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Thursday, 23 June 2011 12:58

Wall, City of Swift Current talk trade

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By John R. Statton — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Representatives of the City of Swift Current met with Premier Brad Wall June 13 to discuss the possibility of the creation of a trade corridor.

“We did discuss, among other things, the trade corridor and the potential of Highway 4 to be upgraded to facilitate that corridor,” said Ryan Plewis, city councillor.

“It was a good meeting. We provided him with a copy of the report that Community Futures was the point on, and basically what we talked about was the projected traffic that might be coming up and down that highway if a number of things change.”

Plewis indicated the factors would include changes in border services: Changing the port of entry south of Cadillac to 24-hour service, and infrastructure upgrades to that area.

Repairing the 83-kilometre stretch of highway between the U.S. border and Cadillac to support commercial traffic is estimated to cost approximately $80 million.

“One of the things that we both identified was the safety issue with that highway.It’s not in good shape at all and there is an economy element to this as well,” Plewis said.

“There’s a significant amount of trade that goes south across our border, and back-and-forth with trucking every year, as well there’s a national park right alongside of that highway.”

Fertilizers, oil seeds, and live animals account for $416 million in trade between the province and the U.S. alone.

Saskatchewan’s tourism industry generated $102 million from American travellers in 2009.

“Having a trade corridor in southwest Saskatchewan would be a great thing for the entire region and the entire province,” said Plewis.

“We very much appreciate the investment that the provincial government has already made in infrastructure, and that we know the investment has increased significantly in the last little while. It’s not that we’re looking at this as merely an expense, but as an investment.”

Plewis planned to meet with David Anderson, Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP, to discuss a possible partnership with the federal government, in regards to the proposed trade corridor.

“They’ve done a lot of good work and we have port issues, not just in those areas that are joined up with the state of Montana, but also of course in the southeast with the portal with North Dakota,” said Wall.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting to see the federal response to the report, because of course there’s a couple of other crossings here where local individuals would also make the case that they’re area would be the right place for it.”

The premier noted the support south of the border— where an $8 million investment has been made at the port of Monchy/Morgan — and the increase in the Homeland Security presence in Malta.

“But of course the borders themselves are a federal responsibility, and the hours that they keep is a federal responsibility,” said Wall.

“What’s provincial though, admittedly, is the infrastructure piece, and whether it’s (Highway 4) or whether it’s in the Climax area. That is the provincial responsibility, and there’s no question that we have spent a lot of money on roads in our first three and a half years in government, but there are still lots of places where the roads are not in the shape we’d like them yet.”

He indicated if the federal government throws it’s support behind Highway 4 then it would make the case for increased focus by the province.

“We have a very large highway system: More roads per capita in Saskatchewan than anywhere else in the country, so we have a lot of areas to look after, but certainly expanded hours and commercial designation is going to make a stronger case for improving highways on either side of the border.”

John Parker, general manager of Community Futures Southwest, noted the importance of a partnership between all levels of government would be needed to support the proposed corridor.

“We’re trying to arrange meetings with the federal government — with David Anderson — to ensure they are aware of what the business case is bringing forward, and that we need the federal government to be cognizant of what’s happening with the border crossings and security issues that have been talked about at the federal level,” said Parker.

“At this point there’s certainly much awareness for the need of trade corridors and proper infrastructure throughout the province, and we’re seeing great movement by the department of highways to ensure that gets done. I think it’s a matter of how do we get it done, and if we all believe in it then we all need to move forward.”

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