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Legislative Report (1 November 2006)

Legislative Report

1 November 2006

Official Opposition Releases Plan to Deal with Critical Labour Shortage

Of all the issues facing Saskatchewan at this juncture in the province’s history, the current labour shortage is clearly one of the most critical. The labour shortage is now turning into a crisis for business, industry, government, public institutions and even health regions across the province.

With the Speech from the Throne delivered last week to open the fall session of the legislature, you would have thought the NDP government would have laid out their plan for addressing this serious issue. Unfortunately, the government has failed to grasp the gravity of this issue – there was little in the Speech from the Throne that actually addressed this issue. And Saskatchewan citizens are left wondering what about the priorities of this old and tired NDP government.

Saskatchewan’s labour shortage is exacerbated by the fact that the NDP government continues to drive young people out of the province. In fact, a chief economist with the Canada West Foundation made this observation about the shortage: “Saskatchewan has a big labour shortage problem, but unlike Alberta their problem is that most of the brightest and youngest are leaving – usually for Alberta.” (National Post, January 30, 2006)

Thankfully, the Official Opposition Saskatchewan Party does have a plan. This week, our leader Brad Wall released our plan to address the labour shortage facing the province of Saskatchewan. As we outlined in the report, Getting Saskatchewan Back on Track, the labour shortage is both a short-term crisis and a long-term challenge for our economy. Without available workers, businesses cannot grow and expand. Without a growing workforce, Saskatchewan’s tax base will continue to shrink and the cost of government investment in infrastructure and capital construction will continue to rise – at the expense of programs that Saskatchewan people hold near and dear.

The shortage’s impact is particularly apparent in the construction and building trades industry and has resulted in construction delays throughout the province, as well as higher than expected costs. It has affected a number of major capital projects including the Lab Building at the University of Regina, the College of Law Building at the University of Saskatchewan, as well as several regional hospitals, including those in Swift Current and Humboldt.

The Saskatchewan Party’s plan, which is available on our website, will involve a partnership with all stakeholders in the economy working in concert to implement the recommendations made in the report. There are seven key areas of recommendations and include some of the following:

  1. Investing in People: Assisting employers to help their employees get essential skills training and additional education through targeted tax credits;
  2. Enhancing Access to Work: Assuring training programs are geared towards local labour market needs and investing $5 million in community based organizations like food banks to develop and deliver life skills and employment readiness training;
  3. Partnering for Shared Prosperity: Improving educational outcomes for First Nations and Métis students, and increasing funding for the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies;
  4. Reducing Workforce Barriers for Women and Families: Enhancing the options for early learning and flexible child care, and encouraging businesses to take steps that create a flexible work environment wherever possible;
  5. Advancing Education: Long term investment in post secondary institutions and creating a greater role for regional colleges in developing and delivering programs to meet local needs;
  6. Immigration and Youth Retention: Leading international recruitment missions to attract foreign students and skilled workers to Saskatchewan and fast track entry for skilled foreign workers and their families. Work with non-governmental agencies to promote the benefits of Saskatchewan to young people.
  7. An End to Mandatory Retirement: Legislation enabling employees to continue working beyond the age of 65, if they choose.

The Saskatchewan Party recognizes the magnitude of the labour shortage and the negative impact it will have on all sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy, and in turn, on the very citizens of this province. That is why we’ve come up with a plan. We believe the time to act is now – we cannot afford not to.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Glen.

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