan for Estevan. But Wall also said he wouldn't rule anything out.
On the housing front, Wall said he would take council's concerns back to Housing Minister June Draude. But it is an issue that requires a lot of work, and innovative ways to find solutions.
“The challenges that we face are not the challenges of decline, they're the challenges of growth,” said Wall. “I'd rather have the challenges of growth than the other, but they're challenges. And Estevan might provide the clearest example of what those are.”
Any new programs would need developers to step up, he said. Developers in Estevan are now starting to meet the demand for condominiums and single-family housing, but additional rental properties still have to be constructed.
The government has pre-existing programs on a per-unit basis for rental properties, and tax incentives for developers willing to build rental properties.
Councillor Greg Hoffort, who is also Estevan's deputy mayor, said the meeting with Wall was a great opportunity for the City to share the challenges facing the community and the issues they hear from industry and residents.
"There are some provincial programs in place, and we shared some thoughts on how we might be able to improve on," said Hoffort.
Hoffort, who is also the executive director at the hospital, said they're in regular discussions with the health minister about the issue. Fourteen municipalities in the southeast region are on board for the CT scan.
It helps that Estevan is willing to do their part to secure the equipment, and it isn't just looking for a medical equipment hand-out, Hoffort said.
Once he was finished speaking with Council, Wall went to the Boundary Dam Power Station, where he and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp toured the integrated carbon capture and storage project that is nearing completion at the plant.