Report from the Legislature – March 02, 2017

This week Saskatchewan was named the world’s most attractive place to invest in mining, according to the latest survey of global mining companies.

Sensible regulations and tax rates lifted our province to the top.

While Saskatchewan secured top spot as the most attractive place to invest in mining, the survey found that after announcing a new carbon tax, “unattractive policies” and “regulatory overlap” have sent Alberta’s once favourable ranking plummeting from 7th in 2015 to 47th in 2016.

We will work hard to protect the Saskatchewan Advantage and continue to stand up for the province that has attracted investment from all over the world, creating jobs and opportunities.

While the slowdown in the resource sector has impacted government revenues for nearly three years, oil prices are starting to rebound, and there are signs that mining in Saskatchewan is starting to recover, even though challenges remain.

There are positive signs of confidence in our province’s resilient and increasingly diversified economy.  Both manufacturing and retail sales in Saskatchewan are up and leading the nation.  And, for the first time in the province’s history, average weekly earnings were above $1,000 in December.

While there is light on the horizon, commodity prices are expected to remain lower for longer and that hurts the government’s bottom line.

This fiscal year, non-renewable resource revenues are down about $1.2 billion from 2014 levels.

Weak resource revenues combined with higher than expected crop insurance payments and spending pressure in several ministries have eroded our financial position.

Some of that spending pressure arising from our growing population.  Saskatchewan has grown by nearly 65,000 people since 2011 and by 130,000 since 2006.

Despite our government’s efforts to save money, which include reduced travel and a freeze on non-essential hiring, our deficit has grown to an estimated $1.2 billion.

This situation has prompted some in Saskatchewan, including our opposition to ask the question: “where did all the money go?” The short answer is, it went back to Saskatchewan people.

  • $6 billion in tax relief;
  • $20 billion in infrastructure investment; and
  • $2.2 billion to reduce the operating debt of the province.

Our government inherited a massive infrastructure deficit that needed to be addressed.  Together we are building new schools, hospitals and long-term care homes.  Many more communities have received repairs and upgrades, improved highways and vital infrastructure we all count on.

In addition, Saskatchewan people have benefited from reductions in property taxes, small business taxes, and income taxes.

Municipalities have received a 177% increase in revenue sharing – over $1.9 billion – which they have used to deliver better services.

The provincial operating debt has also been reduced by 32% from 2007, saving millions of dollars in annual debt serving costs.

These investments have helped create the economic strength that has kept Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate below the national average, with 60,000 more people working in the province today than in 2007.

At a time when other governments are attempting to rationalize permanent deficits, our government is taking a different approach.  We will deal with our revenue challenges today and the process won’t be pain-free.

Difficult decisions need to be made.  As we make those decisions, we will be careful not to shock the economy just as it is recovering.  We will also work to ensure that we don’t diminish the public services that provide quality of life in Saskatchewan.

Fortunately, we are better positioned today to deal with difficulties.  Our economy is more resilient, diversified and stronger than ever.  Working together with optimism and determination, we will meet the current fiscal challenge and strengthen the province for years to come.