The City of Estevan has requested $5 million from the provincial government to help with the transition associated with the eventual closure of Units 4 and 5 at the Boundary Dam Power Station.
Mayor Roy Ludwig and economic development co-ordinator Dwight “Fitz” Bramble travelled to Regina to meet with Estevan MLA Lori Carr and Jeremy Harrison, the minister of Trade and Export Development, as well as Immigration and Career Training. Also present Kirk Westgard from Trade and Export Development.
“The money would be used to help Estevan through the transition period,” said Ludwig.
The city’s transition committee, which includes representatives from several different organizations, has been looking at federal funding, but they believe the province should come forward with support as well.
“I thought the meeting went very well. So we will continue to pursue after the meeting where we go from here.”
Ludwig said the city is going for $5 million because it’s a similar amount to what communities in other provinces, particularly Manitoba and Alberta, have received when they have lost a key industry.
In the case of Units 4 and 5, they would go offline in 2021 and 2024, respectively, if an equivalency agreement is signed between the provincial and federal governments. Without such an agreement, they would go offline at the end of this year.
“Any time you have a serious downturn like that in the community, I think it’s not just the federal’s responsibility, we believe it’s the provincial’s responsibility as well,” said Ludwig.
When Units 4 and 5 do come offline, the city wants to have other initiatives in place to reduce the impact.
“SPC (SaskPower Corporation) says they will absorb those 50 jobs within the system, but that does not mean locally here. They will probably have to go throughout the province to maintain their jobs. So it’s still a net loss of 50 jobs as far as SPC is concerned.”
These are all well-paying jobs that will be lost. Ludwig predicted it could be $15 million in annual direct wages moving out of the city.
The economic spinoff from those jobs would be even larger.
“We have to get ready for the timeframe that we’re looking at, and get hustling, not when it happens in four or five years time, but today. We’re moving on several fronts as far as economic development initiatives with Fitz.”
Carr, who is also the minister for Highways and Infrastructure, characterized the meeting as a positive one.
“The mayor and Fitz came in with true and legitimate concerns about what’s happening in and around the community of Estevan with our economy,” said Carr. “They asked some very pointed questions and they asked for some answers.”
She believes they received some direction that perhaps they had not received before, and some ideas and contacts of people that will be able to help them try to find more industries and opportunities for Estevan.
There was also a discussion about Estevan’s transition committee.
The two sides also discussed the economy in general, coal regulations and opportunities that could lay ahead, especially with the federal election looming.
Carr noted that Westgard has gone on international trade missions previously, and has visited companies in other countries to try to encourage them to relocate to Saskatchewan.
Those experiences made him the right person in the room for last week’s meeting.
“He’ll be able to lead them as to what you need to have prepared when you have people come to your community,” said Carr.
The city might be able to get a business to come here to look at an opportunity, but the city needs to know all of its facts, even the size of the water pipe that will be used or the amount of electricity accessible at the site.
“If you don’t have the answers they want on that day, they probably won’t be back again,” Carr said. “So you really truly need to have all of your ducks in a row as to potential questions.”
Carr said Harrison will take the request forward to the provincial government. She believes something needs to be done to try to get development, or something else, happening within the region to bring back some confidence.