The City of Lloydminster is renowned for having an exceedingly unique geographic characteristic that no other town or city can boast anywhere in Canada. No, it’s not a large mountain range or a deep cavernous canyon or a mesmerizing waterfall or a chinook high in the sky, but rather it’s the only municipality to officially straddle two provincial borders while having one single local government administration.
Located at the midpoint of Saskatchewan and Alberta from a north-west perspective, Lloydminster and its 31,483 residents can be found 275km west of Saskatoon and 250km east of Edmonton. The unusual geographic phenomenon has brought a great deal of notoriety to the city.
The majority of Saskatchewan does not observe daylight savings time during the summer months, instead remaining on Central Standard Time all year. However, the entire province of Alberta does invoke daylight saving time, so Lloydminster’s charter allows the city to follow Alberta on both sides of the provincial border in order to keep the city properly synchronized. After all, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense if those on the east side of the city were an hour ahead of those on the west. The only other city in Canada with a somewhat similar situation is Flin Flon, Manitoba, where a small section of land is located within Saskatchewan; however, it is completely governed by Manitoba.
The Canadian Business Journal recently had the opportunity to speak with Lloydminster Mayor Rob Saunders and Lloydminster Economic Development CEO Ward Read about the many interesting dynamics that can be found in their city.
“We like to portray it as being part of two of Canada’s hottest provinces in the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan,” Saunders tells us. “About 20,000 residents are on the Alberta side and about 11,000 on the Saskatchewan side.”
There is a seamless municipal government with a charter that is a common platform of reference of legislation for both provinces for the City of Lloydminster with six city councillors and the mayor. One of the first questions people ask when hearing about such a unique municipal setup is how the city and provincial taxes are dealt with.
“We have no PST here as far as provincial sales tax because it would be totally unfair to other businesses in the community and it’s also unfair to the recipients and the taxpayers,” Saunders remarks. “As far as provincial taxes, it still applies and municipal taxes are a blanket. It’s seamless in that respect, so whether you’re in Alberta or Saskatchewan we use the Alberta assessment tax process so it’s fair to everyone that’s in the community.”
The hospital in Lloydminster and is located on the Saskatchewan side of the border, and is administered by the Saskatchewan Health Ministry in cooperation with the Alberta Health Ministry as well.
“We’re in the stages of a memorandum of understanding that tries to break down the services, so what we’re looking for is to establish ongoing services for Lloydminster that would be no different from any Saskatchewan or Alberta entity and that’s what the residents should expect – services that are very similar to anybody else in either province,” Saunders offers.
Lloydminster is quite diversified in its business offerings, but the petroleum and agriculture industries are at notably at the pinnacle with respect to individual sectors that drive the local economy. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling. Consequently, many farmers in the region have been financially compensated through lease payments resulting from oil wells being drilled on their land. The income derived from those leases has assisted in the farmers in sustaining their agriculture business.
“Based upon a number of assessments, including those from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) those types of employment and industry activity in energy will certainly continue to be growing over the next 15 to 20 years,” adds Read. “In the recent past, Lloydminster’s involvement in the sector has actually outpaced both provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan in energy employment growth.”
Husky operates three large-scale refinery plants in the region including the bi-provincial upgrader which can produce in the neighbourhood of 80,000 barrels per day. They also operate an asphalt refinery which produces about 28,000 barrels per day as well as an ethanol facility.
“On the agriculture side, we certainly have a lot of primary production in and around our area and we’ve been seeing a fair bit of investment into supporting industries or even some value-added production,” Read notes. “I can cite specifically Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has recently opened Canada’s largest bio-diesel production facility here in Lloydminster.”
Aside from the economic pillars, a number of other sectors of the economy continue to grow in the city including the likes of retail, construction and transportation. Heavy oil is the primary resource but it doesn’t pipeline right off the bat; it needs to be upgraded, so there has been significant growth in oil by rail. Additionally, agricultural commodities also move well by both rail and truck. Further to that, construction is also making tremendous inroads for the economy as well.
“Construction has really been booming and in fact over the last five years we’ve seen about 14.5% year over year growth in building permits in the city,” Read states. “There’s investment in residential housing units and also commercial and industrial buildings as well.”
“We consider ourselves to be the heavy oil capital of Canada,” Saunders proudly states.
“The major corporate capital investment that some of the large producers have made into this community and region, such as Husky Energy, has been quite substantial and with the application of new technologies being applied to existing fields and to the enhancement of production in the new drill completes and steam assisted gravity and all the other technology that’s been produced – a lot of it right here in the Lloydminster region – we will only continue to prosper from the benefit of that industry. “
Agriculture is also showing continuous progressive traits in the community with ADM just finishing major expansions, adding new rail and transportation capacity. It’s not only oil and gas with their trans-load facilities, it’s also agriculture with their trucks and trailers and rail transport. Being on the TransCanada Yellowhead Highway and also the Highway 17 north-south corridor makes Lloydminster an ideal hub for commodities being transferred in all directions throughout Canada and beyond.
“I call them the two golden corridors because the commerce that is derived up and down those two major highways is phenomenal,” Saunders says. “We really are a transportation hub. Looking at the statistical data from the service support sector or the franchise sector in retail and such, we’re probably in the top 10 in the country in every one of those entities.”
Prosperity and diversity are quite evident in the city. In addition to a desirable economic climate, Lloydminster offers a reasonable cost of living with a focus on quality of life. You can enjoy all the amenities of large urban centers while living in a comfortable, livable community without the hustle and bustle of the big city.
“For a community of 31,000 we act as if we’re much, much bigger because of factors such as not having to implement Saskatchewan’s provincial sales tax and the fact that in Lloydminster and our surrounding communities income levels tend to be significantly above that of both our provinces and Canada as a whole,” Read adds.
Education and Training
Lakeland College is a publicly-funded, highly-respected post-secondary institution with two campuses in Vermilion and Lloydminster serving about 7,500 students. It’s also Canada’s only inter-provincial college and has been since it’s inception in 1975. There is a long list of programs available to students, including the trades, such as carpentry, welding, drafting, design and others. There are also university transfer classes, a large business faculty and nurses training just to name a few.
“The college is derived from catering to the job requirements that are needed from the businesses and corporations so they deliver the programs that are needed for the labour base and skill base that is needed for the business community,” Saunders says. “It’s been a successful formula and continues to grow. We’re just opening a new $20 million energy centre.”
The community is also proud of the fact it is self sufficient from the point of view that it’s a great place to grow up and then raise a family without having to move away, as is the case in many towns and cities. There are many different business opportunities that make staying in the community an attractive proposition.
“Our city council has been very proactive at establishing a reasonable Mill Rate Factor for the commercial and industrial tax base,” Saunders offers. “It’s been part of the enticement to establish corporate identities for business and industry. Of course when there are jobs available it creates opportunities for people and when they come here they find they are employable very quickly. Our household income is very high and the expendable income is one of the highest in western Canada.”
Thriving Community Spirit
What makes Lloydminster’s success story even more pronounced is that the average age on the Alberta side of the city is just 32 and 27 on the Saskatchewan side, making Lloydminster the second-youngest average population base in Alberta behind only Grand Prairie, which has an average median age of 31. With so many young residents, Saunders, Read and other executives from the city have made a conscious effort to provide incentives to keep that demographic strong.
“Lloydminster has many amenities of a larger city,” Saunders continues. “Once people establish themselves here they very rarely leave because they’ve become fully engaged. And it’s not only the work, it’s the play and the culture. We try and address some diversity for everyone.”
There is also a large push in the tourism sector centred on events’ hosting such as The Oil Show and the city has obtained the rights from Hockey Canada to host the 2016 RBC Cup, the national junior hockey championship. On a related note, the Lloydminster Bobcats is a community-owned Jr. A hockey team that provides a great sense of pride for the community.
“They’re building their team for the RBC Cup run and we just came off Hockey Day in Canada earlier this year, which spurred a lot of interest for hosting another event and so the application was made,” Saunders says. “The Lloydminster Economic Development Corporation in conjunction with the Bobcats and many community volunteers put together a compelling bid for the popular sporting event.”
For golfing enthusiasts, there is a city-owned course that consistently ranks in the top two or three in all of Saskatchewan about 15 within an hour’s drive. As one would expect given the geographic location, there are many recreational options for families to enjoy throughout the region. The city is just 40 minutes from the North Saskatchewan River, which is a beautiful river valley and 40 minutes away from the Battle River to the south, which is a main tributary.
“We’re also no more than 90 minutes away from about 60 different lakes to the north of us,” Saunders adds. “On any given day through the summer you can see thousands and thousands of RVs, SUVs, boats, trailers, quads and motorhomes frequenting the lake country, which really adds to the quality of lifestyle in this part of the world.”
As a perfect backdrop to the beautiful picturesque landscape is a 200-acre all-seasons park called Bud Miller Park. Some of the amenities include: an indoor leisure pool, beach volleyball, fitness centre, tennis courts, lawn bowling, mini-putt golf, water splash park, baseball diamonds, cross-country skiing, ice skating, an interpretive centre and the Vic Juba Community Theatre which is attached to Lakeland College right beside the park, sharing the same grounds. There is also a huge retention lake and trail systems making it a great place for families to enjoy at any time throughout the year.
A strong cultural base in the city has a notable presence, with more than 200 artists and a number of concerts and festivals throughout the year. Right now there is currently a well-received, predominant World War exhibit that has garnered large audiences.
Many good, high-paying jobs, a strong education system, quality healthcare, sports, culture and recreation all help to keep the people of Lloydminster happy and engaged in the community. It’s a border city truly does reap the benefits of the best of two provinces and beyond.