The need for infrastructure
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to the planning for the needs of a future population, from how people will move from place to place, to resource management, to trying to anticipate the demand for entertainment, services, and space. From a planning and investment perspective, the present needs of a growing province can’t be ignored, but at the same time, careful consideration must be given to what and who the future looks like. Planning to attract and retain new business and a younger population looks different than planning for an older demographic at both the provincial and municipal level.
Beyond good roads and hospitals, committing to an investment in facilities that can compete with other leading Canadian cities that are also competing for the same talent and business is critical. Saskatchewan’s economy, as an export province, rests on its ability to effectively move goods and people safely and efficiently to compete globally for business and talent.
Upping the ante on facilities investment are environmental and sustainability considerations. Unlike planning 50 years ago, today there is increasing pressure to build and maintain facilities with the most modern and environmentally considered materials and methods. “It has become crucial for the commercial construction industry to adapt, innovate and collaborate in order to stay a driving force in our economy. Now more than ever, companies are using different materials, those that are environmentally friendly and sustainable,” says Shannon Friesen, CEO of Saskatchewan Construction Association.
It’s no surprise then that Saskatchewan urban centres are discussing the pressing need for modernized libraries, sports, entertainment, and trade hubs that are attractive on a global scale. Regina’s City Council, for example, created a Catalyst Committee to explore, and bring shape to, planning future recreation and cultural-based facilities with the idea of maximizing economic benefits while ensuring that young people are attracted to the community. Wayne Morsky, chair of the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL), expresses a similar sentiment, “youth are our future and having a long-term facilities master plan is critical in not only keeping our future but attracting the future.”
It can easily be understood that modern roads, facilities, and sewer lines are linked to Saskatchewan’s economic future, but so is having a strong, fast, and stable technical infrastructure, particularly with a highly dispersed Saskatchewan population. Rural broadband capacity will be needed so that smaller communities can fully participate in electronic commerce to trade in global markets, continue development of the agtech sector, provide state-of-the-art telehealth services, educate and entertain in ways only the large urban centres have been able to enjoy.
Access Communications CEO, Carmela Haines, says their company is focussed on “doing their part to close the rural-urban divide that exists”. To date, Access has successfully bridged that gap to almost 100 Saskatchewan small communities with 450MB service or faster and they plan to reach more communities very soon. “Having faster speeds and more affordable internet service like urban centres helps keep talented people in Saskatchewan’s rural communities and for these communities to thrive,” Haines adds.
The one thing about the future is that it will come whether the infrastructure planners are prepared for it or not. At the provincial, municipal, and community level, leading, competing or being left behind is entirely a product of how planners think, plan and act today. It is a fact that today’s social and economic infrastructure was planned for, and built, in the past and tomorrow’s infrastructure will come from the imagination and commitments made today.