August 8, 2023
By Jordan Ewart, Director of Policy and Research, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce
August 9, 2023
Saskatchewan is a place of extraordinary beauty. The way the landscape transforms from one corner of the highway to the next is unmatched. Safe to say, this is a place where you will find some of the boldest views in the world.
The people of Saskatchewan embody the very essence of boldness. One outstanding aspect of this province is its remarkable ability to foster a strong sense of community and vision, particularly evident in its small cities and towns. While other provinces may boast rapidly growing major metropolitans, Saskatchewan stands out for its deep-rooted commitment to belonging and community growth. At the heart of that growth are the local businesses who serve as the cornerstone of the region’s economies.
At the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SCC), we have the privilege of being able to connect with those local businesses through the local chambers of commerce in Saskatchewan. Local chambers are the critical organizations that support small businesses in their communities. Chambers play an important role in the economic and social development of a local community and serve as a representative and advocate for businesses and entrepreneurs in their area.
Our team at the SCC wanted to tap into the creativity, vision, and strength of the local chamber network and decided to plan a tour through the province to see our Chamber friends. With anticipation, we set out to explore everything Saskatchewan has to offer.
We left from Regina down HYW #6 to Weyburn to visit Monica Osborn, Executive Director for the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce. Monica does an incredible job engaging the business community in Weyburn and surrounding areas and is a strong advocate for the region’s oil and gas sector. After meeting with some board members, Monica arranged a tour of Whitecap Resources inc., with Darcy Cretin. Whitecap Resources Inc. is focused on sustainable mining in Saskatchewan and today operates the world’s largest CO2 storage project in Weyburn.
The Weyburn Unit Plant has been an economic engine for Saskatchewan since 1954 when oil was discovered, and to date has produced over 500 million barrels of oil. What sets the Weyburn Unit apart is the Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) capabilities.
Whitecap Resources today uses the captured CO2 and injects it back into the ground which acts as a solvent to flush unrecoverable oil from pores in the rock. To date, the project has sequestered 40 MT C02 and has the potential to capture up to 115 MT CO2.
The work happening is remarkable and contributes to positioning Saskatchewan as a global leader in innovation and reducing carbon emissions.
We left Weyburn and headed back up the road to Moose Jaw to the Moose Jaw & District Chamber of Commerce, where we were welcomed by CEO Rob Clark and Heather Bergdahl.
The SCC team had the chance to hear from the Program Coordinator for the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP). Moose Jaw was fortunate enough to have been selected to be a participant in the project. The purpose of the RNIP is to help smaller cities and towns attract newcomers and skilled workers—which has subsequent economic benefits. RNIP has also reduced the barriers of recruiting newcomers, as existing channels were found to be complex, lengthy, and expensive.
What stood out the most in Moose Jaw was the creativity at the core of everything the Moose Jaw Chamber does and their endless promotion of the local business community. We were lucky enough to hit the streets with Rob, who was clearly a community celebrity the way he business-hopped down main street. It was a great experience to see such small-town hospitality on a bustling Wednesday afternoon. Finally, thank you to Tim Horton’s store owner-operator Don Howe who shared his time with us, albeit on one of the busiest days of the year – Camp Day. Don is the owner-operator of five Tim Horton’s locations in Moose Jaw and area and is the incoming board chair for the Moose Jaw & District Chamber of commerce and will bring strong leadership and insight to that board.
Our next stop was to the bustling city of Swift Current. There we were introduced to some of the city’s innovative leaders. The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Wiens and the Chamber’s Executive Assistant Heidi Deg provided us with great insight into the exciting businesses operating in the city.
We were fortunate to be asked into a meeting of the Chamber’s board, where we learned about the innovation and growth underway in the Swift Current business community, from the Chamber’s engaged and dedicated Board of Directors. We enjoyed the great discussion and look forward to further exploration of the Swift Current business community on future visits.
The Energy City was cranked up for the Estevan Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament, “Networking on the Green” held at the beautiful TS&M Woodlawn Golf Club. Estevan Chamber Executive Director, Jackie Wall and Office Manager Cathy Empey did an amazing job of organizing an engaging day that brought together business professionals, community leaders, and politicians.
Like all previous communities we visited, the Estevan business community is passionate about the growth of the city and area and are tireless defenders of the energy industry that fuels their economy. Jackie has been a prominent voice in the country on energy policy and on ensuring a fair transition to renewable forms of energy.
After an incredible first week of visits to Weyburn, Moose Jaw, and Swift Current, we headed north for a pit stop in Saskatoon before continuing to Melfort the following day. The downtown area in Saskatoon was vibrant and full of life. The endless options of things to do in downtown Saskatoon definitely makes it one of Canada’s best urban centers.
Surrounded by the most incredible farmland, we arrived in Melfort excited to meet with Cal Gratton who’s the Executive Director for the Melfort Trade Alliance Chamber of Commerce. In under a year, Cal has helped grow the Melfort Chamber and has been a key connector of business and trade in the region.
A big thank you goes to Brian Enge from Melody Motors for showing us around Melfort. We were so impressed with everything Melfort has to offer – from its booming industrial area, growing residential neighbourhoods, parks, and recreation facilities, and of course to that magical golf course in the heart of the city—there was no doubt Melfort is a great place to live, work and play.
Saskatchewan’s third largest city is thinking more like a major metropolitan centre with local business owners Rusty Clunie Jr., and Gord Broda of Signature Developments in the city’s backyard. CEO of the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce, Patty Hughes was kind enough to organize a meeting for the SCC team with Signature Developments, where Rusty and Gord shared their vision and current developments for “The Yard” and “The Junction”. These developments are injecting business vibrancy and community pride while stimulating extensive economic growth for the city.
The conversation and tour was followed by a social meet-and-greet with the Prince Albert Chamber Board of Directors. The board was dynamic and is committed to working through common challenges to build a prosperous Prince Albert.
North Battleford, the heartland of the Metis, left us with a warm and unforgettable welcome. Battlefords Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer, Linda Machniak, set the tone for an amazing visit to the Battlefords. We had the pleasure of meeting Chamber Board members, and over a delicious lunch at the scenic North Battleford Golf & Country Club, we were captivated by the insightful discussions. The beautiful landscape and incredible food added to the charm of our experience.
One highlight of our visit was the engaging tour of Saskatchewan Hospital, expertly guided by a staff member. This state-of-the-art 284-bed psychiatric facility, which opened in 2019, showcases Saskatchewan’s dedication to modernizing and improving patient care for those with severe mental health needs. It’s clear that Saskatchewan excels not only in energy production and lowering carbon emissions but also in providing top-notch healthcare facilities for its residents.
If I could summarize our Chamber Roadshow in three words they’d be: Optimism, Growth, and Passion.
Throughout our journey, we had the privilege of meeting with local chambers of commerce, connecting with passionate business leaders, and witnessing the creative initiatives they undertake to drive economic growth and foster community development. From the innovative carbon capture projects in Weyburn to the efforts to attract newcomers and skilled workers in Moose Jaw, and the dedication to a fair energy transition in Estevan, the local chambers of commerce play a pivotal role in driving progress. We were inspired by the forward-thinking individuals, the vibrant business communities, and the dedication to improving the lives of residents across the province.
Reflecting on our trip, Saskatchewan is more than just pretty skies. Saskatchewan is a province that leads by example in innovation, sustainability, and community-building. At the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, we remain committed to supporting and amplifying the efforts of local chambers and businesses in the province.
Thank you again to everyone who shared their time with the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce.