For global workers, Saskatchewan beckons – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – December 3, 2011)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Saskatchewan’s popular Premier, Brad Wall, has a nice mission ahead of him — to lure to his province jobless workers from depressed places such as the United States and Ireland to support his booming economy.

While governments across the developed world are struggling with high unemployment, soaring debt and stalling output, Saskatchewan is expected to lead the country with GDP growth of 5.1% this year, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Its unemployment rate was the lowest in Canada for most of the year. It rose to a still-tight 5.1% in November, from 3.7% in October. One job website,, listed more than 9,500 job openings Friday. Thousands more jobs are on the way with billions of dollars in planned investment in the potash and energy sectors. Meanwhile, the provincial government expects a record surplus of $25-million this fiscal year, which would have been even better, $115-million, if not for the cost of severe summer flooding.

It all adds up to a remarkable Cinderella story for the province, which barely a decade ago was a Canadian laggard that languished in Alberta’s shadow, with a dismal job creation record and a declining population.

“All of those things have changed,” Mr. Wall, who won a second term by a landslide last month, said in an interview. “We are now leading, either No 1 or No 2, so it’s important for us to get the message out of opportunity here. We need more people in Saskatchewan. We have labour shortages.”

Mr. Wall will lead job recruitment missions early in the new year, targeting places abroad that have big pools of unemployed skilled trades to avoid competing with Alberta, whose economy is also booming. Friday’s Statistics Canada jobs report pegged Alberta’s unemployment rate as the lowest in the country, 5%.

“Each time we will do this we will take businesses with us, so folk know we are not just there with a general promotion,” he said. “We are there with actual job opportunities.”

Saskatchewan’s economic success has already reclaimed many who had moved to Alberta. Ontario has also been a major source of new residents, along with workers from abroad captivated by Saskatchewan’s story.

One of them is John Heffernan. The general construction worker moved to the province with his family from Ireland two months ago.

“The economy [in Ireland] hurt pretty bad in the last couple of years,” he said. “In the construction end of it, there was nothing happening.”

Overbuilding when times were good led to a housing glut, he said, then the banking sector soured and the economy stalled, causing unemployment in construction to swell.

Mr. Heffernan unsuccessfully looked for work in Toronto, then someone suggested Saskatoon, a place he’d never heard of.

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