On March 21st, 2012 The Saskatchewan Provincial budget cut funding to regional economic development; “Provincial funding for Enterprise Regions will be discontinued, saving $4.0 million, allowing economic development decisions to be made locally. Additionally, regional offices will be closed, saving $1.0 million this year and $2.0 million annually thereafter.”
The key word in the provincial government’s delivery of the budget cuts is to allow economic development decisions to be made “locally.” My next question would then be; where do the funds come from? Local municipal governments would be my assumption, but can communities and municipal governments carry the cost of infrastructure, job creation and economic development? More importantly will they? Where do their priorities lie? Who is responsible for their development policies when it comes to housing issues, municipal infrastructure, and economic development?
In March 22, 2011 The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) established the Resource and Economic Development Committee (R&EDC), quoted from SARM’s website “because of an emerging need to improve development practices as the province continues to grow. The committee was created to foster and enhance resource development in the province by providing rural municipalities (RMs) with the facts about development, delivering updates on emergent industry issues, conveying best practices to be applied when dealing with development, and by offering recommendations to the Province on regulations, legislations and resource based funding for municipalities.”
In a time when our province is experiencing such rapid growth, I believe Saskatchewan Communities and municipalities need to collaborate and partner on building capacity so that we may put policies in place and be prepared strategically to continue making the Saskatchewan Advantage sustainable. “The Saskatchewan Advantage” a nice term that earmarks our growth as of late, leads me to another question, where was that advantage before? Resources didn’t just appear or stop at the Albertan Border so it must be Saskatchewan’s strategy that failed to promote growth and encourage investment until now.
If funding from municipalities is an issue, maybe we should visit the idea of letting the private sector play a larger role. What if industry could step up and identify opportunities/gaps and contribute where they see potential for growth? I would like to see more private sector involvement but would need to have legislation and policies in place to determine the mutual benefit. Let’s pencil the private sector back into the economic development plans for Saskatchewan.
I realize this blog has raised more questions than answers but the main thought I want to leave you with is: shouldn’t economic development be a bigger priority, especially at this time of growth.
Here’s a little perspective: Regional Economic Development was costing the province the same as paving eight miles of highway. Seems like a small investment in our sustainable economic future…
Karra Hanson, Member Services Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association (SEDA)
SEDA is a multi-stakeholder organization in Saskatchewan, and focuses on bridging and brokering the multiple connections that exist within our public, private and non-profit sectors.