August 14, 2014
The First Quarter Financial Report released this week shows that Saskatchewan’s provincial budget surplus remains intact, even with a $150 million allowance for flood-related costs. The projected surplus is $75 million, up $3.5 million from budget, despite the flood allowance, largely due to a projected increase in total revenue of $169 million. While final costs of flooding are still being determined, the Province is setting aside $150 million for flood-related expenses.
The benefits of a growing economy mean we can assist Saskatchewan people and communities hurt by flooding and still project a $3.5 million increase in the 2014-15 surplus. Steady growth is about putting Saskatchewan in a strong position, even in years when we are hurt by extreme weather or by the uncertainties of the global economy.
So far in 2014, Saskatchewan continues to post the lowest unemployment rate among Canada’s provinces, the fastest growth in manufacturing sales and the second-fastest growth in employment, housing starts and retail sales.
Trade is key to the steady growth of our economy, something that is reflected in the most recent export figures from Statistics Canada. This data shows that our farmers, manufacturers and businesses were responsible for a record-breaking $3 billion in export sales in June. This 34% year-over-year jump included increased exports of farm, fishing and food products, consumer goods as well as oil, gas and energy exports. To all those involved, keep up the great work.
As far as international trade is concerned, I am pleased to see progress as the federal government works to finalize a free trade deal between Canada and the European Union (EU). This trade agreement will provide our agricultural producers with significant new access to the European Union. National estimates of increased activity for Canada’s ag sector, as a whole, total $1.3 billion. It is encouraging to know that agreements in CETA could result in as much as $2.5 billion in new investment, creating new jobs and opportunities in northern Saskatchewan.
Home to larger-than-life landscape, more than 80 million acres of forest, 100,000 lakes, river rapids, canyons and sand cliffs, there is always something to see and do in Saskatchewan – especially in the summer.
Wherever your travels take you, I recommend selecting a spot and casting a line as part of our second Free Fishing Weekend of the summer. Once again, August 23rd and 24th, we will have the opportunity to go fishing without having to buy a license. This is in response to extreme rainfall and flooding that prevented people from taking full advantage of the first Free Fishing Weekend in July.
Free Fishing Weekend does not occur in national parks, and anyone planning to take fish out of the province will still need to purchase a licence. All other fishing regulations still apply, including possession limits, reduced limits and closed areas on some lakes and rivers.
Over the summer I have had the opportunity to attend a number of community events, the majority of which wouldn’t be possible without the work of volunteers. In the coming weeks, I strongly encourage you to consider nominating someone, a local volunteer, for a Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal. Recipients should be someone who goes out of their way to make contributions that benefit our communities and our province. You have until October 18th to nominate a current or former long-term resident. This is a great way to thank someone for their contributions. You can learn more online at saskatchewan.ca/honoursawards.