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Saskatchewan's got a "new attitude"

Positive message touted at President's Dinner; Golden Spike awarded
(L-R) Weyburn Chamber of Commerce President Twila Walkeden presented the Golden Spike Award to Reverend John Ferrier at the President's Dinner and Chamber AGM on April 29 at McKenna Hall. The guest speaker at the sold-out event was radio personality John Gormley.

By Jennifer LaCharite

The community honoured one of their many deserving volunteers and heard about Saskatchewan's "new attitude" during the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce's annual President's Dinner on April 29.

Reverend John Ferrier was presented with the Chamber's coveted Golden Spike Award for his many years of service to the community.

Ferrier said that, as a former minister at the Knox Presbyterian Church, he had many opportunities to help his fellow man.

"I think that ministers have more of an opportunity to serve the community and as a minister I have been deeply involved in the lives of people," said Ferrier.

He mentioned an instance just before his retirement in which he baptised the grandchild of a couple that he had married much earlier in his career.

Chamber Manager Jeff Richards said that Ferrier's nomination package was very extensive, including letters from community members that praised the retired minister. It also outlined some of his contributions to the community, including past involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous, the Weyburn Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Canadian Cancer Society, Communithon, and the Education Steering Committee's Tragic Event Protocol. He is also the chaplain for the Weyburn Legion, Weyburn Fire Department and Division "F" of the RCMP.

"I think that it's absolutely great that he won," said Richards. "He has made an incredible contribution to our community."

Ferrier said he would continue to serve the community in any way he could, despite his limited mobility due to a recent surgery. He said the award has given him "encouragement" to continue giving back to the community and people he loves.

The Golden Spike is given out annually to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the community through volunteer services. A panel of judges awards the Golden Spike to a nominee scoring highest overall in longevity, professional involvement, leadership and stewardship.

The new Saskatchewan success story was mentioned frequently throughout the evening event, particularly in regards to the Weyburn-area.

Chamber President Twila Walkeden spoke at the gathering, which was also the Chamber's annual general meeting. She said the Chamber believes that Weyburn is "entering into one of the most prolific points in our community's history."

"The past few years have seen our community experience population growth in excess of 14 percent - well above the provincial average," Walkeden began. "We are seeing record levels of investment into our community and it is the belief of the Chamber that we are just getting warmed up."

"As the energy sector expands and the retail and commercial sectors begin to take note, we can clearly see that this pace is not only manageable but it is likely to become the 'new normal' of the next few years."

Radio personality John Gormley drove home the message of Saskatchewan's "new normal" as the evenings' guest speaker. He began by stating that "this is an amazing time in an amazing place."

His speech quickly turned into a brief history lesson on the province.

"This province was on fire the first three decades we were open," said Gormley. "The Saskatchewan attitude 100 years ago was that there was nothing this province couldn't achieve."

That all changed, according to Gormley, when the Great Depression hit the prairies in the 1930s, and it took the province decades to recover - not just in terms of the economy, but the morale of the people.

"Saskatchewan's attitude in the late 1990s was terrible," said Gormley. "People's expectations were low. We were living in 'next year' country - it was an excuse to keep the bar low."

Gormley said that Saskatchewan now has a "new attitude" due to unprecedented population and economic growth.

"Population - this is the big story in Saskatchewan these days."

Gormley said the province is well on its way to reaching 1.1 million people. He said the most significant growth has come from outside the country and that Saskatchewan is exceeding 10,000 international immigrants per year.

He said that the province is starting to get the fundamentals right with economic policies, investment strategies and population. And Weyburn is at the head of the pack.

"Weyburn is now the number one place around the world being watched," said Gormley.

He said that economically, everything changed after 2008. He said that prior to 2008; the province's best year for exports was $19 billion. In 2008, Saskatchewan exports totalled $31 billion.

Gormley joked that in the 1990s, the number one graduation gift was luggage, because it was expected that graduates would move out of province to find success, but this is no longer so.

He said the "Millennium Generation" that came after Generation-X is adaptive, well-travelled, and able to multi-task.

"They don't fear change and it is that generation that is choosing to return to, or stay in, Saskatchewan," said Gormley.

He said that Saskatchewan has begun to develop a "deliberate, hopeful, and optimistic attitude about the future" and have begun to "strive for excellence" in all things.

"The new Saskatchewan success story is the new Saskatchewan attitude," concluded Gormley.

He said it is up to everyone to spread the province's success story and find opportunities that will continue to develop Saskatchewan.