Better job focus should be a priority

Murray Mandryk

It’s not exactly fair to say politicians have the wrong priorities.

Politicians’ priorities are generally focused on what the people need.

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However, they tend to be a combination of not only what the people need but also what happens to make politicians look their best as they attempt to deliver.

Take Premier Scott Moe’s dogged determination since becoming premier in January to stop the federal carbon tax and to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built.

These issues are important to Saskatchewan people … or rather, they are issues that have a direct or indirect impact on more critical Saskatchewan issues like the economy and jobs.

If we are forced to levy a carbon tax, it could mean less mining and oil activities and, thus, less jobs. Similarly, the pipeline — even though it would run from the Alberta oilsands to the B.C. coast — would offer better markets for Saskatchewan oil, thus better prices.

And less oil tanker cars on rail lines is good news for Saskatchewan farmers, who constantly struggle to get their wheat, canola and pulse crops to market.

Finally, Moe will likely score political points for taking on the federal Liberal Trudeau government even if the Sask. Party leader falls short of his campaign.

But as important as the pipeline and stopping the carbon tax may be to Moe, he needs a more direct strategy to encourage job creation in Saskatchewan.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean government hiring more public servants for the sake of hiring at the consequence of more deficit budgets and more debt. (That said, with the billions of public dollars now being poured into capital works projects like the Regina by-pass — a project whose expense should also be questioned — it’s not as if our tax dollars aren’t already contributing to employment in the construction sector.)

What it should be all about, however, is finding the means to encourage jobs in other ways and that means looking beyond the pipeline and carbon tax issues.

Doing what one can to help address problems in the resource economy may be one aspect of addressing the jobs problem, but the problem needs to be addressed on several fronts.

However, the first step is convincing Moe and his government that the job situation is a serious problem.

The recent August job numbers show a modest 1,200-jobs increase in Saskatchewan compared with a year ago in August 2017. In Alberta, jobs in July had increased by 33,000 from a year earlier.

This means practically job stagnation in Saskatchewan and the fact of the matter is that it’s been like this for more than two years.

Moreover, unemployment in Saskatchewan — an issue that hasn’t traditionally been a problem in the past when we were losing jobs — is now at 7.4 per cent. And that rate would likely be higher were it not for the age-old trend of Saskatchewan people streaming to Alberta to find work.

Yet the Sask. Party government is sending out social media messages and news releases suggesting that we aren’t doing all that badly in Saskatchewan.

We can’t address the job creation problem in Saskatchewan if we don’t admit the problem, to some extent, is a real one.

In fairness to Moe, and virtually every premier this province has had, there is a limited amount he can do to change the realities of this resource-based economy.

Again, it can be argued that taking on the carbon tax and the pipeline is doing something.

But we need to at least try to do more.

Moe could and should be more focused on developing a direct strategy that will encourage hiring or business creation.

Directly speaking, we have a job problem in Saskatchewan.

 

© Copyright 2018 Battlefords News Optimist

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