The Hon. Lorne Calvert
Premier, Province of Saskatchewan
MY CANADA-TODAY AND TOMORROW
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
Head Table Guests
Robin Sears, Principal, Navigator and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Dean Petrovic, Grade 12 Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute; Reverend Michael Clarke, Christ Church, Brampton; Gabriella Martinelli, President, Capri Films; Peter Farmer, President and CEO, Denison Mines; Keith Brown, CEO, Trailtech and Chairman of the Board, S.T.E.P. (Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership); Bob Armstrong, President and CEO, IE Canada; William White, President, IBK Capital Corp and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Morley Salmon, Chairman of the Board, Limited Market Dealers Association of Canada; Ian Delaney, Chairman, Sherritt International Corporation; William Biggar, Managing Director, Richardson Capital Limited; and Robert Watson, CEO, SaskTel.
Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the address of the ninth premier in the Empire Club's very special Premiers Speakers Series that continues throughout the season. And if you are keeping as careful a count as I am, that means we expect to see four more premiers address us in the months ahead.
As you know, we have invited all the First Ministers to come and talk to us about their Canada--today and tomorrow. To articulate what they see as the major challenges and opportunities for our country in the next decade.
Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming the Honourable Lorne Calvert, Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan.
Or, as some of his close colleagues fondly addressed him after the last election when his NDP government earned a 30-28 majority, welcome Landslide Lorne.
Those close to Premier Calvert wax eloquent about his great skill at making people comfortable, of reaching out to the people of Saskatchewan with a gentle passion. In fact, Premier Calvert's bus tours are legend and a great example of a leader wanting to constantly connect.
But then, perhaps that shouldn't be any great surprise. Our man from Moose Jaw first studied economics at the University of Regina, only to make what one can consider a radical shift--to study theology at the University of Saskatchewan.
Premier Calvert was ordained in the United Church in 1976, and for the next decade served congregations in a number of communities in Saskatchewan I tried but failed to find on my map of Canada.
He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1986 and re-elected four times since. And along the way, Premier Calvert for a while was Minister Calvert in the Romanow government.
Those close to Premier Calvert say that his proudest political achievements include his work on health-care reform, and his Building Independence program.
The latter is based on the belief that work is, in fact, the best way out of poverty. And the numbers speak ever so impressively for themselves: in the past seven years, there has been a huge 41-per-cent drop in the number of Saskatchewan families receiving social assistance.
I believe Premier Calvert also must feel pride in knowing that his province is now a "have" province.
And finally, just consider that in 1993, Saskatchewan's provincial debt-to-GDP ratio was an intimidating 69 per cent and now that number is hovering at around 28 per cent. That's a drop of some 40 per cent in what has been a decade of change in Saskatchewan.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to our podium the Premier of Saskatchewan, the Honourable Lorne Calvert.
Thank you Bart for that kind introduction.
It cannot be frequent in the Empire Club's long history that you meet on New Year's Day. Today is an exception to that. On this first day of the Chinese Year of the Rooster, I want to begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
I read in my own horoscope for the year of the rooster that "this is a good year to move ahead financially and to experience some good luck or have money fall into your lap." I take this to mean that I should look forward to the next round of equalization discussions.
Whatever the day, it is a great honour to speak to the Empire Club--to stand at the podium that has been occupied by so many illustrious figures in the past: Sir Winston Churchill, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Danny Williams. These are tough acts to follow.
In reference to my friend and colleague, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is of some historic note that in two successive weeks, the Empire Club of Canada has welcomed both the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Premier of Saskatchewan.
In two successive weeks, the Empire Club has hosted leaders of the two provinces that not so long ago were often viewed as the stereotypical representatives of the hinterlands of Canada; as the stereotypical examples of the economically challenged.
That Newfoundland and Saskatchewan should appear at the Empire Club, both filled with optimism for the future, both with a new momentum and both poised to show economic leadership in the nation speaks volumes to the change that is happening in our country.
And it speaks to the central thesis that underlies my remarks: in Canada's 21st century, the strength of our great nation, as never before, will be based on the strength of all of our regions.
Simply put, a strong Saskatchewan contributes to a strong Canada. A strong Newfoundland and Labrador will contribute to a strong Canada. Strength in all of our regions will be the strength of Canada in the 21st century.
My goal today is first to offer you a snapshot of the Saskatchewan that has emerged in the past decade or so--a changed Saskatchewan, a Saskatchewan with strength that sometimes surprises even those of us who live there and a Saskatchewan ready to lend strength to the nation.
Then I will describe for you three specific areas of future strength that my province will bring to the federation.
Now I am aware that Premier Williams, a week ago, shared a little of his own journey into public life--from the world of communications and business into the realm of politics and public life.
My own journey to this podium was somewhat different. I come to politics and public life from the pulpit. There is a certain tradition of this in Saskatchewan; our current Minister of Agriculture is also a cleric. And back in the 1940s we elected a little Baptist preacher named Douglas, who now is described, by CBC viewers at least, as the "Greatest Canadian."
Tommy Douglas used to say, "I was a printer and then I became a preacher. Then I became a politician and then I became a premier. And that is the true descent of man."
Whenever I am asked, and I frequently am, "Why would you give up the pulpit for politics?" I respond with a little Wizard of Id comic in which the question was put to a preacher turned politician. When asked, "Why would you give up the pulpit for politics?" he simply answered, "When you have given your life to the fighting of sin, you might as well go where the action is!"
While Danny Williams and I may not share common pathways to this podium, we do share a common reality in the provinces we govern. In the early nineties both of our provinces were seen as the economic and fiscal basket cases of Canada. Today, I would argue, the world has changed dramatically for both of our provinces and both are poised for economic leadership in the federation.
A Changed Saskatchewan
Let me give you a snapshot of a changed Saskatchewan.
From near bankruptcy in the early nineties, we have put our fiscal house in order. Through rigorous financial discipline, we were the first province in the 1990s to balance our books. We have maintained balanced budgets, and we've had 11 straight credit-rating upgrades. This year, for the first time in 20 years, Saskatchewan has earned a "double A" rating from both major American credit-rating agencies.
Private-sector investment today is more than a billion dollars higher than it was a decade ago.
Statistics Canada says we were third nationwide in per-capita GDP growth from 1992 to 2003, despite drought years in 2001 and 2002.
We were at or near the top last year in economic growth, according to independent analysts and expected to be near the top according to the forecasts for 2005.
We have set a new record for the number of people working in 2004 and just last Friday, we saw statistics that showed a record number of people working in the month of January, an increase of more than 10,000 jobs from January 2004.
Our economy has seen significant changes. At the recent summit I hosted in Saskatoon, the 400 participants were surprised to learn that primary production in agriculture now represents only 7 per cent of our GDP, whereas at one time primary agricultural production represented virtually half of our GDP.
Now it is not that the role and value of agriculture has dramatically fallen. We still are the stewards of nearly half the arable land in Canada. We still grow the world's best wheat, oats and barley.
We've diversified in agriculture. We've moved significantly into intensive livestock production. We have diversified crops to meet niche markets in the world.
We are now one of the world's largest suppliers of lentils for the Asian markets. We grow berries for the European markets. And every drop of mustard on a Yankee Stadium hotdog now comes from Saskatchewan.
We've suffered from drought, unfair international subsidy, and borders closed to our livestock in recent years, but the role of agriculture has not dramatically changed. What has changed is that our economy has grown and expanded alongside agriculture.
Today the largest contributor to our GDP growth is oil and gas, much of today's activity spurred by royalty and taxation changes we made two years ago.
With the expansion in our uranium mining, we now produce more than 30 per cent of the world's uranium supply.
We dominate the world in high-quality potash production and the potash industry today is again poised for expansion.
The Saskatchewan forest, which covers more of our province than prairie, is now home to the world's largest oriented strand board manufacturing facilities.
And you may be surprised to know that buried beneath Saskatchewan soil, just an hour from Prince Albert at Fort a la Corne, is the world's largest known, diamond-bearing kimberlite field.
The companies exploring the field, Kensington, DeBeers, Cameco and Shore Gold, estimate that we are looking at 10 billion tonnes of kimberlite, of which 70 per cent are diamond-bearing. We have the potential of 100 million carats in the ground.
In new-age energy, we are building our capacity of wind generation, pioneering in bio-mass, co-generation and clean coal (of which we have hundreds of years of supply).
With Husky Oil, we are building the world's largest wheat-based ethanol plant to supply the Saskatchewan and international market.
We've just unveiled the world's first pick-up truck with a hybrid hydrogen/gasoline internal combustion engine.
Our energy and resource sectors have taken off.
So too have niche manufacturing and processing. So too have the hospitality and tourism industries. So too have financial services. So too have science, innovation and research (and I want to say a little more about this in a moment).
And so too, has a most unlikely candidate to drive the Saskatchewan economy--film and video production.
In 1954, a Hollywood western called "Saskatchewan" hit the big screen. If you've seen the movie, you will never forget the majestic beauty of our snow-capped mountains that appeared in every other scene.
Well our "mountain removal project" is now complete and just a few weeks ago, filming in Saskatchewan ended on a multimillion dollar production called "Tideland" directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame.
CTV's hit sitcom, "Brent Butt's Corner Gas," is filmed entirely at the Regina Sound Stage and on location in a little Saskatchewan town called Rouleau.
Projects like these have the Globe and Mail calling Saskatchewan the new Hollywood North.
My point here is that Saskatchewan today is on all fronts, much changed from where we were just a decade ago.
Our economy is stronger than it has been for decades.
Our population exodus has turned around.
Our export trade has grown phenomenally.
And for the first time in decades, Saskatchewan is again a "have" province, joining Ontario and Alberta as a non-recipient of equalization. There is a new strength in Saskatchewan today--a strength we bring to the nation.
There is a momentum in Saskatchewan that we have not known for a long time. It is a changed province. And we have declared to the nation that "Our Future Is Wide Open."
Building on the Momentum
Now it is the determined intention of this premier, the government I lead and the people of Saskatchewan, that we will maintain and build on this momentum; that we will take this new strength and see it grow for the sake of our citizens, and for the sake of the nation.
Today, I want to quickly identify three areas of strength upon which we will build in Saskatchewan.
The first area is that of science, research and innovation.
Affiliated with our universities, Saskatchewan's research parks and Saskatchewan's Research Council are equal to any in the nation. We have built significant research capacity and commercialization expertise in agricultural bio-technology, petroleum research, medical and pharmaceutical research, software development, and green house gas research.
At the University of Saskatchewan, we have commissioned Canada's Light Source Synchrotron, the largest scientific project in Canada in decades. It is our nation's only synchrotron and one of a very limited number globally, of its generation. The research potential of this instrument is limited only by the imagination.
It has already attracted scientific expertise from across the globe.
It has already probed the molecular structure of drugs and cancer cells.
It has already demonstrated its ability to probe the diamond and even improve the taste of chocolate.
It has already given Saskatoon the reason to declare itself "Canada's Science City."
What is unique about the Synchrotron, is the partnership that has brought it into being, in Saskatchewan.
This Synchrotron has more private-sector support, more privately owned and dedicated beam lines than any other in the world; and it has enjoyed a unique partnership of public-sector players--the University of Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada, and the governments of not one but three provinces: Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Synchrotron research parks will anchor Saskatchewan in research and will benefit and serve Canada's research and innovation capacity throughout this century.
Saskatchewan has a history of innovation in science and technology. Saskatchewan is proud to be a telecommunications leader. Without exaggeration Saskatchewan is one of the most connected jurisdictions in the world.
Through our publicly owned telecommunications company, SaskTel, 86 per cent of our population will have access to high-speed Internet within the next three years--an unprecedented accomplishment worldwide.
However, much of our future success will hinge on state-of-the-art telecommunications services and applications over that network to meet our unique geographic and demographic realities.
Today we have an immediate challenge facing our province. We need national telecom rules and policies that support and recognize our provincial endeavours.
To offer one example, the competitive field of voice over Internet Protocol services, is getting very crowded with strong national and international players from a variety of industries. That is a good thing.
Yet the preliminary rules governing this emerging service are that voice-over IP services offered by SaskTel in Saskatchewan will be regulated, while those of SaskTel's competition will not. What is needed clearly is one set of rules for everyone--a level playing field. And we are determined to achieve just that.
The agenda of innovation in Saskatchewan began with buffalo jumps, with farm implements built in the barn, with pioneering varieties of rust-resistant wheat, to the delivery of public health care, to cobalt cancer treatment to fibre optics, to upgrading and enhanced oil recovery, to the invention of the A.T.M. (Automated Teller Machine) and the Girl Guide cookie.
In science, research and innovation and telecommunication, the agenda of innovation today is driving our economy. It is one of our great potentials with the potential to serve the nation.
The second area that I want to identify today, in which I believe Saskatchewan has the opportunity to both maintain our momentum and contribute to the strength of Canada is in energy--specifically oil and gas.
Last week I spent a day in Calgary meeting with the industry and I can report to you that there is significant optimism among the industry players for the future of oil and gas development in Saskatchewan.
We have recently developed in the Shackleton field in southwest Saskatchewan, one of the largest natural gas finds in Canada in decades. We are today the third-largest producer of natural gas in Canada.
The industry also reports that the huge potential for unconventional natural gas development in the province remains largely untapped.
In oil, the potential is even greater. More than 30 years ago, conventional wisdom was that Saskatchewan had roughly a 10-year supply of crude oil remaining. We have proved otherwise. Today we estimate that there are 35 billion barrels of oil in the ground in Saskatchewan.
However, our challenge, not unlike the challenge faced by the Atlantic provinces with off-shore oil, is that only about 15 per cent of the resource is recoverable using conventional means.
With our vast heavy oil resource, the recovery rate is in the 5-10 per cent range. That means that today we are leaving 85-95 per cent of the oil in the ground. How do we get at it? By continuing innovation and government policy that encourages the application of new technology for enhanced oil recovery.
Saskatchewan was a leader--indeed, well out in front of Alberta--in encouraging horizontal well drilling in the nineties, a huge factor in the doubling of oil production in Saskatchewan between 1991 and 2001.
Industry is now building new technologies to recover more oil and extend the life of our fields. A lot of that groundbreaking research is happening at the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (P.T.R.C.) in Regina. Much of that research is around enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide injection.
The P.T.R.C. is the manager of one of the world's largest climate change research projects taking place in an oil field operated by EnCana Corporation near Weyburn in southeastern Saskatchewan.
Carbon dioxide is injected to increase the flow and production of oil and gets trapped in the process. Over the past four years, this project alone has resulted in five million tonnes of CO2 being stored underground.
That amount of carbon dioxide storage is the equivalent of taking anywhere from one million to 3.2 million cars a year off the road. It is obviously a big win for the environment. But it's also a big win for the industry, because the process has extended the life of this 50-year-old field by another 25 years. And it's a win for the province and a win for the nation.
There is today an exciting convergence of events--our national desire to arrest climate change and the approaching implementation date of the Kyoto Accord; and new technology that allows us to use the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be entering the atmosphere and the opportunity to extract vast reserves of light and heavy oil that have until now been virtually impossible to get at.
The enhanced recovery of Saskatchewan's oil and gas resources will be one of the nation's next tar sands scale projects in energy and a major contributor to meeting our Kyoto responsibilities.
Therefore in the near future, I hope to announce policy initiatives that will foster greater investment in enhanced oil recovery. And I will be looking to the federal government for partnership in achieving these goals.
This is why the current debate over equalization is crucial to Saskatchewan, our future, and our future contribution to the strength of the nation.
We have welcomed the Atlantic Accord. It is obviously good news for Newfoundland and Labrador and good news for Nova Scotia as they develop the challenging offshore resources.
We expect the accord will mean similar good news for Saskatchewan.
The Atlantic Accord is a major step forward in recognition by the federal government of the special nature of non-renewable resources.
Saskatchewan in the past has benefited from equalization and we remain a firm believer in the principles at the heart of equalization.
The present problems with equalization are not ones of principle, but rather the unintended consequences that arise from the current program, chief among these being the discouragement of natural resource development.
This has been the case in Saskatchewan where we have documentation, supported by the work of Dr. Thomas Courchene, a tax-back of our resource revenues at rates exceeding 100 per cent, making resource development very expensive for the people of Saskatchewan.
That past inequity-tax-back rates exceeding 100 per cent-was corrected last year and I commend Finance Minister Ralph Goodale and the federal government for doing so.
Now it is time to correct the future. Saskatchewan expects the federal government to step up and exempt Saskatchewan resource revenues as it does now in Atlantic Canada, and then begin a fair and impartial review of the equalization program.
We support the foundation of an independent panel to examine the overall approach to equalization.
We believe an excellent opportunity exists to achieve an equalization program that is adequate, responsive and fair to all Canadians and we look forward to the work being undertaken.
But again, before that good work begins, the federal government must meet its obligation to level the playing field when it comes to energy resources of my province.
We are a "have" province. We intend to keep it that way. Exemption of Saskatchewan's resource revenues will ensure that never again will Saskatchewan draw from the nation's pool of equalization.
The one other area of our future and Saskatchewan's future role in Canada that I want to touch on has to do with the youth of our province, with a particular reference to our young, Aboriginal population.
For decades, my province has watched the export of our youth. In fact they have been one of our greatest contributions to Canada.
In Calgary the other day, someone asked me, "What do you call a young person off the farm in Saskatchewan, now at work in the oil industry in Alberta?" You call them "boss."
Today every province in Canada and every jurisdiction in North America face a common demographic challenge. No one in this room needs to be enlightened as to our nation's aging work force and imminent wave of retiring baby boomers.
But it may surprise many to learn that Saskatchewan has more teenagers per capita than any other province in Canada. We are among the youngest jurisdictions in the country. That is true because of our First Nations and Metis young people coming of age. This may well be at once my province's greatest future advantage and our greatest challenge.
I am proud of the work that is going on in my province. There has been a tremendous growth in First Nation and Metis economic development in a large variety of economic sectors offering new opportunities on and off the reserve.
I am in the process of visiting every First Nation in our province, some 74 of them, and I see great things. I see K-12 schools offering state-of-the-art, quality education to the children and children staying in school and graduating. I see schools that involve family and community in education. I see tradition and treaty taught in our public schools.
We have built the Saskatchewan Institute of Indian Technology alongside our regional colleges and Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology.
I am proud of the fact that percentage enrolment of Aboriginal youth in our trade and technical education programs now exceeds their percentage of the population.
I am proud of the growing enrolments of Aboriginal youth in our universities, in all colleges and perhaps proudest of all of the First Nations University of Canada, in Regina--Canada's first fully accredited First Nations university.
But for all the distance we have come, we have a long path ahead if we are going to ensure the fullest of opportunities for our greatest resource--be they non-Aboriginal or Aboriginal youth.
Too many are trapped in poverty, too many fight substance addiction, too many lack good health and housing, too many are seeing their gifts, their talents, their hopes unfulfilled and unrealized and too many are yet made to feel unwelcome in our economy, in our neighbourhoods and communities.
A half century ago, a few Saskatchewan folks had a dream of building access and equity into the delivery of health care so that all of our citizens could enjoy equal access to medical care and good health.
In this century, my dream is that no young person in my province or in my nation should be denied access to the opportunities that this land affords.
It may well be that Saskatchewan, this new and vibrant province that is emerging in the West, has the greatest opportunity to find the way to make this dream a reality.
A great Chief of the Plains Cree, Chief Poundmaker, once said to his people at a turning point in their history, "It would be so much easier to just fold our hands and not make this fight--to say I, as one man, can do nothing. I grow afraid only when I see people thinking and acting like this. We all know the story of the man who sat beside the trail too long. It grew over and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened, but we cannot go back nor can we just sit beside the trail."
Whether it be in science and innovation, whether it be in the development of our energy resources, whether it be in achieving justice and equality of opportunity for our young, we in Saskatchewan are not about to fold our hands and say there is nothing we can do nor are we willing to just sit beside the trail.
Friends, I believe that my province today, like never before, has the opportunity to offer much strength to Canada's future.
We are a province of persistence and determination.
We are a people of innovation.
We will offer to the nation our persistence, determination and innovation.
We are at once a people deeply independent and yet deeply co-operative.
We rejoice in the gifts of the individual, but believe in the power of community.
We are fiercely prairie, fiercely Saskatchewan and we are fiercely Canadian.
We are strong.
We will offer our strength to the nation.
We believe in a strong Saskatchewan--in a strong Canada.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Robin Sears, Principal, Navigator and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.