Premier Brad Wall reveals 'Saskatchewan Plan for Growth'
The provincial government wants to see 1.2 million people in Saskatchewan by 2020 and they are releasing details on how to get there in the "Saskatchewan Plan for Growth".
Premier Brad Wall gave a 'State of the Province Address' at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Saskatoon. You can follow the live web stream of his speech at this link.
Right now the province's population is 1,033,381 as of the 2011 census. With this plan they hope to not only sustain population growth, but also to better handle the challenges that come with it.
How will they do it?
There are six core areas in which the government wants to concentrate on over the coming years. Those areas include: investments in infrastructure, sound financial management, advancing innovation for natural resources, ensuring competitiveness, developing a skilled workforce and increasing exports.
Investing in infrastructure
The first priority is infrastructure to prepare the province for the influx of people the government wants to see here. $2.5 billion will be invested over the next three provincial budgets towards essential infrastructure like highways and schools.
On top of the budget investments, the government is committing $150 million from the Growth and Financial Security Fund (GFSF) or the rainy day account, to a new government organization called SaskBuilds. It will work on public-private partnerships to ensure projects are built and work with municipalities so their needs are met.
Maintaining sound fiscal management
Wall contends this plan for growth will only be achieved through sound fiscal management. By 2017 he plans to reduce the province's debt by another $400 million, bringing the total owed to $3.4 billion.
Once the SaskBuilds money has been taken out, the GFSF will be left with $500 million to deal with any unexpected events that could impact the provincial's finances.
Advancing natural resources through innovation
Wall also introduced former University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon to head the new Saskatchewan Heritage Initiative. He will look at the options and provide advice on how best to use Saskatchewan's non-renewable resource revenues once the province's debt has been retired.
The plan for growth also includes changes to the province's business tax structure. Wall wants to ensure businesses can compete with neighbouring provinces to sustain the economic growth we have been experiencing. By 2015 the corporate tax rate will be cut to 10 per cent - the same rate as Alberta and BC.
Developing a skilled workforce
If the government reaches its population target, 60,000 more people will be working in the province. The plan for growth includes a government priority to get more people to fill jobs.
The government wants high schools to develop more career planning. They will also work to improve educational outcomes for First Nation and Metis students.
Training seats will be increased at SIAST for tradespeople including: carpenters, electricians and welders, occupations where there are currently labour shortages.
The government still wants to see the immigrant nominee program increase from 4,000 to 6,000 newcomers annually. However, it will need the federal government to be onside with that plan and currently it has declined the request.
Wall also wants to purse a strategy of international engagement and increasing exports. The growth plan sets a target of doubling those sales by 2020.
"I think Saskatchewan people appreciate growth because we have seen the benefits of growth, and we have also seen the alternative", Wall states in a news release.
"Growth is more than just a path to economic progress. It is a path to building the kind of province we desire for all Saskatchewan people."
You can get more information on the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth at www.saskplanforgrowth.com.
Read: NDP reaction to growth agenda
Edited by CJME's Adriana Christianson with files from Sarah Mills and Bre McAdam