Analysis by Richelle Peace
Saskatchewan’s economy has been booming since the late 90s and now it is steadily falling because of a number of reasons that Cam Broten, New Democrat Party leader is promising to change.
There are a number of factors to look at when considering an economy and whether it is doing well or not. Jason Childs, an economics professor at the University of Regina, compares the economy to a bowl of spaghetti. This analogy makes perfect sense because there’s a lot that is intertwined that needs to be unravelled to understand.
“Usually you’re looking at the inter play between GDP, employment, unemployment, incomes, inflation, a whole mess of stuff you need to be keeping track of,” said Childs.
The economic boom in Saskatchewan, according to the Globe and Mail, began around the mid- 90s thanks to the non-renewable natural resource sector – potash and oil. With it came new jobs. “The average employment income rose 60 per cent from 2000 – 2010, and this was the fastest growth rate of any province in Canada,” according to a Statistics Canada study.
But then things took a downward turn.
Morgan Weafer, a 21 year-old Regina resident was laid off from his oil rig job with Halliburton Canada in 2015. While he was working on the rigs he was conservative with the large income he earned. His one major purchase was a Jeep. Since he got laid off, he feels the job market in Saskatchewan is mediocre. Struggling for about a month, he finally landed a job with the Regina bypass project and is guaranteed at least 18 months with the company.
“It was difficult (finding work) because most places right now are looking for people with experience for senior positions, supervisors, journeymen, and people who have three or four years plus. There’s not a lot of entry-level positions just because the way the market is right now,” said Weafer.
He is unsure as to what his future looks like, but he thinks he could possibly stay on this project for up to five years. He would like a more permanent, long-term career.
In December 2016, Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate sat at 5.5 per cent. By February, the unemployment rate had grown to a low estimate of 5.9 per cent, according to Stats Can, and a high of 6.7 per cent according to the Government of Saskatchewan. The inconsistency in numbers raises some questions but, regardless, the economy is struggling with a lack of jobs in the province.
Although the provincial economy appears to be struggling, Childs doesn't think it’s in a state of crisis. However, with jobs disappearing the issue is becoming prominent to those who are new to the province as well. “It’s actually been frustrating because I think maybe because I’m new. I don’t have experience here,” said Ese Idu, an international student at the University of Regina. She travelled from Nigeria to study in Canada and is finding it difficult to seek employment in the province.
“I think they are looking for someone who has experience here before hiring that person. I have my own experience back home but here I don’t. I think that's one of the major challenges,” she said.
She’s unsure of her future in Saskatchewan, but with the exchange rate, asking for money from home does not sit well with her.
“(I) have to keep asking (my) parents and that’s not what I want to do right now. I at least want to fend for myself.”
Idu remains hopeful and thinks if she keeps looking for a job she will find one. In the meantime, she plans to do some volunteer work to spruce up her resume for this tight economy.
Currently, the NDP’s website is plastered with positive quotes and catchy slogans from Broten saying he will “put more money in the pockets of middle-class families, students, and seniors.”
Broten appeared at CBC Regina for an election debate against Brad Wall on March 23, where he continued to promise more job opportunities in Saskatchewan.
Broten’s opening statement was, “I believe we can do better in Saskatchewan. My plan will cut the Sask Party waste (and) put money in your pocket.”
The question is, where will he be finding this money and pulling these jobs from. Will they be long-term?
Brad Wall didn't offer much consolation, either, when he said, “Our economy has never been more diversified. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the country.”
Diversified or not, citizens like Weafer and Idu are struggling to get by and are looking for something more than a temporary fix.