Interview: SaskBuilds deputy minister Kyle Toffan on the province’s infrastructure prospects

P3 Bulletin editor Paul Jarvis speaks to Kyle Toffan, Deputy Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement, at the Government of Saskatchewan

Kyle Toffan, Deputy Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement

PJ: How do you see the landscape for infrastructure and P3s in Saskatchewan? 

KT: Saskatchewan has a very active construction market for both public infrastructure and private industry. The province is advancing its strategy to increase its exports and attract investment into the province. Right now, major private investment is occurring in renewable diesel and canola-crushing plants in southern Saskatchewan.

There have also been significant investments in public infrastructure in the years since, including $3.2bn this year alone across executive government and the province’s Crown corporations. Another $12bn is projected for public infrastructure investment over the next four years, and we have a government-wide goal to invest $30bn by the year 2030 as part of our province’s Growth Plan.

PJ: And what about P3 projects?

KT: We don't have any P3 projects in late planning or procurement right now, but we are reviewing the applicability of the model to projects in our pipeline. SaskBuilds and Procurement is agnostic as it relates to choosing delivery models. We carefully assess what model fits the project and what the market feedback is.

We continue to conduct Procurement Options Analysis to identify the best models for each project’s unique needs. The analysis balances the interests of the private sector with the specific project requirements to ensure that best value is achieved for each individual project. For example, the Regina General Hospital parkade project is not a traditional P3, but it is structured very similarly. While we do not retain ownership at the end, we will have long-term financing, maintenance/operations for 30 years and a similar procurement process.

PJ: What is market appetite like in the province and how are you looking to attract investors, developers, and others? 

KT: Saskatchewan’s market is incredibly active, and Saskatchewan’s strong, growing agricultural sector is already attracting a massive influx of investment capital.

In July, Cargill broke ground on a $350m canola crushing plant at the Global Transportation Hub just west of Regina. Federated Cooperatives Limited and AGT Foods are planning to construct a $2bn Integrated Agriculture Complex in the Regina area. This joint venture will include a $360m canola crushing facility, which will supply feedstock to a new 15,000 barrel per day renewable diesel plant. Viterra is moving forward with a new canola crushing plant in Regina that will create 1,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs. AGT Foods has announced it will construct a new oat processing facility in Aberdeen. In Saskatoon, Great Western Brewing is investing almost $40m to expand production at its downtown brewery. 

Saskatchewan continues to be a very attractive market for capital investment, and as a public infrastructure organization we are constantly engaging with industry to identify and address any pressures that can come with so much activity in the market. Top of mind are supply chain, inflationary pressures, and labor supply. But, as my counterparts from other jurisdictions can attest, the best challenges to be faced with are the challenges that come from growth.

In terms of what we are doing to attract investment and growth, we listen to industry, and we are open to innovative approaches in project delivery models and other feedback from industry. For example, we have our first progressive design-build in the market right now (Grenfell LTC) which reflects our willingness to shift our strategies to make Saskatchewan more competitive in attracting bidders.

PJ: What are SaskBuilds main priorities over the next 12 months? 

KT: Because our ministry leads both capital planning and the delivery of infrastructure, we are always focusing on the short, medium and long-term horizons at the same time. On the delivery side we are concentrating on moving major projects through procurement and into construction and moving projects actively in construction closer to completion. 

We have several projects across all sectors currently in planning and are looking forward to moving as many of those into construction next year as we can. On the capital planning side, we are working on building the capital plan for next fiscal year, as part of the government's annual Budget process. 

And, of course, we continue to focus on industry and vendor engagement to ensure that we fully understand what’s happening in Saskatchewan’s market and are able to incorporate industry innovations wherever possible to ensure best value for the Government of Saskatchewan and the citizens we serve.

PJ: What sectors are of most interest for you? 

KT: The Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement’s Infrastructure Design and Delivery team is directly responsible for planning and delivering infrastructure in several sectors including health, education, advanced education, justice and corrections, and parks in collaboration with other government ministries and sector partners like the Saskatchewan Health Authority and local school divisions. We are also a partner in the Westside Irrigation Project. 

And, of course, our ministry’s Operations and Service Delivery team operates 446 government-owned buildings and leased space in more than 250 privately owned buildings in communities across our province, that require regular upgrades, maintenance or even redevelopment to safely and efficiently deliver government programs.