Well, one can wish anyway.
Saskatchewan has always served us as a stark example of the failure of socialism. While Saskatchewan is rich in natural resources, they have spent decades mired with a stagnant local economy due to NDP governance and business mistrust. The nationalization of Saskatchewan’s potash industry by the NDP in the seventies frightened virtually all outside investment from the province.
When Devine came to power, things began to pick up a little as Devine wisely cut energy royalties and spurred some increased exploration in the province (the lost royalty revenues were more than made up with the increase of economic activity by the way). Unfortunately, Devine’s government was corrupt and they paved the way for over another decade of NDP rule in Saskatchewan.
Less than ten years ago, oil dropped into the $10 per barrel range. While activity slowed down to a degree in Alberta, we still weathered the low commodity prices in Alberta as Klein had demonstrated fiscal conservatism and a pro-business atmosphere in Alberta. Oil and gas companies were willing to remain in Alberta to weather the low prices as they were confident that when the low price cycle passed they would be able to continue profitably in Alberta.
Those low oil prices decimated local industry on the Saskatchewan side of Lloydminster however as the cost of operation in NDP land and the ever present fear of more tax gouging or further nationalization by the NDP made it senseless to invest in Saskatchewan.
While Alberta boomed, we saw a flood of young economic refugees pour into our province from their moribund economy. Despite increasing energy prices and a great deal of oil and gas to be developed in Saskatchewan, companies simply would not invest in the future of a socialist province.
Oh how the tides gave turned and it is astounding how quickly it happened. Two factors have led to the record growth in Saskatchewan’s economy. The election of Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party was the prime factor of course. Wall immediately declared Saskatchewan open for business and investors quickly entered what has always been an under-rated province as far as business goes.
The other factor that has helped lead to the lightening turnaround of Saskatchewan’s economy is that while Brad Wall was finding ways to bring business into Saskatchewan, Ed Stelmach was working hard to drive business from Alberta. The Alberta Royalty gouge encouraged energy companies to look outside of Alberta and the massive jump in land-sales in Saskatchewan and BC proved that.
Now that markets in general are falling as well as commodity prices, we are seeing billions in Alberta oil projects being shelved and cancelled daily. Profit margins are narrow in oil and gas. Increased royalties coupled with dropping oil prices has made many projects become unviable. The lack of trust in the business community that Stelmach fostered is keeping companies from being willing to weather the current storm.
With their tax and spend method of governance, the Stelmach PCs are now sweating as they see their royalty revenues plummet. Credit must be given for the conservative estimate of oil prices by Evans. Had she assumed $100 oil the PCs would likely already have been in deficit as it has been policy to pretty much spend money as quickly as it rolls in. All the same, the PCs had better re-examine idiotic notions such as expensive carbon capture schemes as they will clearly not be enjoying their past surpluses for some time to come.
Though oil is dropping along with the market, Saskatchewan is still humming happily along and will likely be leading the country in growth. Brad Wall just announced the largest single tax cut in Saskatchewan history. While there is still plenty of room for tax cuts in Saskatchewan, we can be assured that we will lose a great deal of the skilled labor that we poached from Saskatchewan in the past as they eagerly return home to a growing economy with a reduced tax burden.
Stelmach is throwing away the hard earned “Alberta advantage” with his listless and almost anti-business form of government. Brad Wall and Saskatchewan are happily reaping the benefits of this (and power to them).
Meanwhile, the PCs are debating backing loans for people with bad credit.
What will it take for a semblance of fiscal conservatism to return to the PCs? Alberta will weather the current economic storm far better if we embraced an attitude such as Wall’s. So far I see no sign of that though.