Sask. Party’s highway repair priorities don’t add up

Sask. Party ignores safety priority list when deciding which roads get work, which get ignored

When it comes to which highways get repaired, the Sask. Party is ignoring the safety priorities list and picking and choosing which highways to fix.

According to a report released by the province’s independent Provincial Auditor on Tuesday, higher priorities within the Safety Improvement Program (SIP) are being passed over in favour of doing projects that pose less of a safety concern – and the Sask. Party can’t explain why.

Of the 15 highways projects the Sask. Party plans to do in 2015-16, five were not even on the safety priority list, and six ranked lower than 50 out of 100 on the scale of safety concerns. Meanwhile, many projects with safety concern rankings over 50 are going ignored. 

“The Ministry was unable to provide us with its supporting analysis or rationale for selecting some of these projects included in the plan, over those with higher priority scores,” reported the auditor.

NDP Highways critic Buckley Belanger said the Sask. Party owes people an explanation.

“The purpose of having a priorities list based on highway safety is, first, to address the highways with the greatest safety concerns the fastest and, second, to take the politics out of the process,” said Belanger. “Saskatchewan families don’t know if either of those things are happening because the Sask. Party can’t explain why it’s picking and choosing, and leaving some of the more dangerous roads unaddressed.”

According to the audit, highways with the most grave safety concerns on the list had been waiting for between nearly two and nearly four years.

“We need to see a rationale not just for highways chosen, but for why other highways repair needs – often with greater safety concerns at play – are being ignored by this government,” said Belanger.

The NDP recently revealed that the Sask. Party repairs fewer kilometres of road than in past years, despite spending more. In 2008-09, the Sask. Party repaired or upgraded 599 kilometres of highway for a cost of $225.7 million. In 2014-15, it repaired or upgraded 478 kilometres for a cost of $405.2 million.

An increase in the use of more expensive outside consultants – a whopping 400 per cent increase – is likely one of the major causes of paying more and paving less.