The City of Moose Jaw couldn't have received a much better gift than it did during a special meeting of city council on Dec. 21.
A presentation by SaskPower officials revealed that the crown corporation had chosen Moose Jaw as the site for a new 350 megawatt power generation station, to be located in the South East Industrial Park, with the purchase price of the land at $614,992. The real kicker? The plant itself would cost in the area of $700 million and would bring hundreds of jobs to the city during construction and 25 high-paying jobs upon completion.
It was the culmination of a long-term project involving years of discussions that culminated in days of furious negotiations before things were finally put to paper.
Seeing that hard work come to fruition was a relief for Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie, who expressed his excitement that a deal of such scope could be brought to life.
“I think this is great way for us to kickstart our economy in the City of Moose Jaw,” he said. “I've been saying a few things in the community, that I believe Moose Jaw should be leading in this area, in the region that surrounds this province, and I believe the potential for growth lies in the city of Moose Jaw.
“Today, this is proof in the pudding, that people got together, we rallied and we advocated for the City of Moose Jaw to bring this project to the forefront and come to an understanding that this is a great project for the city and the area surrounding it... We're grateful to those who have gone before us and the work they've done, but we need to look toward the future and what projects like this will bring to Moose Jaw.”
The plan for a new power plant has been in works for several years, and Tolmie made special mention of visionaries like Deb Thorn and Michelle Sanson, who felt such a plan would be ideal for Moose Jaw back in its inception and pressed council and administration to pursue it.
Initially, SaskPower had three sites selected around the province. Once they were aware of the potential in Moose Jaw, they added the fourth site in the industrial park. The process of elimination brought it down to Moose Jaw and a site near Belle Plaine before Tolmie and city administration essentially forced SaskPower's hand.
SaskPower brass had been in contact with Tolmie earlier in the week, letting him know that the powerplant decision had nearly been – but there a hang-up: a potential conflict with 15 Wing. Tolmie quickly contacted Wing Commander Col. Denis O'Reilly, who almost instantly took care of the issue and then later in the week all but locked SaskPower representatives in his office with city officials to hash out the deal once and for all.
In the end, things went swimmingly, and an executive committee meeting on Dec. 19 put forward the potential land sale. That was followed by the special meeting of council itself to sign off on it once and for all Dec. 21. The deal passed unanimously and was met with applause from the gallery.
“Part of this is recognizing that we have to pursue projects, which is what economic development is about,” said Coun. Crystal Froese. “Having us actually go to SaskPower and throw our hat in the ring might not have been possible if not for opening that door and providing all the information they needed to make this decision.
“The mayor and the rest of council have a strong mandate to continue to pursue projects like that, to continue to seek projects that will fit with the community... so I want to thank the mayor for his leadership in this but particularly his staff and SaskPower for putting this together.”
See the related story for more on the plant and what it will bring to the city.