Don Marit, MLA for Wood River and Minister of Highways and Infrastructure, was guest speaker at the Assiniboia and District Chamber of Commerce business luncheon in Assiniboia on October 28.
For Marit this meeting was like coming home. He was born and raised in the area and still farms with his brother. Marit was elected as the member of the Saskatchewan Legislature for Wood River in the April provincial election, and within months was appointed Minister of Highways and Infrastructure in a late summer Cabinet shuffle.
Marit provided the Chamber guests with an overview of his own Ministry’s recent activities as well as highlights from other sectors of government. While other provinces are experiencing downturns, Marit made the point that a number of positives are happening in Saskatchewan. The population has grown over the one million mark to 1.5 million. This growth reflects a population growth every year since 2007. The economy is holding its own, especially compared to neighbouring provinces.
Saskatchewan has one of the better unemployment rates that has fallen to 6.8 per cent. The government has also paid down $2.7 billion of the debt and has been able to cut taxes in the province since 2007. Notably, low income earners earning less than $12,000 per year have been removed from the tax base.
Saskatchewan’s diversified economy provides plenty of potential for investors and in the jobs market, despite the downturn in the oil sector. Oil exploration and development in the southern oil belt is active, he explained. Agriculture is strong and companies reflect this like Richardson building a $15 million grain terminal in Saskatchewan. Although the harvest is still not complete, the minister stated that Saskatchewan will still see a strong year for crops. Marit noted that he had an opportunity to tour the busy, congested Vancouver Port where part of the province’s grain is shipped. This will give his ministry insight into grain shipping at the Saskatchewan end.
As for his Highways Ministry, Marit detailed the number of infrastructure projects on the go. There has been $6 billion in highways development since 2007. Some of the major projects include the twinning of part of Highway 16, the Regina bypass and constructing passing lanes on Highways 10 and 7. Passing lanes are a quick way to alleviate transportation pressures. Many in the area may have noticed the work done on the highway to Willow Bunch south of Highway 13. There was $3.4 million in work completed to the 14 kilometres of road, he noted.
Marit also touched on the recent events surrounding the Carbon Tax. He provided some examples of its huge impact on Saskatchewan industry and producers. According to the Saskatchewan government’s calculation, the federal government’s carbon tax will cost families in the province $1,250 more per year, and farms about $10,000 more per year. It will also put Saskatchewan at a disadvantage on world markets. He noted that Saskatchewan is the only province that opposes the carbon tax. The Saskatchewan government will be asking Ottawa to do an impact analysis on the tax, citing that B.C. has not experienced any benefits from its carbon tax.