Released on October 16, 2012
1.2 Million People By 2020 Is the Goal - Better Quality of Life Is the Reason
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall today released the "Saskatchewan Plan for Growth", setting a goal of 1.2 million people living in Saskatchewan by 2020, outlining his government's roadmap for getting there, and emphasizing that improved quality of life in Saskatchewan is the purpose of growth.
"Over the past five years, Saskatchewan people have seen the benefits of a growing province - more jobs, more opportunities and more revenue to deal with the challenges of growth," Wall said. "Those benefits are why we seek growth - so we can improve our health system and shorten surgical wait times, so we can do more for the most vulnerable people in our province, so we can balance the budget and pay down debt, so we can have more career opportunities for our young people. That's why growth is important and why we want it to continue."
Wall said the six core activities the government can undertake to foster continued growth are:
- Investing in infrastructure;
- Developing a skilled workforce;
- Ensuring competitiveness;
- Increasing export trade;
- Advancing the province's natural resource strengths through innovation; and
- Maintaining sound fiscal management.
Wall said the government will invest at least $2.5 billion in infrastructure over the next three provincial budgets and also announced an immediate infrastructure commitment of $150 million from the province's Growth and Financial Security Fund.
"This is on top of the $50 million announced earlier this month for a number of priority highway projects," Wall said. "This further $150 million will be used to establish the new SaskBuilds Fund and will leverage hundreds of millions of dollars more through financing innovation like public-private partnerships."
SaskBuilds is a new government organization designed to drive innovation in infrastructure financing, design and delivery.
"This new funding will be used to develop partnerships with other levels of government and the private sector," Wall said. "Our government will work with Saskatchewan municipalities to develop a municipal infrastructure program funded through SaskBuilds. When used as a base for P3s, this initial $150 million will leverage hundreds of millions more for SaskBuilds infrastructure projects".
Wall said the $150 million commitment to SaskBuilds will leave just over $500 million in the Growth and Financial Security Fund (GFSF) to manage any unforeseen events that affect the province's finances.
"The foundation of our growth plan will continue to be sound financial management, balanced budgets and debt reduction," Wall said. "Our government will work to maintain a target amount of $500 million in the GFSF, with any excess amount used to invest in infrastructure and reduce debt."
The Saskatchewan Plan for Growth sets a goal of reducing the debt by another $400 million by 2017, which means the debt will have been cut in half - from $6.8 billion to $3.4 billion - in the 10 years since the current government took office in 2007.
Wall also announced the Saskatchewan Heritage Initiative, to be headed by former University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon. MacKinnon will identify options and provide advice on how to best utilize Saskatchewan's non-renewable resource revenue once the province's debt has been retired.
"The most lasting legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren is a debt-free province," Wall said. "Once that is achieved, we need to look ahead to ensure that our resource revenues continue to benefit future generations. I can't think of a better person than Peter MacKinnon to assist us with this task."
Wall said Saskatchewan's business tax structure must be competitive with neighbouring provinces in order to sustain economic growth.
"Our government delivered significant reductions in personal income tax, education property tax and the small business tax in our first term," Wall said. "The Saskatchewan Plan for Growth will see the corporate business tax rate lowered to 10 per cent - the same rate levied in British Columbia and Alberta - by 2015."
Wall said Saskatchewan must also ensure it has a well-trained workforce to meet labour demands now and in the future.
"If we are going to grow to 1.2 million people by 2020, that means at least 60,000 more people working in Saskatchewan by then," Wall said.
"These workers will need to come from a number of places," Wall said. "We will work to encourage more career planning and development initiatives in high schools. We will increase training seats at SIAST for trades like carpenters, electricians and welders, occupations where we have shortages. We will work with First Nations and Métis organizations to improve educational outcomes and increase employment. We will work with the federal government to increase the annual cap on the immigrant nominee program by 50 per cent from 4,000 to 6,000. And we will continue to assist private sector employers in their efforts to recruit the skilled workers they need from other provinces and other countries."
Wall said his government will continue to work with Saskatchewan businesses to aggressively pursue its strategy of international engagement and increase Saskatchewan exports.
"Much of our growth is being driven by a tremendous increase in our export markets around the world," Wall said. "Saskatchewan has what the world needs and our goal is to double export sales by 2020."
Wall said the goal of The Saskatchewan Plan for Growth is to ensure that a growing province and a growing economy improves the quality of life for everyone in Saskatchewan.
"I think Saskatchewan people appreciate growth because we have seen the benefits of growth, and we have also seen the alternative," Wall said. "Growth is more than just a path to economic progress. It is the path to building the kind of province we desire for all Saskatchewan people.
"Our plan will keep our province growing, improve our quality of life and continue to make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada."
For further information on the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth please visit www.saskplanforgrowth.com.
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