Saskatchewan, once considered as an economic bit-part player is now surging ahead with massive spikes in employment, inward migration, and economic growth. Public-private partnerships are increasingly becoming a key driver in enabling this success.

Saskatchewan is currently in the grip of an economic transformation. The province, now considered an exciting emerging market, has experienced huge population, employment, and economic growth. However, there is a downside: Saskatchewan is experiencing a drain on resources. In order to meet its growth requirements, innovative funding solutions are needed — the solution of choice being P3s

Not a new model 

While the P3 model is not a new concept in Canada (both Infrastructure Ontario and PartnershipBC use this model), it has only recently come to the fore in Saskatchewan. There are numerous P3 projects in progress including hospitals, roads, schools, correctional facilities, and care homes. The projects though, are not without controversy. Regina MLA and critic for Education Trent Wotherspoon has described the government’s decision to fund school construction using P3s as a “private rent-a-school approach.” 

"It is necessary to explore alternative financing options like public-private partnerships to ensure infrastructure is built in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Those directly involved in the process, however, see things differently.

Rupen Pandya is president of Saskbuilds — the Government of Saskatchewan’s agency that plans and manages major infrastructure projects in the province using P3s. According to Rupen, traditional financing simply will not suffice. “The Government has said it isn’t possible to meet the demands of growth through traditional means alone. It is necessary to explore alternative financing options like public-private partnerships to ensure infrastructure is built in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Increased growth, increased needs

Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, echoes Rupen’s sentiments.  “Our growth in the past seven, eight years has been amazing. I stand in awe at the growth of our province and the emergence of new businesses. But… we have more people on the roads now, more sewer and water needs because of the increased number of people living here.

Our population has grown at a rate that is almost unheard of in the history of the province. So there is a massive need for more infrastructure but we’re still very cognizant of the value for money factor. We need the best work done for the best price,” says Steve.

Indeed, value for money is a defining constant in conversations surrounding P3 financing. According to Steve McLellan, the construction of the Regina Bypass (the largest infrastructure project in Saskatchewan’s history) would absorb approximately 18 percent of the overall provincial budget. This means that an essential infrastructure project would remain unfulfilled — a prospect at odds with not only Saskatchewan’s economic progress — but also its burgeoning aspirations.