Saskatchewan’s abundant natural resources can turn it into an economic powerhouse that supports not only people here but others worldwide facing food, fuel and energy challenges, Premier Scott Moe says.
Chaos and uncertainty grip the world and many causes feed that uncertainty, Moe told over 400 people during the Premier’s Dinner at the Heritage Inn on Nov. 3. But if it were possible to create an economy and region that could respond to those disruptions, he imagined what that place could look like.
For example, such a region would have abundant energy — oil, gas, natural gas, uranium — to ensure energy security internally and enough to export worldwide.
Furthermore, that region would have food security, land and people with expertise to produce grains, oil seeds, pulses, legumes and livestock, Moe said. This food could feed residents people here and abroad.
Moreover, such a place would have plenty of fertilizer to ensure its food security and support its agriculture sector while helping needy countries.
This place would be blessed with resources to meet the demands of new technologies, such as helium, lithium and rare earth elements.
It would also be populated by industrious, hard-working people who can build the economy, invest in it, create jobs, support local businesses and give back to communities.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can you imagine a place like that? Can you imagine how bright the future would be for (such) a place? … you most certainly don’t have to imagine anymore. That place exists; you live in it. It is the province of Saskatchewan,” Moe exclaimed.
“Our province is uniquely positioned in the world as an indispensable supplier of food, fuel, fertilizer, as well as technology to everyone on Earth.”
A strong tailwind is pushing Saskatchewan forward, as evidenced by its growing population, which increased by 6,500 people in the second quarter of 2022, the largest quarterly growth ever recorded, the premier said.
The government created a goal in 2012 to grow the province to 1.2 million people by 2020, and while that was achieved in 2022, it believes it can grow the population to 1.4 million by 2030, he continued.
“We most certainly are going to achieve that target. People are coming to this province; they are coming to the community of Moose Jaw … because there is opportunity here,” Moe added.
The economy will likely thrive because of growth in industries like the potash industry — which supports Moose Jaw — and because companies are investing in underground mines, the premier said. The province’s growth plan also targets $9 billion in annual potash sales — which will happen this year.
“We’re so proud of not only what we produce in this province but how we produce it,” he remarked, noting that potash produced here creates 50-per-cent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than anywhere else, making it the most sustainably produced on Earth.
The oil industry is bouncing back after several challenging years, and production is returning to pre-pandemic levels, while the provincial government believes the industry will grow because the world needs oil and gas for decades to come, Moe said.
The premier singled out Gibson Energy’s refinery in Moose Jaw, which committed in 2019 to expanding production by 30 per cent to 22,000 barrels of oil per day while pushing down GHG emissions per barrel by 25 per cent. It was also the first company in Saskatchewan to take advantage of a provincial oil and gas incentive program.
He also touted the development of rare earth elements in Saskatchewan, pointing out that a company is looking for helium near Moose Jaw.
“The products that we produce are in demand around the world, as the world seeks energy security and … food security,” he added.
The premier touched on the Throne Speech, which his government brought down on Oct. 26 and the Legislature passed on Nov. 2.
Due to higher resource revenues, the government plans to balance the budget “far ahead of schedule” and address affordability and inflation challenges, Moe said.
It plans to pay down $1 billion in debt, extend the small business tax rate to 2024 to help companies save $93 million, and — thanks to higher resource revenues — provide residents with $500 cheques.
A growing economy allows the government to invest in vital public services that provide communities with quality of life and essential services, he continued. As per the Throne Speech, the government plans to address surgical wait times by completing 97,000 surgeries this fiscal year using public and private methods.
“It’s never happened before. We’re on pace to achieve that target. We’re using every tool available to us … ,” the premier added.
More nurses, doctors and health-care professionals are needed, not just in Moose Jaw or Saskatchewan but across Canada, especially after the pandemic, Moe said.
The province plans to invest $60 million “in the most ambitious health human action plan in Canada” to recruit hundreds of more nurses, hire physicians and increase training seats.
A strong economy has also allowed the province to invest an extra $65 million in education to ensure there are enough teachers, educational assistants and support for decades, he continued. Meanwhile, contractors are building 15 schools across Saskatchewan, including one in Moose Jaw — although shovels have not yet broken ground.
Moe added that the Throne Speech also addresses infrastructure initiatives, highlighting Moose Jaw’s $110-million, 360-megawatt Great Plains Power Station as an example.