Mayor Clive Tolley and MLAs Greg Lawrence and Tim McLeod said Friday morning that making Moose Jaw economically attractive was key to growing the city’s population.
The Moose Jaw & District Chamber of Commerce hosted an event called Pancakes & Politics from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Friday, March 4. The event saw Moose Jaw Mayor Clive Tolley and both of Moose Jaw’s Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) share their thoughts on issues relevant to the city’s business community.
Chamber president Aaron Ruston MC’d the breakfast. The first issue he invited the dignitaries to discuss was the problem of worker shortages and the lack of population growth.
Tolley has made it clear that a central focus of his time in office is growing Moose Jaw’s population through industry support, education, and employment initiatives. He would like to see Moose Jaw reach a population of 50,000.
Tolley said population growth and labour shortages are particularly important to him because he has 20 years of experience working in the career and employment field.
“So I feel very close to this issue,” the mayor said. “And every day, myself and people in the community are involved in trying to solve the problem of Moose Jaw not having enough citizens.”
The city’s population is 33,665 as of 2021.
“The first priority for the (provincial) government is to create an attractive economic environment,” said Tim McLeod, MLA Moose Jaw North, “that will draw both new business and investment and employees for those businesses.”
McLeod said they partner closely with the city to make sure the community is inviting and welcoming. He said that businesses need to be more aware of the programs the province has in place for attracting immigrants: “Use the programs that are there. It’s absolutely critical that we bring newcomers and we sell how wonderful this city is.”
Chamber CEO Rob Clark brought up the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program, as well as the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). He said they were good answers and that many employers in Moose Jaw are making good use of the opportunities that the RNIP and SINP offer.
Both programs are designed to attract skilled foreign nationals to immigrate to Canada.
Clark chose his words carefully as he referenced the large group of Chinese entrepreneurs in the room. He said that “a lot of the times, everybody says, ‘Well, you know what, they’re gonna come here, then they’re gonna leave.’ Well, let’s keep them here.”
Clark said that it was vital to help newcomers feel welcome and included in local culture and for long-time residents to be proud of what Moose Jaw has to offer.
“Our quality of work/life balance is absolutely amazing, probably second to none,” Clark added. “So our role as a community and as businesses is to keep (immigrants) here.”
Wakamow MLA Greg Lawrence touted provincial investments in re-training new or existing employees, saying that to date in 2021-22, Moose Jaw businesses have received 148,000 in training funding from the federal and provincial governments.
However, Lawrence added that it was disappointing to him how often he hears from young people that they plan to move away for jobs in the larger Canadian cities. He said that business owners need to create attractive opportunities for youth to buy homes and make careers here.
“Of course, let them go away for school,” Lawrence said, “but make sure they come home.”
Tolley re-emphasized that immigration was essential to the future of Moose Jaw: “Remember that people are coming here that may need language skills. They may need additional supports that we might not anticipate.”
The mayor said that the retainment of immigrants and young people in the community can be difficult without a special effort.
“I would just ask us all to be leaders and welcoming and try and demonstrate how we can do that as a community,” Tolley concluded.