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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mr Wall goes to Calgary

It was the first time in a long time that I enjoyed listening to a Saskatchewan politician speak last Thursday when Brad Wall hosted a young professionals' dinner in Calgary. I found him articulate, friendly, dilberate, and fresh. No disrespect to Elwin Hermanson, but it was quite the change from the party's previous leader, to be sure.

While he had the floor, he presented his new vision for the Saskatchewan Party: The Promise of Saskatchewan: It's Time to Keep It, the document in which Wall outlines his economic plan for the time when he becomes premier. It contains much of the usual Saskie euphemisms about the future: renewed entrepreneurial attitudes, removal of barriers to growth, promises of change, avoiding another SPUDCO, that sort of thing. To his credit, with his Enterprise Saskatchewan plan, Wall has gotten somewhat more specific than what was trotted out during the last provincial election .

In addition to the floridity, Wall also promises to develop an agency which "will replace the line department economic development function of government" and "will ensure industry groups, local governments, First Nations, post secondary institutions, labour and economic development bodies such as Agrivision and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce are part of the planning, implementation, governance and monitoring of Saskatchewan's economic development strategy."

Such lofty rhetoric usually disguises the creation of a committee-type agency which has the potential to do more harm than good. In this case, Wall is attempting to have the government "cede significant control over the formation and implementation of economic development strategies to a broad partnership of economic stakeholders with the full support of the Premier and Executive Council." To me, the "support" of the Premier and Executive Council sounds as if the "government" would still be highly involved in the decision-making process. And that's without adding more political stakeholders--local governments, First Nations--to an organization which would be attempting to eliminate governmental interference.

Then again, understanding the frightening intrusiveness of Saskatchewan legislators within the local economy, I admit that any ceding of control from the Premier's Office and Cabinet would be a good thing, no matter what the degree.

One other bone I have to pick would be the insistence to not sell Crown Corporations as "they will play a key role in the implementation of the Enterprise Saskatchewan plan." First of all, the electorate will not believe this. The last election saw the S.P. stutter and muster their way in denial of such an allegation, which might've been true with many members of the Party anyways. Perception is key and unavoidable. Secondly, there should be no reason to promise not to sell them if the Enterprise agency actually does find that one of them is adjudged "a barrier to growth". It's potentially setting up either a lie or a broken promise when all that is needed is an open and honest debate on the role of Crown Corporations.

One thing at a time, I suppose.

Otherwise, I do appreciate the rest of the document as the majority of the sixteen elements outlined give the right message. I especially enjoy the discription of "Promote Saskatchewan":

The promotion of our province is a key element of the Enterprise Saskatchewan plan. However, Saskatchewan will be promoted to Canada and around the world only after the product to be marketed--a competitive, investment friendly, enterprising, and entrepreneurial province--is refined and fully developed. (Emphasis their's.)
I'll do you one better; once the "product" is "refined and fully developed", the promotion will handle itself much more competently than possibly could be done by any government agency. Lower the taxes, increase the incentives, and the companies will find you more often than not. The plan should inherently promote itself. But I like what it's getting at.

It's not a recipe for an economic miracle, and Brad Wall's no messiah, but I'm glad to see someone is finally waking up to the idea that what's already been done hasn't worked. I'm also glad to hear the words "we want you back" without the sentimental patooey being thrown in the mix. If you want us back, give us something to come back to. And perhaps Wall will do just that.

Crossposted to BumfOnline

Posted by Rob Huck on September 28, 2004 | Permalink


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Legislatively, there is no difference between an agency and department in Saskatchewan, and all the performance plan documents to which departments and agencies are subject talk about all that inclusiveness already. Great-sounding rhetoric, to be sure...

Posted by: Jane | 2004-09-29 2:30:29 PM

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