The jolt experienced in the potash industry should be a wake-up call for the provincial government, NDP Opposition Leader Cam Broten says.
“A wake-up call that shows that we need long-term savings, that we need investments in infrastructure while we can, and a wakeup call to this government that we need to diversify the economy,” Broten said.
Shares in potash companies like Saskatoon-based PotashCorp, Mosaic and Agrium have plunged over the last couple of days after Russia’s potash giant OAO Uralkali said it would exit the export marketing group Belarusian Potash Co. and increase output to full capacity.
Experts say potash prices could fall by 25 per cent, which would impact the royalties the province takes in from the industry. “(That) has the potential to be significant, if you look at the contributions it makes to the provincial coffers as well as the thousands of jobs, the homes that are purchased and the spinoff industries,” Broten said.
“What we’ve seen with this government is an approach to have all of the eggs in one basket. What I want to see is more baskets with more eggs. We have to make better investments in a knowledgebased economy as well as a better approach to industries outside of natural resources,” he said, citing as an example the government’s treatment of the film industry when it axed the film tax credit in the last budget.
Premier Brad Wall said the economy is diversified.
“We’re diversified in our economy in Saskatchewan. We have other resources,” Wall said. “Agriculture is increasingly a big part of the story. We went to about $32 billion in exports last year, ahead of British Columbia. We exceeded British Columbia in world exports and a third of that was agriculture.”
Wall said while the government may not see as much revenue from potash as initially forecast, it will see more in other areas.
“So, again, I think we all need to take the developments from yesterday in context,” he said. “Plan for them. We’re going to make sure we’re watching the spending and we’ll adjust the quarterly report – both down for potash, but up for oil, it looks like – and we’re going to continue to move forward. We have a strong economy, basically full employment – 11,000 jobs were available this morning on saskjobs.ca, and I think that’s an important message to remember as we go forward.”
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