Answering Saskatchewan government talking points #6: Resource sectors and the economy

In response to a 2016 letter from 250 citizens and 9 groups, premier Brad Wall failed to answer any of the ten questions which we asked him.  Instead he sent a letter consisting of what amounts to a list of his standard talking points on the subject.  We still want answers to our original questions – and as a public servant Mr Wall or his successor should provide them – but as an exercise in public education we are responding to his talking points here.

…. Regional economies in Canada vary widely so there is a need for policy flexibility within Canada to allow provinces and territories to find solutions which make sense in their jurisdictions.

Saskatchewan’s resource sectors – oil, gas, potash and uranium – have generated billions of dollars that help fund and improve our high quality of life.

 – Brad Wall

The trouble is, in ten years as premier, Mr Wall has made no serious effort to “find a solution which makes sense in his jurisdiction”.  His 2016 White Paper advocates the pipedream of selling to China an expensive and still underperforming technological approach for which the province doesn’t even have the patent (coal with carbon capture and storage).  It then proceeds to identifying a number of creative accounting options, to make Saskatchewan’s carbon footprint look smaller than it really is.  The only positive step – a repeat of a year-old SaskPower announcement – is the expansion of cost-effective renewable power on the grid.  Yet, even there, the rate of rollout is slower than that already achieved by a number of European and US jurisdictions, and there is still a commitment to new fossil capacity.

There is scope for reducing the energy intensity of all of the industries which Mr Wall mentions, and for transitioning their energy sources to renewables.  However, those are not the only things which Saskatchewan can do.  It would benefit jobs, provincial income and stability all round if a genuine effort was made to diversify the provincial economy.  The province’s current economic problems – including the ballooning deficit – can be easily traced back to overdependence on resource extraction.  A more balanced economy would enable the stability which we need.

At the time of writing, Mr Wall had had nine years in which to diversify the economy – and in which to find genuine climate solutions which make sense in Saskatchewan.  He has shirked his responsibilities.  His successor must do better.

For answers to more talking points click here.