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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 15:39

Economy Minister in Swift Current to talk about new growth plan

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Bill Boyd talks to patrons of Swift Current Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis event. Bill Boyd talks to patrons of Swift Current Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis event.

The six components of the provincial government’s new growth plan were highlighted during a luncheon in Swift Current Oct. 19.

Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd spoke about the new “Saskatchewan Plan for Growth” at the event in a local restaurant, which was co-hosted by the Kiwanis Club and the Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce.
The official announcement of the new provincial spending plan by Premier Brad Wall took place only a few days earlier in Saskatoon.
The plan’s goal is to have 1.2 million people living in the province by 2020 and to deliver improved quality of life for Saskatchewan residents through ongoing economic growth.
“I think growth is a very good thing and a positive thing for our province,” Boyd said. “It comes with some challenges and that’s to be expected, but the alternative is stagnation or a retraction in terms of our economy here in Saskatchewan.”
He emphasized growth is not a goal in itself, but a way to increase the tax base. That in turn will make it possible for the government to provide services that will improve the standard of living in the province.
The first part of the new plan is to invest more money into infrastructure. There will be about $2.5 billion of capital spending on infrastructure over the next three years.
The government will also establish the new SaskBuilds Fund with an initial allocation of $150 million for infrastructure projects through partnerships with municipalities and the private sector.
The second component of the plan is to ensure that Saskatchewan’s economy is competitive, especially in the area of taxation.
“We have to keep pace with other provinces because everyone is trying to attract capital to their province and investment to their province,” he said.
The government will lower the business tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent by 2015. It will consider new, non-refundable tax credits to encourage capital investment in the province for manufacturing and processing.
“Capital is mobile and companies have choices,” he said. “They can locate in Saskatchewan; they can locate somewhere else.”
The third component of the growth plan is fiscal responsibility. Boyd said the plan’s foundation is built on balanced budgets and debt reduction.
“We will balance the budget each and every year going forward,” he emphasized. “I think that is critically important.”
An emphasis on education and training is the fourth component of the new plan. Boyd said the province faces a significant skilled labour shortage. A population increase to 1.2 million people will create a need for at least 60,000 more people in the workforce.
To grow the workforce will require more career planning and training programs, initiatives to reduce First Nations and Métis unemployment and changes to the provincial immigrant nominee program.
“We should be opening our arms to people from around the world to come to Saskatchewan,” Boyd said. “We want to make sure they have a job when they arrive here … so they don’t become a burden on the taxpayers of our province.”
The fifth part of the plan is to continue with investments in an innovation agenda that supports the province’s natural resource strengths — agriculture, fertilizer and oil and gas.
The sixth component of the growth plan is international engagement to promote exports.
“We are a trading province,” he said. “We grow products, we mine and we develop the oil and gas sector and then we sell them into the international market.”
Boyd also addressed the issue of royalties that are received from the exploitation of Saskatchewan’s resources. He cautioned that companies will invest elsewhere if the government raises royalty rates too high.
“We want to make sure that we have a rate that’s attractive enough to continue to see growth in the industry, but doesn’t have too high of a tax rate that we lose the industry,” he noted.
The government will create the Saskatchewan Heritage Initiative under the leadership of former University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon. He will develop and recommend options for the use of non-renewable resource revenue, but the government’s first priority is to pay off the provincial debt.
“We think we should pay off the debt first and then start putting money into essentially the saving account for the people of Saskatchewan for our children and our grandchildren going forward,” Boyd said.

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