Challenges ahead to sustain Saskatchewan’s rate of economic growth

Watch above: a new report suggests in order to sustain Saskatchewan economic growth, it needs to rely less on commodities

SASKATOON – Experts and mining leaders are weighing in on a new report that suggests Saskatchewan cannot sustain its current rate of economic growth.

According to a new study released Wednesday, while it’s a good time to be living in Saskatchewan, we may be relying too heavily on high commodity prices.

“For opportunity to continue you can’t rest on your laurels and what worked 10 years maybe doesn’t work the same way anymore,” said Doug McNair, with Certified Management Consultants of Saskatchewan.

The report by The Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Saskatchewan says the province’s rapid growth has been strongly influenced by the global commodity supercycle.

The challenge now is to move beyond a sole reliance on commodities to more “value-added” opportunities in order to sustain growth.

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A great example of this, said McNair, is at Innovation Place in Saskatoon where there’s value-added processing of our food products.

“Instead of shipping out raw materials, if we can find ways to kinda add value then the jobs are going to be here, the investments going to be here and prosperity is going to be here.”

Unfortunately, the report says there is no way to predict how long our current commodity supercycle will last. Stating it could last as long as 20 years.

But the benefits for Saskatchewan are only for a portion of that time and the sooner changes are made to sustain growth the better, as the province will suffer less from a downturn in global demand for commodities.

“The less dependent we are on just the primary resources the better off we’re going to be.”

The report also cites that our province’s more recent population growth has tended to be parallel to rising prices of potash and oil.

READ MORE: Population in Saskatchewan reaches record level

The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce says it doesn’t accept that Saskatchewan’s future growth is an “either/or” situation but the economy needs to rely on both a resource-based economy and value-added production.

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“The one certainty that you have 20 to 50 years from now is that people will still want to light their homes and feed their families so we’re in an enviable position of having core-competencies in these areas and it would be a mistake to avoid those,” said Kent Smith-Windsor with the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, 900 delegates have gathered for the two-day sixth annual Saskatchewan Mining Supply Chain Forum at TCU Place where industry leaders weighed in on the report.

“I think the strength of Saskatchewan is the diversity of resources and to move away from that is a huge mistake you want to build on your natural assets and obviously a strong resource economy is a thing you can build on,” said Pam Schwann, executive director for the Saskatchewan Mining Association.

“You can definitely value-add as the report indicated but to think that you can shift what you can depend on for reliable income is really I don’t think is a very smart move.”