For many months now, I have been questioning the provincial government's decision to spend $1.2 billion on the south Regina bypass. In this spring's budget, the Sask Party government added $750 million to the provincial debt because of this project. All around this province, we have seen some of the worst highway and road conditions in living memory. Many of our secondary highways have practically become impassable partially because of increased truck traffic caused by policy decisions of railroads, grain companies and the federal government.
So when you see $1.2 billion being spent on 46 kilometres of roadway and bridges in one community in the province, I think it is reasonable to ask where the benefit is to all of the taxpayers in this province who will shoulder the burden over the next 30 years.
I think all of us have an acute awareness of safety issues in Saskatchewan because so many of us do have to drive long distances for work, for our children to get to school and for many of us that live in rural areas to get the basics of life like groceries, repairs and to access medical care. We have all noticed the ongoing loss of life on the Highway 6/Highway 39 transportation corridor between the TransCanada highway and the US border. The interaction between passenger vehicles and heavy trucks has been a deadly one. I think we all understand that public monies need to be spent to make corridors like this a safer place for ourselves and our families and for businesses to operate.
No one is disputing that an overpass at the White City TransCanada highway junction east of Regina has been long overdue in its building. I think we all understand that the hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars spent on the Global Transportation Hub west of Regina will be for not if the Pinkie road connection to Highway 11 and the north industrial area of Regina is not completed.
As a provincial taxpayer, I get all of the above. What I don't get is the idea that Saskatchewan is obligated to spend vast amounts of money to move semi-truck traffic around the south end of Regina on behalf of the federal government and land developers close to the Sask Party government. One of the first interviews I saw on television after the announcement of this project was from a trucker from some place outside of Saskatchewan complaining about the congested traffic in the east end of Regina.
My understanding of this P3 proposal is that the federal government is only contributing about a quarter of the money for the south Regina bypass. If the objective of this project is to move traffic between the port of Montreal and the port of Vancouver then the federal taxpayer should bear more of the burden. No where have I seen a study that shows this bypass will move more Saskatchewan product in Saskatchewan-based trucks, employing Saskatchewan-based taxpayers and therefore, building the Saskatchewan economy. If there is such a study, I think it is high time that the provincial government released it because they have chosen a company that is not even Canadian to be the lead agency building this project. They have in fact chosen a company from France which is under some kind of investigation in the Persian Gulf region for using forced labour on one of their large projects there. This investigation into the operations of the VINCI company could take years.
I didn't know that Saskatchewan or indeed western Canada was that short of good and credible engineering and construction companies that would necessitate the hiring of a company from Europe to build some bridges and highways on good old flat Saskatchewan dirt. If there was a mountain or a river gorge to deal with, I could then maybe understand looking for expertise somewhere else but the only thing we have to deal with here are a few sloughs, the mighty Wascana Creek and of course winter.
I wonder how the folks who have been dodging potholes on nearly every highway in Saskatchewan or the good people of Saskatoon and Prince Albert who do deal with major river systems and have been asking for new perimeter roads for years feel about this politically-driven project in Regina?
I wonder how many people that showed up at the Premier's dinner the other night in Regina have a vested interest in this little project? I guess it doesn't really matter because we are all going to be paying for it in the end.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.