Just who gets to share in Saskatchewan's prosperity is a question that may be somewhat trickier than it seems.
The short and easy answer is that we all should share in it equally. That would seem to be the fairest answer for everyone.
But what's interesting these days is that answer isn't always coming from the usual suspects on the left who traditionally preach the need for fairness and equality. It's coming from those on political right who argue teachers and other public sector unions wanting to share the wealth have no more claim to the province's recent resource windfall than the rest of us.
Admittedly, there's some validity to this argument, especially given that the teachers' wage-increase demands of 12 per cent for one year and then 16.3-per-cent over three years are excessive.
Spending all our new wealth on civil servants would simply be unwise, given that our resource-based economy is prone to wild fluctuations in oil, gas, and uranium potash and wheat prices. How do we pay teachers if prices fall? One only needs to look at the 2008 stock market crash or the 2009 potash sales decline that cost the government $2 billion in revenue.
The thing is, though, this isn't necessarily the message that we've been hearing from the Saskatchewan Party government that boasts about the strength of Saskatchewan's resource sector as the new norm in a province that's just been granted its highest-ever AAA credit rating. You can't be singing the praises of Saskatchewan as a place to invest and move your family and then tell your teachers the next day we can't afford wage hikes to teach the kids of new families.
Nor does this government seem to have any qualms about doling out six-figure salaries for communication officers or political advisers.
Yet the government is offering teachers less than a two-per-cent-a-year raise, about equivalent to the inflation rate?
Moreover, that market crash of 2008 and the potash swoon of 2009 didn't exactly discourage the government from offering nurses a 35-per-cent-plus wage increase over three years. And it didn't dissuade the government from massive investments roads, schools and hospitals.
Of course, some would argue that building roads, schools and hospitals that benefit everyone, are prime example of "sharing the wealth." But we all know not everyone benefits equally from every such government spending decision. If you happen to be closer to a road, hospital or school being built or fixed, it's of more benefit to you. Or if you have a business that depends on highway travel, you benefit more from your road. Even tax decreases aren't necessarily equally beneficial to everyone because we don't all have the same amount of property or consume the same amount of goods.
The point is that simply insuring that everyone always benefits equally has never been, and can never be, the sole guiding principle in government spending decisions. Things like "need" come into play. And even if equality is critical, there's still an argument that wage increases to public sector employees do benefit everyone. After all, what's the benefit of building schools and hospitals if you don't have the quality teachers, nurses and doctors to staff them?
You begin to see how this gets tricky.
Making it even trickier is that teachers have a good argument that good times are only times that public servants, who generally take small wage hikes in tough economic times, can catch up.
There again, the teachers' last contract was for more than 12 per cent over three years. This suggests they aren't suffering as much as they claim. And do teachers "need" similar pay to teachers in Alberta that's now laying off teachers to deal with budgetary shortfalls in that fluctuating, resource-based economy? As suggested, this sharing-the-wealth argument can be a trickier one.