Sask. NDP calls on gov't to get more in-province workers on major projects

The provincial NDP and tradespeople are calling for the Sask Party hire more workers from Saskatchewan.

'It’s not entitlement, we should be out there': Sask. pipefitter

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili says there are at least 1,200 fewer trades jobs in Saskatchewan compared to this time last year. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the Sask Party to get more tradespeople from in the province working on major infrastructure projects.

"We're seeing a lot of out of province companies, out of country companies building projects right here in the province," NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.

Meili cited the Chinook Power Station project near Swift Current and the Regina bypass project as examples where out-of-province workers were hired over locals.

He said there are currently 1,200 fewer trades jobs in the province than there were last year.

Meili said there are other examples of a more value-based approach to procurement in Alberta, Manitoba and B.C., but that he hasn't seen any interest in similar practices in Saskatchewan.

Sask Party defends procurement

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison acknowledged the struggles of people like Knipple.

"We created Priority Saskatchewan to ensure that Saskatchewan businesses have opportunities in our province," Harrison said. "I would say we do make it a priority, and that's why we created the agency."

Priority Saskatchewan, an arm of the SaskBuilds, is currently implementing a procurement transformation action plan released in 2015. According to their website, the plan "is a best-practice approach," to ensure businesses are treated fairly and procurements are open, accessible and transparent.

'It's to the point where it's concerning'

A group of affected tradespeople joined the NDP at the legislature building Tuesday to echo the opposition's concerns.

Troy Knipple, a journeyman pipefitter, said he doesn't know why the province hires workers from across Canada or even out of country, but he just wants to go to work.

"We want the opportunity, and we think that we've earned it," Knipple said. "It's not entitlement, we should be out there."

He said the government should move toward a "Saskatchewan first" type policy.

Knipple said that just by looking in parking lots, he estimates 50 per cent to two-thirds of licence plates at major job sites are not from Saskatchewan. He said that since Saskatchewan is going through a downturn, workers here find themselves travelling to other provinces to find work.

"Other workers are coming in, they're working here, and we're going to work in Ontario and B.C.," Knipple said. "It doesn't make sense."

He estimated between 500 and 600 members of his union local are currently out of work, with another 500 working out of province.

"In the last two years, I've worked one year. In the last 15 to 20 years, I've never been off work," Knipple said. "It's to the point where it's concerning."

- With files from Adam Hunter