A broad cross-section of Saskatchewan's business community just wrapped up #TransformSK, the largest pan-industry consultation in Saskatchewan's history.
The joint project was led by some of the province's key business support organizations, including the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce; Saskatchewan Construction Association (SCA); Saskatchewan Mining Association; Saskatchewan Manufacturing Council; and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
The TransformSK partnership released its initial report, the Upstream Economy: A Generational Dialogue for Transformative Change. The report was developed as the group travelled thousands of kilometres and visited 14 communities to hold 60 consultation sessions with Saskatchewan citizens, businesses and non-profit leaders in late 2016 and early 2017.
"I think the process was pretty extraordinary," said Mark Cooper, co-chair of #TransformSK and president and CEO of the SCA. "It was remarkable to have these conversations with people and find out their stories and what their vison is for our province. We asked about big challenges, opportunities and what your big idea to change Saskatchewan is."
The resulting report contains 45 calls to action touching on a diverse range of issues critical to Saskatchewan residents from education, health care and infrastructure to the economy, environment and aboriginal engagement. These issues are entirely based on feedback received through the in-person consultation process, formal submissions and online feedback.
The calls to action are viewed through the lens of eight guiding principles requiring that transformative dialogue be, among other things, outcomes-based, upstream-focused and data-driven. The report is intended to foster dialogue and ideas that can help build a stronger and more sustainable province in the long-term.
"Coming out of the recent economic downturn presents the best opportunity in a generation to re-think and re-shape the way we do things in this province," said Cooper.
He said two of the main ideas that came from the consultation were improving education and aboriginal engagement. On the education side, the recommendations focus on skills development and making school community hubs by integrating health clinics and libraries into their infrastructure.
On the aboriginal side, Cooper said their community needs to be brought into the economy which has the potential to create a $60 billion windfall.
While the massive consultation fell outside the SCA's normal scope, Cooper felt it was beneficial.
"This was a big step that took us out of our comfort zone and goes beyond our mandate," he said. "For me it's a real labour of love and faith. Love for the province and faith to unlock its potential."
Cooper also praised the SCA's board of directors who recognized the benefits of participating in the consultation.
"Construction as an industry relies on investment decisions of others," he said. "We are absolutely wanting to do the things we need to do to foster growth."
The final report and recommendations have been submitted to the province. Cooper said some follow-up conversations are planned and #TransformSK suggested forming a government and non-government committee to take tackling specific policy areas and further develop the recommendations into actions.