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Cockrill promoted to cabinet as minister of Highways

New duties for Battlefords MLA will also include responsibility for Water Security Agency.

REGINA — It isn’t the first time that an MLA from the Battlefords has been minister of Highways.

The new minister of Highways Jeremy Cockrill acknowledged that fact in the media scrum Tuesday, shortly after being sworn in to the cabinet at a ceremony at Government House.

Cockrill pointed out Eiling Kramer, the former NDP cabinet minister, had been in the same role many years earlier. Now, history has repeated itself with another Battlefords MLA in charge of the portfolio, this time as part of the Saskatchewan Party.

“It’s an exciting day, it’s exciting to get the call from the premier serve in this capacity,” Cockrill said in an interview following the swearing in ceremony. 

“But honestly, I feel very humbled. We have a very strong caucus just in terms of competence, who they are as people. And so, to be selected to serve the people of this province in this portfolio, is quite an honour.”

The first-term MLA feels ready to move up to his new responsibilities. Cockrill points to his experience serving on treasury board and on the SaskBuilds board as valuable.

“It’s really been useful to opening up my eyes about the government as a whole. That’s some experience that I’m going to look back on as I enter serving this portfolio and use that to help me.”

Cockrill expects the usual learning curve, but won’t be going in totally unfamiliar with the file.

“It’s safe to say that probably every MLA knows their highways in their constituency well,” said Cockrill. “Certainly in the Battlefords, Highway 4, Highway 16 and Highway 378 are the ones that I’m familiar with.”

The highways portfolio is a significant one for the Battlefords, which is situated on the major Yellowhead Highway 16 and has highways entering the community in all directions.

“The highway system in this province is vitally important how we export the products that we produce in this province,” Cockrill said.

“Specifically about the Battlefords, we have a CN transload facility, where we have forest products come from Meadow Lake and Big River that are shipped up by Via Rail there,” said Cockrill. “We also have elevators from virtually every major elevator company in the country. Again, having Highway 16, having Highway 4 work well — it’s important because certainly ag producers in our area rely on good infrastructure both to get their product to the elevator and then for that product to go to market.”

Cockrill says he is looking forward to “engaging both with ministry officials and with industry stakeholders as well to really get a full sense of what the portfolio looks like, and again how we can achieve that Growth Plan target of building or upgrading 10,000 kilometres by 2030.”

One of those stakeholders, the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA), issued a statement in which they said they were looking forward to working with the new minister of Highways.

“Our association would like to welcome Minister Cockrill to his new portfolio that directly impacts all of our members,” said Shantel Lipp, SHCA president, in a news release. 

“We have a strong relationship with the government and the Ministry of Highways when it comes to advancing the issues and challenges that impact our members and industry and we want to keep that going.”

In addition to highways, Cockrill also has responsibility for the Water Security Agency. 

It is another issue of importance to the Battlefords due to its proximity to local rivers and lakes. Cockrill expects to be in touch with local stakeholders as well as officials with the agency.

“I am really looking forward to working with the folks at Water Security to get background on all the different projects we have going on under that agency. Certainly the Diefenbaker irrigation project is a large one, and so I look forward to getting an update on that,” Cockrill said.

“Certainly some exciting times here, as I jump into a couple of new portfolios.”