A plan by the Saskatchewan Government to add $2 billion to the $5.5 billion capital spending in the March budget is good news for the province.
The economic booster shot, as Premier Scott Moe called it, will restore investor confidence in the province and develop much needed infrastructure. Who knows the province might even fix the still unresolved highways mess left by the Devine Conservative government in the 1980s.
Most importantly the spending will create 10,000 jobs, restoring some of the jobs lost from the pandemic lockdown. Saskatchewan had already lost 13,000 construction jobs since 2016, so this will help.
Large infrastructure will take the lion’s share, $1.37 billion of the new spending with $110 million for education and $103 million for health care while highways gets $300 million.
Municipal airports and roadways get $40 million.
The money will add to the province’s debt, causing future generations to help pay for the infrastructure they are using — a fair enough exchange.
The announcement does raise the question of when the Legislature will meet to debate and approve this spending and the March budget — a budget that did not include revenue estimates.
The people of Saskatchewan have been patient as the pandemic unfolded and most everyone co-operated in the lockdown.
Time has come for a recall of the Legislature with a debate to hold the government accountable. We do not live in a dictatorship and need to prove that.
Other provinces are recalling their Legislatures even with the pandemic difficulties.
A new legislative session would allow the opportunity to discuss other beneficial capital projects.
One immensely beneficial to this region is the Qu’Appelle Conveyance/Irrigation project.
Tagged at $3 billion in today’s money, the 10-year-old plan would build an open channel from Lake Diefenbaker down to Buffalo Pound Lake. The increased water would supply consumers and industry in Southern Saskatchewan for the next 50 years.
The conveyance channel part of the project would take two years to build.
A parallel irrigation project would place 110,000 acres from Marquis to Tugaske under irrigation over five years.
The two projects would create 425,000 person years of jobs. (Note: a person year is one person working for one year.) Over a 30-year period they would create $130 billion income, with $36 billion in taxes to the three levels of government.
That’s a healthy return of 12 times the original investment by governments on the project.
The project will take agreement by the federal and provincial governments. The feds have been keen on starting this project for two years now. The province has been stalling in the remote hope of finding a private investment partner (read China).
Now is the time to start this history making project to create jobs and production for the next 100 years.
For those concerned about the debt: we need the tax revenue and we might as well get major permanent benefits for this region from all that debt.
Ron Walter can be reached at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.