75-Minute Debate (9 November 2006)
From Hansard - 9 November 2006
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Economic Growth in Saskatchewan
The Assembly was debating the following motion put forward by Peter Prebble (NDP - Saskatoon Greystone):
That this Assembly recognize that the Government of Saskatchewan’s new initiatives on immigration, skills training, public infrastructure renewal, northern initiatives, workplace safety, minimum wage increases, corporate and personal tax cuts, and occupational health and safety constitute a complete growth agenda that is creating both increased economic growth and new jobs.
Mr. Hart: — Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Madam Deputy Speaker, I’m certainly pleased to be able to enter into this debate and talk about the members’ opposite motion. They talk about a complete growth agenda. And after 15 years, Madam Deputy Speaker, now they are finally talking about a complete agenda. And you know what? The people of this province are saying it’s about time.
After 15 years, it took you this long. After we’ve lost some over 60,000 people from this province, and now this government, this tired, old government is going to put forth a complete growth agenda to create the environment that will create jobs and keep young families and young people in our province. I don’t think so. I don’t think the people are buying it. They didn’t buy it in Weyburn-Big Muddy, Madam Deputy Speaker, and they’re not going to buy it in the next general election, Madam Deputy Speaker.
They like to stand up and talk about all the great things that are happening in this province, and there are some great things happening in this province. But the truth is that they’re happening in spite of the policies of that government, not because of those policies, Madam Deputy Speaker.
They remind me of farms that we have throughout this province, farms that I think we all know that are productive, have great resources, but really aren’t managed all that well. But those farms and those families seem to get by. I think everybody has at least one in their area that you can point to. But because of the strength of the resource base and the climate and those sorts of things, those farms seem to manage. And that’s what’s happening in this province, Madam Deputy Speaker.
We have tremendous resources. We have tremendous people in this province, but what we don’t have is leadership. We don’t have leadership from that government in the last 15 years. And in spite of them, in spite of their bungling and their mismanagement and their ill-conceived ideas like SPUDCO [Saskatchewan Potato Utility Development Company] and Channel Lake and those sorts of things, Madam Deputy Speaker, this province continues to get by, and in fact it continues to grow in peaks of growth.
But all we need to do is look at some of the facts, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let’s look at population decline in this province in the last 15 years. We’ve lost over 62,000 people. So what does that mean — that 62,000 people? It’s a large number, but let’s try and put it in a bit of context so the average person can understand that. It’s the equivalent of losing all the people from Moose Jaw, North Battleford, and Swift Current. Under this government, we’ve lost those three cities, Madam Deputy Speaker — the equivalent of that. In the last year we’ve lost 4,500 people. That’s like taking a town of Nipawin and depopulating it. That’s the record of this government.
And now they’re talking about a complete . . . They’re finally arrived at a complete growth agenda. Well I don’t think that they’re there. They haven’t been there in the last 15 years, and I certainly don’t think that we’re going to get there. They’re putting a few ideas together, ideas that they have looked around and seen the policies we’ve put forward. And they’re saying, ho, I mean, that’s a good idea. Let’s adopt it, and we’ll call it our own, Madam Deputy Speaker. But the people see through that sort of strategy.
So who are these people that we are losing? Well the statisticians tell us that the bulk of the people that we are losing are between the ages of 15 and 45. Now if you think about that, those are our young people, our young families, the people who are starting their careers, are building their careers, and continuing in their careers. And they are a good chunk of our tax base. And that’s part of the people, and that’s the biggest segment that we’re losing.
You go talk to young people, to graduating students and you ask them where they see themselves working after graduation. The vast majority of them say that it won’t be in this province, and that’s a real sad commentary on that government’s growth agenda and policy.
Another group of people that we are losing, Madam Deputy Speaker, are people who have completed their careers, their work life, and they’re looking at retiring. And many of those people are leaving this province to be with their children and their grandchildren, Madam Deputy Speaker.
In our own extended family, we have a father and a mother who will be retiring in the next 12 months from their careers. And they’ve already bought a condo in Calgary so they can be with their son and his family and their two grandchildren. So what they’re doing is they’re taking their retirement earnings that they’ve earned here in this province and they’re going to another province and paying their taxes there.
That’s serious enough. But if you look at something even more serious, I’m told by accountants that there are untold number of business people who make arrangements to set up a residence in another province — and quite often that province happens to be Alberta — before they liquidate their businesses, and they pay all their tax upon retirement and upon liquidation of their businesses in another province. And why are they doing that? Because of the policies that that government has put in place over the last number of years.
And now finally at the eleventh hour, when they’re down in the polls and they wake up every morning and they say, what can we do to improve our political future, they finally are making some adjustments that we on this side of the House have been talking about for a long period of time, Madam Deputy Speaker.
But, Madam Deputy Speaker, we don’t need to always compare this province to Alberta. Alberta has a number of things going for it that no other province in this country have.
So why don’t we see how our neighbour to the east — Manitoba — is doing? So what has happened with Manitoba’s population, Madam Deputy Speaker? While we are losing population, our neighbours to the east, who have fewer resources and coincidentally also have an NDP government, but their population is growing. And there are some reasons for that, Madam Deputy Speaker.
One of the reasons is the immigration policy. The members opposite, they like to stand in their place and talk about this new initiative in immigration. Well how did we do last year? Did we have 1,000 new immigrants come and live in this province? The minister is shaking her head and saying yes.
Although I haven’t seen the statistic, it seems to me more in the hundreds, not in the thousands. We are significantly behind what Manitoba has done in this area, Madam Deputy Speaker. So this government can’t even compete with their Manitoba cousins, Madam Deputy Speaker.
And here at the eleventh hour they say, well we finally got it right. We finally got all the pieces of the puzzle together. Now we finally at the eleventh hour, we have a complete growth agenda. And part of their growth agenda, they said, well we’re going to . . . we need to look at infrastructure and renew infrastructure — something that we on this side of the House have been talking about for a long time.
Today we see the Minister of Highways introduce a Bill that talks about dedicating all the fuel tax toward the transportation system. Something that we on this side of the House have called for, for many years, now finally they are deciding that they should do this to improve those key highways that lead to economic growth.
Hopefully this will mean perhaps that the people of St. Brieux and Bourgault Industries — who’s a world-class manufacturer — may finally get a primary highway although we haven’t seen any plans. Let’s hope that perhaps in their wisdom and at this eleventh hour that they may see fit to start providing the people of St. Brieux and Bourgault Industries with a primary highway so that they can bring in the supplies that they need, and export their products and create more economic growth and employ more people in that area of the province.
What about Highway 5? The member from Humboldt has been calling for, on behalf of her constituents, to widen that section of Highway 5 and improve that section of Highway 5 from Saskatoon to Humboldt, particularly that section from Saskatoon to Junction No. 2. I’ve driven that highway recently and with the amount of traffic, the amount of trucks that are supplying the manufacturers in that central part of our province, and it’s narrow, it’s hilly, and it’s certainly a very dangerous part of our highways system. Hopefully, Madam Deputy Speaker, that’ll be part of their plan.
What this government has done in the last number of months, Madam Deputy Speaker, because they are out of ideas, they’ve looked at what we’ve done and they’ve adopted many of our ideas . . . to name a couple, most recently, mandatory retirement. A mere coincidence? I don’t think so, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition announced it, and then later in the afternoon they say, oh I think that’s a pretty good idea; we’re going to do the same. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
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