Saskatchewan is the shining light on the prairies – by David Breen Seymour (National Post – December 29, 2011)

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

“No longer do businesses in the energy and mining industries
abandon the province in the face of hostile and activist
regulatory regimes that threaten to make their investments
worthless. Saskatchewan has discovered that, with its
resource base, creating space for secure investment and
innovation is all that’s required for substantial economic
growth.” (David Breen Seymour)

Ontario needs to rethink the Far North Act and specific
aspects of their Mining Act revisions that are causing
many junior mining companies – the lifeblood of the mining
sector – to slow down their activities or leave the
province. – (Stan Sudol)

Saskatchewan stands at an opportune time in its history.

Outside its borders, globalization means there are more people who want to buy what we have and also more people willing to sell us what we want in return. More demand for Saskatchewan’s food and energy-based products in tandem with more supply of the finished goods that its people buy could raise standards of living in Saskatchewan to levels never before seen anywhere. Inside the province’s borders, politics have matured, making it easier than ever to do business.

A deeper theme is that public policy matters. Throughout history, no factor has impacted on the quality of the lives people live more than the quality of their public policies. Many other explanations are given for prosperity, but none of them stand up to scrutiny. If natural resources were the key to prosperity, Nigeria would be rich and Singapore poor.

If large populations mattered, Russia would be wealthier than Switzerland. If prosperity was the preserve of older countries, then Greece would be wealthier than Hong Kong. If it was a matter of past prosperity then Argentina would still be the world’s most prosperous country, as it was at the beginning of the 20th Century. If being close to world markets was essential, then Central American countries should be more prosperous than Australia and New Zealand.

Nobody who can be taken seriously today believes that a region’s prosperity is due to the intrinsic characteristics of the people who live there. In all of these cases, the countries mentioned first have poor public policy environments that suppress creativity, while the ones mentioned second have sound ones that promote it.

With these two themes in mind, the challenge is to dream big.

Saskatchewan’s current circumstances, wealth, political stability and an inclusive society have placed the province in a prime position to become one of the most spectacular societies in human history. More specifically, the challenge is to look at some of the “Golden Societies” that have gone before, and seek to shape public policy in a way that will promote a golden age in Saskatchewan, too. The only question remaining is, why not dream big?

“The fact is, Saskatchewan is a success story. Often against enormous odds, it has built a unique society and economy and established a singular identity in Canada.” So concludes Dale Eisler’s innovative study of the province’s economic, cultural and political history, False Expectations. Eisler is right.

By any measure, Saskatchewan is one of the most prosperous societies the world has ever known.

Canada was the 10th wealthiest nation on Earth by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in 2009.

Notwithstanding tax havens and “petrostates” such as Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates, Canada could reasonably be placed at sixth among large, diversified economies. It would be only a few years’ good or bad growth behind the leaders. Yet standing on that Canadian base, the economic picture for Saskatchewan itself is brighter still.

In 2008, Statistics Canada recorded Saskatchewan’s median household income at $65,120 — fourth among provinces behind only Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, in that order. The land of living skies is only a fraction behind the national average of $66,550 and well ahead of the Maritime provinces, which all reported figures under $60,000 that year. However, if the position is sound; it’s the direction of movement that is most promising.

After the Great Recession of 2008–09, the fundamentals that underlie provincial economies across Canada will likely continue to swing in Saskatchewan’s favour. The manufacturing powerhouses of Ontario and Quebec are facing challenge and opportunity as a result of changes in the world economy. Literally billions of competitors in the once-closed economies of China, India and the former Soviet Union have entered the global labour market to compete for goods that can be produced anywhere. These workers are hungry (sometimes literally) to do so.

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