Monday, November 12, 2007

New party, business as usual in Saskatchewan.

Here we go. The business media are already egging on Wall to get going on the work that Devine had started and to some extent Calvert and Romanow carried on. Open up whatever public enterprise is left so that there truly is no alternative. Lets catch up and surpass the US: privatise prisons, privatise health care, contract out everything and start up Blackwater North to be headquartered in Calgary with MA studies in private security at the U of Calgary.
Imagine, Wall is too left wing for the Financial Post apparently! Wall would cut off his left wing except it might not fly in Saskatchewan. Wall remembers Devine.
Anyone who calls Saskatchewan a socialist province has rocks in their head. In fact even the Fraser Institute admits that Saskatchewan has the third most favorable investment climate in Canada. The Calvert government kissed capitalist ass constantly as the royalty regime in Sask. shows. Maybe Silcoff can get appointed to Enterprise Saskatchewan.

Monday » November 12 » 2007

New party, business as usual in Saskatchewan
Voters turf NDP, but new party seems like old

Sean Silcoff
Financial Post

Friday, November 09, 2007

CREDIT: Dean Bicknell, CanWest News Service
Brad Wall's efforts to bring a different focus to Saskatchewan policy won him the election.

Elections are often won and lost on the economy. In Saskatchewan, they tend to do things a bit differently. This is a place where the natural governing party is socialist and daylight savings time isn't observed. And where one of Canada's hottest economies couldn't save the government from defeat.

On Wednesday, voters pitched out the NDP in favour of the 10-year-old Saskatchewan Party, led by the young, upbeat and charismatic Brad Wall. After 16 years of NDP rule, the voters chose change, giving Mr. Wall's party 52% of the vote and 37 of 58 seats. What kind of change? When it comes to the economy, not much.

Saskatchewan is blessed with natural resources and home to three successful multi-nationals (Potash, Cameco and Saskatchewan Wheat Pool). The public finances are solid and right-wing think-tank Fraser Institute this year deemed it to have the third-best investing climate among provinces. Recent changes left Saskatchewan with one of the most favourable corporate tax regimes in the country. For the first time in decades, people are moving to, not from, Saskatchewan on a net basis.

Saskatchewan is now a "have" province, enjoying a prolonged commodity boom. Could its economy use any help? Actually, yes. Unfortunately, what it needs most, the SaskParty promised not to deliver: wide-scale privatization.

Saskatchewan is Canada's most Crown corporation-infested province. The state owns the phone company, the power company, a natural gas distributor, auto insurer and a slew of others. The main victim is the economy. Compared with the private sector, Crowns over-employ, underinvest and have smaller asset bases. The gas distributor SaskEnergy spent $85,000 per worker on capital expenditures from 2002 to 2006, according to the Fraser -- 27% less than Terasen Gas and 61% less than Enbridge Gas. Similar comparisons haunt SaskTel.

Statistics Canada data show the long-term effects on the economy: Total net business investment per worker from 1976 to 2005 was $18,095, barely half the national average and last among provinces.

Sadly, nobody was open to a debate about privatization this election, even though two of Canada's most successful privatizations -- Potash and Cameco -- happened there. Instead, "privatization" was thrown around like a cussword by Premier Lorne Calvert in an attempt to accuse the Sask-Party as having a hidden agenda (if only). That worked in 2003, when then-leader Elwin Hermanson suggested he'd be open to offers for the province's Crown jewels. This time, Mr. Wall repeatedly said he was against privatization, and upbraided an MLA for musing it might be a good idea.

Instead, Mr. Wall proposed modest tax cuts and a suspicious-sounding public-private partnership to oversee economic development. He promised one pro-business change to the labour code, but Saskatchewan would still be one of North America's most union-friendly places.

Radical change wasn't on the agenda this election. That's too bad.

Saskatchewan likes to say it's part of the "New West" and Mr. Wall campaigned on a promise of "building pride." The province should build more than that: it could be one of Canada's power centres, particularly now that Alberta has raised royalty rates (Saskatchewan is also blessed with energy reserves).

With a booming economy at his back, Mr. Wall should spend some political capital and dare to aim high--even if it means breaking a campaign promise or two.

© National Post 2007

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