Update on Highway 8 repairs and airport funding

Minister of Highways attends Chamber of Commerce meeting in Moosomin

November 2, 2022, 8:12 am
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Minister of Highways and Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Water Security Agency Jeremy Cockrill attended Moosomin’s Chamber of Commerce meeting last Tuesday.

Cabinet minister Jeremy Cockrill attended the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce meeting on Oct. 25 to discuss two local issues, the need to recap Highway 8 between Moosomin and Rocanville, and funding from the government for Moosomin’s airport project.

Cockrill is the minister of highways and the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Water Security Agency.

“It’s really exciting to be here in Moosomin today, and to hear about new businesses starting in the community and Ukrainian newcomers coming to the community, that is all really positive news,” said Cockrill.

“There’s a lot of positive things happening in our province and it’s certainly nice to hear that it’s happening here in Moosomin in the southeast part of the province.

“I just want to thank you Kevin and the whole Chamber for all of your hospitality here today. Thank you for the good soup and sandwich, and welcoming myself and my chief of staff to your community.

“I probably don’t have to tell this room that our province is a very much an export independent province. The food, the fuel fertilizer that we produce, that’s what drives our economy, that’s what drives communities like Moosomin and communities like mine in Battleford.

“In the context that I work in everyday, that’s why it’s crucial that we’re making investments to provide safe and reliable transportation infrastructure. One thing that was mentioned earlier was Highway 8, and I would like to provide a little context on that.

“We dug up some numbers, over the last four years the ministry of highways has invested just shy of $10 million of capital improvements along Highway 8. That work includes paving, bridge replacement, to erosion control on the side of the highway. During that same stretch of four years, we’ve also invested about $2.5 million in ongoing maintenance including patching and sealing work that happens every year on our highways in Saskatchewan.

“Now over the next few years we certainly have projects in the works to make more capital improvements between here and Langenberg. That being said, we’ve been investing into Highway 8 and we’re going to continue investing into this corridor work in our province.”

Working on government program to help fund airport in Moosomin
Cockrill also addressed the concern residents have had about receiving government funding in order to progress with building an airport in Moosomin.

“Another item that Kevin mentioned, and I know it’s been the topic of discussion in this community over the last couple of months and that’s the Moosomin airport,” he said.

“Certainly as a government we recognize the importance of airports, for health and safety, but also for economic development in communities across the province.

“Since 2007, we’ve invested roughly $11 million in community airports all across the province. When you add that with the contributions from our municipal partners, the community airport partnership program has generated more than $20 million improvements in those airports that has benefitted 42 different communities and their airports in our province.

“In this current budget year, Moosomin was approved to receive $250,000 under the Community Airport Partnership (CAP) program and over the last five years Moosomin has received about $850,000 through CAP. I’ll point out that is more than any other community airport during that stretch of time, well I understand that you guys are looking to do more.

“You’re seeking funding for a new runway and for other improvements here at the airport. I’ve been in my ministry role since June 1st and that’s been one of the key discussion points as my time as minister so far. Certainly I welcome those discussions from local MLAs Steven and many others. We’re going to continue to talk with the municipalities and the Community Builders Alliance (CBA) and local industries here in Moosomin.

“We’ve listened so far and we’re going to continue to listen, and I don’t want to get ahead of the pace of any of those discussions, but I think the really important piece I want to emphasize today is that as a government, we’ve heard those concerns.

“We understand the uniqueness and the opportunity that’s here in Moosomin and in the region, and we are looking for creative ways to support your community and its airport.”

Minister impressed by economic development partnership in town
At Tuesday’s meeting, Cockrill stated how impressed he was to see the amount of economic development partnership that is happening in Moosomin.

“It was talked about on the last piece of the agenda about economic development help and partnership, I truly admire the work this community in terms of advocating for this specific project (the airport), and really the economic development in general in the Moosomin area,” Cockrill told Chamber members.

“I first became aware of the Community Builders Alliance (CBA) and the model of that about a year ago, when a number of us caucus colleagues, including Steven, were having a discussion about what we can do to support our communities.

“He brought the CBA forward and I sort of went on a rabbit trail on the CBA website for a few hours that evening trying to find out everything I could about it.“

“Really, for our province to reach its full potential, I can’t emphasize enough that it’s so important for a provincial government, local government, the community and industry to work in lockstep with each other.

“I just want to affirm that the work that’s being done in Moosomin, as Steven said, the Moosomin region is a shining example of this, I think, across the province.

“Truly it is inspiring for someone like myself to see this model and it’s something that I spoke about with my local municipal dealers, in regards to how we can light the same fire in our community and improve the part of the province that I get to call home.”

Cockrill thanked members for inviting him to the meeting, and was followed by questions from the group.

“I just want to give Minister Cockrill credit for coming out, we don’t get a lot of cabinet ministers in Moosomin,”said Kristjan Hebert of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV).

“I personally have been doing a lot of work on the airport project and can say right from the premier to the minister to Steven that they have been, in the last few years, really good to work with.

“To why we believe it’s unique, let’s be honest there’s a lot of Moosomins in the province of Saskatchewan, but in order to allocate funds we have to make our pitch on why projects are unique here. I would say they’ve been really good to work with to hear that, and they have (given us) logical questions on the different puzzle pieces that we need to move around to accomplish that.

“I would say 18 months ago I got that feeling, it was a lot of political answers that took three minutes to give me an idea. I really applaud all the work that you guys have done there and hopefully we have some more wins in the future.”

Kevin Weedmark of the Chamber asked Cockrill if there have been discussions within the ministry in reagrds to creating a different grant program to fund Moosomin’s airport project.

“I know when the community first brought this request forward to the previous minister, Fred Bradshaw, he committed to reviewing the cap program,” Cockrill said.

“To this specific situation, to my understanding, there’s a lot of in-kind contributions from the municipal partners on this which is fantastic to see. As a government we recognize that those contributions do make projects more efficient. Fred committed to the review, I stepped into this role, Kevin and I spoke sometime this summer and I’ve reiterated my commitment to do that with you.

“I know in the upcoming weeks you’ll start to see a survey that the Ministry of Highways is going to be sending out. The way that I’ve approached Moosomin since I’ve been appointed as minister is to have this review on track and we’re doing that, but also we’re trying to pull Moosomin outside of that program a little bit and see if there’s a creative solution that could address the challenge and opportunity here in Moosomin, independent of that program review.”

Weedmark also asked the minister if the Moosomin Airport Committee should be doing anything in the mean time to move the project forward, before waiting to hear from the government.

“The key thing that I sit here today on the airport is the program review is on track, I think there’s legitimate reasons for that and certainly that’s a commitment that Fred made that I reiterated,” said Cockrill.

“I think the key thing for Moosomin specifically is trying to pull it out of that program review process, and treat it as a unique opportunity for the province and really for the region.

“Certainly we recognize that there’s a fairly significant trading area right around Moosomin. Obviously the potash sector has been doing quite well in the last year. We want to support the community, we want to support the industry in the area and so we’re trying to look at the project with that lens.”

MLA for Moosomin Steven Bonk also stated how great of a job the Moosomin Airport Committee is doing in pursuing the project.

“The efforts that have been made on behalf of the airport committee has just been perfect,” Bonk said.

“The way it’s been handled and brought to the government, I can’t offer any suggestions on how to make it any better. Right now it’s just a matter of waiting a little bit longer and we’re trying our best to make sure that we’re kicking over every rock so that we can get this done.”

Cockrill said the ministry of highways will continue to look at an alternative route to help provide funding.

“I know Kristjan mentioned it and Steven mentioned it, but it’s really important that I tell communities that I need to understand why your request or why your project is unique,” he said.

“That’s an example where I think that’s something this community has done well, in terms of communicating those two pieces and being quite serious about it.

“I think the approach by the community has been very good and that’s why I can tell you we’re working quite earnestly and diligently to get something executed here.”