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Legislative Report (21 December 2005)

Legislative Report

21 December 2005
Saskatchewan Population Continues to Decline
Calvert Government At A Loss To Stop The Bleeding

Each New Years Day, something magical happens. As the calendar flips from December 31 to January 1, our thoughts naturally turn to what weve done over the past 12 months, and how well try to do just a little bit better in the next. Its the adult equivalent to the childs etch-a-sketch: our lives are flipped upside down as the New Year approaches. Were shaken around by review and reflection, then we begin again with a clean slate.

Unfortunately, there are times when patterns of life are so entrenched the past lingers on after January 1st. This can make a fresh start very difficult. And what holds for individuals is equally true of economies which are nothing more than very complex collections of human wants and desires.

This point was driven home with clarity in a document with the title Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories 2005-2031 (Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91-520-XIE). In 216 pages of charts, graphs and narratives, this dry sounding document tells an interesting if not sobering story. The chance of Saskatchewan reaching a population of one million during the next 25 years is extremely slim. The outlook for population growth for the next generation is extremely poor.

Statistics Canada mapped out six different scenarios as it imagined how the future might look. Some of the models saw high economic growth, others made more modest projections. No matter what happens, the population rises in seven out of ten provinces. In only two models does Saskatchewans population grow beyond the current 993,000.

Further evidence can be found in preliminary demographic numbers released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday. The Calvert NDP has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in population losses. Between October 2004 and October 2005, Saskatchewan saw 2,356 fewer people living here, including just over 1,100 in the last 3 months alone. Thats hardly a distinguished end to our Centennial year.

A total of 7,805 people left Saskatchewan for other provinces during the third quarter of 2005. That's the highest quarterly exodus out of Saskatchewan in twelve years. Only 5,306 people moved to Saskatchewan from other provinces during the same period, for a net loss of 2,499. That's the second-highest quarterly loss in thirteen years. Clearly, the situation is getting worse under the Lorne Calvert government.

Well, more room for the rest of us as former NDP Economic Development Minister Eldon Lautermilch once said. However, these population projections are merely a symptom of a deeper malaise. Saskatchewan has had an economy that has failed to provide the opportunities required for our young people to stay. This wont change unless we make some fundamental changes to the way we do business.

This means our province, rich in natural resources and blessed with the hardest working and most industrious people in Canada is near the bottom of the heap with New Brunswick and Newfoundland when it comes to future population growth.

According to Stats Canada, weve lost a generation not just to Alberta but also to Manitoba and British Columbia. The number crunchers call it inter-provincial migration. And between 1999 and 2004, this province lost an average of 6,600 people - sons and daughters and grandchildren in each and every year. Thats a city the size of Prince Albert vanishing from our boundaries in five years. And unless we start making big changes, it will be the same story over and over again for the next 25 years.

We need these people to build and grow and invest. We need them to pay for the next generation of cancer drugs and to be the skilled workers that run the MRIs. We need to keep these people and their children in Saskatchewan so governments have the tax dollars required to do what has to be done and to provide the high quality of public services Saskatchewan people have come to expect. And unless we start doing things differently in this province, people will just keep leaving.

We are truly at a crossroads. We can keep doing the same thing over and over again, and getting the same results. Instead of stifling new investment and job creation, we need a government that understands why its so crucially important to develop a set of policies that welcomes investors and new job creation.

Whats needed in 2006 and beyond is a fresh new vision and new thinking. We need a new government that understands the need to encourage and foster new growth and new ideas. The Saskatchewan Party is ready with that kind of vision.

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