Report from the Legislature – February 11, 2015

As the world price of oil has dropped our province need look no further than 2009 to realize Saskatchewan’s strong and diversified economy is well positioned to weather another period of global economic instability.  The last time oil prices plunged, potash sales also collapsed and compounded the province’s revenue challenge. Despite these challenges, entrepreneurs still created jobs, investment continued to flow, and our population continued to grow.  We worked hard to balance the budget that year, and the economy quickly rebounded.

Today Saskatchewan’s potash industry is coming off a record sales year, and the prospects for 2015 look good.  Merchandise exports set a new record of $35.12 billion in 2014, up 8.9 per cent from 2013, while agri-food exports of $13.9 billion increased by 19 per cent.  We are also expecting new records for both manufacturing shipments and wholesale trade.

For three consecutive years, capital investment in the province has surpassed $20 billion.  For more than two years, Saskatchewan has had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada and job creation has been strong across the economy.  In the last seven years, more than 65,000 jobs have been created, less than 10 per cent of which have been in the resource sector.  Not only does Saskatchewan have economic momentum, we also have a strong fiscal foundation.

Over the past seven years, our government has paid down $3 billion of operational debt left behind by previous governments, reducing interest costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  Our growing economy has also allowed us to deliver record income and education property tax cuts to Saskatchewan residents and invest $6.6 billion in much needed infrastructure like highways, schools, hospitals and long-term care homes.

As we deal with the uncertainty caused by lower oil prices, our government’s priorities won’t change.  We will maintain our focus on controlling government spending and keeping taxes as low as possible. We will continue to invest in important infrastructure, innovation and skills training.  We will continue to tell the Saskatchewan story around the world.  Most importantly, in doing this, we will be careful not give up ground in the area of fiscal responsibility.

February 16th is Family Day in Saskatchewan.  If you are looking for ways to spend quality time with others, this happens to coincide with our government’s first Free Fishing Weekend of 2015.  Everyone, including visitors to the province, will be welcome to go ice fishing February 14th, 15th and 16th without having to buy a licence.  Please note that Free Fishing Weekend does not apply in national parks, that regular angling limits and all other sport fishing laws remain in effect and that anyone planning to take fish out of the province must purchase a licence.

Caution and common sense are key to safe and enjoyable ice fishing.  Remember to test the ice thickness before you travel on it.  A minimum of 10 cm of good ice is required for walking and 30 cm for light vehicle travel.  Ice fishing is a popular activity and the Family Day weekend is an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn about and enjoy the sport.