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Was there any politics in Moose Jaw co-generation plant announcement?

Ron Walter writes about the SaskPower announcement
Bizworld by Ron Walter

The news that SaskPower will continue with constructions plans for a new 350-megawatt co-generation power plant in Moose Jaw was some of the best news for the city this year.

The $700 million plant will employ up to 500 construction workers for the two years of the natural gas-fired plant’s building. 

That is a sorely needed short term injection to the local economy with food eateries, accommodation rentals, and other business receiving the main benefits.

Many of the 25 well-paying jobs for plant operation will likely commute from Regina, just as when the SaskWater Corporation first came to Moose Jaw in the 1980s.

Moose Jaw will have other benefits. The plant will be the first tenant in the new industrial park, the city may be selling treated sewage water to SaskPower and there should be some grants in lieu of taxes for city revenues.

For local business, the long-term benefits of the plant come from new industry attracted by the large stable source of electricity. Some of that industry may locate in the industrial park sold to, if they ever pay up the $7 million.

Most likely the new business will locate in the growing industrial corridor along the Trans-Canada Highway between here and Regina.

Politics, or political baloney, have played a role in the plant’s announcement, delay and re-announcement.

The provincial government delayed plant development when it discovered the federal carbon tax would apply. The province saw a need to study the tax impact and made a big deal of the tax as if it would kill the project.

That was part of the political baloney. Both as a power producing alternative to coal and as a reduced greenhouse gas emitter, this gas-fired plant is the best option. Whining helped increase opposition to the carbon tax.

On the municipal political front, Mayor Fraser Tolmie was in a rush to take credit for Moose Jaw retaining the plant because of his intense lobbying — more political baloney.

The location and decision to continue proceeding with this co-generation plant is simply a matter of meeting business needs.

The plant is located close to the electrical switching station at Pasqua and the power grid. More important the plant is located close to the industrial corridor between Moose Jaw and Regina — an industrial area that will need gobs of power in the future.

If the provincial government wanted to listen to political influencers it would have gone to the two local Saskatchewan Party MLAs to see if voters wanted and would appreciate the project.

Notably, neither of the two MLAs stepped into the spotlight to claim credit for the project proceeding — another indication the decision to proceed was based purely on the business case.

What bargaining chip would the mayor have in lobbying the province anyway?

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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