So, what happened to that “resource boom” that was driving the economic engines in western Canada to new heights? When I began my second life in Saskatchewan a little over eight years ago, the Land of Living Skies was on the brink of almost moving ahead of Alberta when it came to the riches that flow from oil and gas, uranium and coal, and especially potash.
The provincial Conservatives, with a few Liberals added in, had been re-named the Saskatchewan Party, and Brad Wall was in the right place at the right time as their leader. The sky seemed to be the limit, and many people who had left Rider Nation for better opportunities elsewhere, were coming home.
With the boom came many new problems. The cost of housing rose rapidly in Saskatchewan cities and it hasn’t leveled off yet. New and costly infrastructure and improvements to health care that were long overdue were suddenly being demanded.
But world prices, particularly for oil and potash, started to fall barely two years into Mr. Wall’s first mandate. Thanks to some ‘creative accounting’, Saskatchewan still does not have a deficit, but you wonder how long that can continue. There are predictions that oil could fall to $75 U.S. a barrel in 2015. If that happens, a lot of the drilling activity in the Bakken Play which Saskatchewan shares with North Dakota will probably shut down or go elsewhere.
A broader look at the provincial economy shows that job growth in the resource sector is not nearly as significant as the political leaders had hoped. Almost none of the people who run these big corporations live in Saskatchewan, and their interests in other parts of the world often win out when major choices have to be made.
All in all it makes us realize once more that predicting the future, whether it’s in politics, economics or football, is a total mug’s game.
I’m Roger Currie