Report from the Legislature – February 12, 2014

The current grain movement backlog is a serious situation that our government doesn’t take lightly.  Not only have delays in moving grain led to lower prices for our producers, they are also affecting our reputation as a reliable supplier of agriculture products throughout the world.  To that end, Premier Wall has appointed Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart, Economy Minister Bill Boyd, Highways & Infrastructure Minister Don McMorris and Legislative Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, MLA Scott Moe, to work on behalf of producers to deal with the backlog.

This delegation is meeting with grain and rail companies to discuss challenges and potential solutions, in both the short-term and long-term, to ensure producers can market and deliver their grain in a timely manner. The concerns of producers will be at the forefront of all discussions.  This is absolutely necessary as our government anticipates that large crops will become the new normal.  In addition to meeting with stakeholders, we will also continue to pressure the federal government to ensure improved grain movement remains a top priority.

Thanks in part to the agriculture industry, our economy is moving forward.  With the addition of 18,000 new jobs last year, Saskatchewan set a new record for employment growth.  Our unemployment rate has also been the lowest in Canada for 13 consecutive months.  Our overall unemployment rate (4.3%) and youth unemployment rate (7.5%) are the lowest in the country.  Off-reserve Aboriginal unemployment is also in decline, moving from 14.6% to 12%.  These are just some of the indicators that reflect our province’s growing economy.

Given that the consensus among forecasters is for continued strong growth, Saskatchewan’s current and future job prospects remain robust.  Employment numbers will fluctuate from one month to the next but year over year data shows our economy is strong and growing.  Our Growth Plan goal is to increase graduation rates and add 60,000 people to the workforce by 2020.  Through targeted spending and training opportunities, we are working to alleviate a skills shortage identified by employers across the province.  We’re training and keeping more of our workers and have the most aggressive graduate retention program in all of Canada.

The strength of our economy is measured in new numbers that highlight merchandise exports. 2013 was a record year as our exports totalled $32.9 billion, making Saskatchewan the largest per capita exporter in Canada.  Our government will continue to promote increased trade and exports as we understand its importance to our diverse and growing provincial economy.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is reporting a spike in residential construction activity to start the year.  CMHC says urban housing starts in Saskatchewan jumped 9.6% when comparing January 2013 to January 2014.  Meanwhile multiple unit construction was up 34.4%.  This is a clear and positive sign that more people are putting down roots in this province.

Metrics give us a good indication of Saskatchewan’s growth and prosperity.  Growth and prosperity, however, isn’t always about metrics.  It’s about people.  It’s about helping our most vulnerable now and in the future.  That’s what fiscal responsibility and economic growth allows us to do.  Our growth plan reaffirms our commitment to fiscal responsibility through balanced budgets, while making record investments in infrastructure, highways and health care.