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Contrasting takes in Legislature of Sask. GDP numbers

Daily Leg Update - Government touts 5.7 per cent GDP growth putting Saskatchewan first in Canada; opposition serves up five-year numbers showing decline
Minister Jeremy Harrison, seen here from April 5, was all positive in reporting StatsCan GDP numbers Monday.

REGINA - Once more, the governing Saskatchewan Party and the opposition New Democrats have painted total-opposite pictures of the state of the provincial economy in the legislature.

On Monday the province issued a news release pointing to Stats Can numbers released that morning, showing the provincial Gross Domestic Product grew in 2022 by 5.7 per cent, placing the province first in Canada for year over year growth.

That good news was repeated that afternoon in a member’s statement in the Legislature by Kindersley MLA Ken Francis, and in a Tweet on Twitter by Premier Scott Moe.

"Our economy grew by 5.7 per cent last year because Saskatchewan has what the world needs," Moe posted. "Combined with record population growth, record exports and nearly 20,000 new jobs, Saskatchewan's economy is strong and growing."

In response, the Opposition issued their own news release titled “Reality Check: Moe has shrunk the economy.”

They pointed to five-year numbers from StatsCan suggesting the economy shrunk by 0.7 per cent over that period — putting the province second last in Canada. 

"In 2018, Saskatchewan’s economy was $82,387.5M. Today’s figures put it at $81,818.7M. That represents a loss of -$568.8M or -0.7% over the last five years."

The Sask Party had instead emphasized the 2021 figure of $77,412.9 million, with 2022 numbers representing an increase of $4,405.8 million from that.

The contrasting portrayals of the state of the GDP continued a pattern seen over the past several months in which both parties have put out contrasting statements on the province’s economic numbers and population growth, with the government offering positive spins on Stats Can numbers and the opposition offering their own negative spin.

The latest exchange took place in Question Period Monday when Opposition Critic Aleana Young blasted the government “about the dire state of the economy under this Premier.” 

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison was armed with the latest Stats Can numbers for his response, as recorded in Hansard.

Hon. Mr. J. Harrison: — “Oh my goodness. I’d welcome the member back, Mr. Speaker, but she obviously missed some very, very good news this morning as enunciated by the member for Kindersley and as reported by the good folks at Statistics Canada. It showed the economy’s not being in a dire state, Mr. Speaker, but the economy being leading Canada. Five point seven per cent GDP growth last year, Mr. Speaker — first in the country. Second closest was at 5.1 per cent, and not one other province in the entirety of the Dominion of Canada was over 4 per cent.

“You would have to be a New Democrat, Mr. Speaker, to find that to be dire. You would have to be a New Democrat, Mr. Speaker, to call that a dumpster fire. You could only imagine what those members would consider to be good news if they were in government, Mr. Speaker. It would be last in Canada, and we know that to be the case because that is their record.”

Ms. A. Young: — “Thank you, Mr. Speaker. ‘Dumpster fire’ — that member’s words, not mine. Because the GDP numbers, Mr. Speaker, released today do in fact show what the member opposite is saying. But what the numbers released by StatsCan today show is that this Premier has the second-worst economic growth of all provinces.

“In fact, in fact, Mr. Speaker, since 2018, under this Premier’s watch, the economy has shrunk by 0.7 per cent — negative growth, Mr. Speaker. And deep cuts in health care and education make this problem worse. Does the minister really think his Premier’s record of economic shrinkage is something he should be showing off?”

Hon. Mr. J. Harrison: — “Well, highly, highly appropriate from the members opposite, Mr. Speaker. What I would say though is that 5.7 per cent GDP growth, Mr. Speaker, is first in the country. I’m not sure what numbers these members are looking at opposite.”

Harrison then pointed to creation of 9,500 jobs,  over the course of the last year; urban housing starts  up 34 per cent over the course of the last year and 53 per cent over the first three months of 2023; wholesale trade up over 30 per cent; merchandise trade over 40 per cent growth; and building construction investment over 22 per cent.

“This economy is leading the country, manifested again through Statistics Canada’s numbers just this morning showing our GDP growth being the highest of any province in the country.”

“Second- worst economic growth of all provinces under that Premier,” was Young’s response.

Young then went on to trash the government over “deep cuts in education,” saying that if “kids can’t get the support they need when they’re learning in hallways, families are more likely to pack up and head to a province that provides those supports. So, Mr. Speaker, does the minister not understand that when kids are learning in desks in hallways, parents are going to be looking elsewhere?”

Harrison responded saying “the NDP would certainly know about people packing up and leaving the province, Mr. Speaker. In their 16 years in government, their population of this province, Mr. Speaker, it didn’t go up. It didn’t go up 100,000; it didn’t go up 10,000. It actually went down over 16 years. In one quarter, the last quarter, Mr. Speaker, we had more growth than they had in their entire 16 years.”

“That is nearly 200,000 newcomers that have made Saskatchewan their home over the course of our last 16 years in government, Mr. Speaker. I will put that record up against theirs any day of the week.”