• It's Time for the Saskatchewan Growth Plan

    November 7, 2019

    It's Time for the Saskatchewan Growth Plan

    Next week, in Saskatoon, Premier Scott Moe will unveil the provincial government’s growth plan for the next decade. Looking out to 2030, the plan will build off the goals announced in the October 23rd Throne Speech:

    • 1.4 million people living in Saskatchewan by 2030; and
    • 100,000 more people working in the province by 2030.

    To achieve these targets, Saskatchewan will need to hit a much higher rate of growth than we are experiencing today. The ambition reflected in these goals is necessary and good.

    Unfortunately, today in Saskatchewan, the economy is hurting. This is primarily a result of a decline in private sector investment driven by shaken investor and consumer confidence.

    The banks in Saskatchewan all report that commercial deposits are up significantly. This is an indication that companies are holding on to their money, instead of investing it, even though it’s historically inexpensive to both borrow and build right now.

    As a facilitator of economic growth, the construction sector depends on consumer and investor confidence to drive growth. People need to feel more positive about the future of Saskatchewan in order to spend money building homes, recreation/municipal facilities, commercial spaces, and even industrial sites.

    Our industry, like other service industries, has a direct interest in supporting efforts that boost economic confidence. That’s why things like the provincial growth plan are so important. The growth plan is not just a plan, it is also a signal.

    When the province unveils a ten-year plan for growth of the economy, it acts as a catalyst for discussions and actions across the province. It gives everyone a focal point for a future that today seems too uncertain.

    One thing that the SCA will be doing, with other partners in the construction space, is developing an industry-specific strategy for growth. This strategy will build on the goals/objectives of the provincial plan. The hope is that the strategy will identify the things that the industry can do to position itself effectively to support a return to strong economic growth in Saskatchewan. This strategy will be developed over the next few months. We will be asking for your input, so stay tuned.

    The underlying realities of Saskatchewan’s economy (we have, and produce, what the world needs to fuel its growth), and the relatively low cost of borrowing and building, should be driving private investment across the province. The fact that it isn’t is particularly frustrating, but it is also mostly solvable.
    Low commodity prices don’t help at all. High pricing can cover systemic inefficiencies, excessive or costly regulations, transportation costs, lower productivity, and high input costs. At current market pricing, these higher costs can no longer be hidden. They require public sector action, at all levels of government, to address. A new provincial growth plan, which acknowledges the role of the government in addressing these concerns, is a great place to start.

    Our federal government does not seem particularly interested in Saskatchewan’s economic success. Making it more difficult to move our goods to market not only hurts Saskatchewan, but it hurts Canada as a whole. While a provincial growth plan can’t replace the damage done by the federal government, it can chart a path for success for Saskatchewan.

    When the growth plan comes out next week, we should all be happy to have it. It almost doesn’t even matter WHAT is in the plan, so much as that there IS a plan. A clear signal from the provincial government that Saskatchewan hasn’t stopped believing in itself will be an important catalyst to re-energizing private investment in our province. If the province is willing to invest in itself, the rest of us can do so too.

    Remember. No matter how it may feel, today really is a good day to invest and build in Saskatchewan. Tomorrow will be too, but why wait?

    Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

    President and CEO
    Saskatchewan Construction Association