April 6, 2017
Charles Dickens’ literary classic, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the line: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I have felt that sentiment stronger than ever this past week.
Best Week Ever; Worst Week Ever
On one hand, we had the first ever Saskatchewan Construction Week – an opportunity to celebrate the phenomenal work that construction companies do to build and grow our province. On the other hand, our members are dealing with the frustration and challenge of implementing a new tax we didn’t want and our economy doesn’t need.
There’s a lot to address, so I’ll start with the bad and end with the good.
I’m mad. Really mad. Becoming the first jurisdiction in western Canada to fully tax construction services was a bad decision. It was one that our industry was fully united in opposing. Our opposition wasn’t because the tax would be bad for construction companies (although it is). We were opposed to the tax because it is bad for Saskatchewan’s economy. When we increase the cost of investment we run the risk of slowing growth. When we are taxed while our neighbours are not, we hurt Saskatchewan’s competitiveness. So, I’m angry that the government decided to tax construction services.
I’m also troubled about the way it was done. The construction industry, and our supply chain, are remarkably complex. Nine days to implement a brand-new tax was far too short a timeline. We are a week past when this tax came into effect and our members are still struggling to understand the nuances and rules of a tax they’ve never dealt with before. Our members are not struggling for lack of trying, they are hamstrung because the rules themselves are unclear and, in many cases, not even determined yet.
Once the government made the decision to apply the PST, it should have provided a sufficient notice period and extensive consultation on the complexity of the construction industry prior to implementation.
While I am both mad about the decision and disappointed in the way it was implemented, I will say that officials from the Ministry of Finance have been very helpful and engaging in assisting companies in navigating the issues. Together, we have formed an industry-government committee to work on this issue and ensure that changes are made and communicated in a fast and effective manner. We are trying to make the best of a bad situation for you.
If you have any questions or concerns about the PST, please send us an email at email@example.com or call our office at 306-525-0171. We will be happy to help you.
Ok, that’s enough about PST and our worst week. Let’s talk about our best week.
April 3 to 7 was officially proclaimed the first-ever Saskatchewan Construction Week. This week is all about acknowledging the incredible contributions the construction industry makes to Saskatchewan. Here are a few facts:
Construction is the third largest employer in Saskatchewan behind only the retail and health sectors.
51,000 people work in construction in Saskatchewan. This represents about 9% of the total workforce in the province.
There are at least 8,000 construction businesses in Saskatchewan (some estimates are as high as 13,500).
Of these companies, fewer than 500 have more than 20 employees. This means construction companies are often very small businesses.
Construction has a payroll of about $3 Billion. That represents about 14% of the total payroll in the province.
Construction jobs pay, on average, 30% more than jobs in other industries.
Construction represents a direct contribution to provincial GDP of about 8%, making us the 3rd largest contributor to the economy.
Construction really matters in Saskatchewan, so it makes sense that we have at least one week to celebrate the work that you do every day. And it was a full week of successful events and activities.
It has been so much fun to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and together talk about the role and importance of construction. If you’d like to find out more about the things that have happened during Construction Week, I encourage you to visit www.constructionweek.ca or check out the SCA Facebook page or Twitter feed. On Twitter, a search of the hashtag #SKConstructionWeek will provide lots of event pictures.
So, sometimes a week can be both terrible and wonderful. This week has been one of those. I’m sorry we all have to deal with this PST mess, but I’m so glad we have this week to celebrate your remarkable work. I hope you’ve had the chance to participate in at least one of the Construction Week events. I think the week has been successful enough that we will try it again next year. If you have ideas for how we can celebrate next year, please let us know!
Here’s hoping the coming weeks and months see many more peaks than valleys.
Happy Construction Week everyone!
Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP
President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association