Growth, trade and jobs are coming – if governments and Indigenous people can pull it off
“This is our future,” said Bakhtiari, the Chiefs of Gens de la Saskatchewan, a coalition of 10 First Nations, in a fundraising poster at a summer party in Saskatoon in 2017. “We believe in you and together we can bring this dream to reality.”
Gens de la Saskatchewan’s focus is employment, education and rural electrification. Their website says: “Our focus is the need to diversify, create jobs and drive economic growth. We want to get everyone out of poverty.”
Bakhtiari said the group works with government to expand health, education and infrastructure to get people out of poverty and into jobs.
“We are a province in need of new ideas, new jobs and new opportunities for our people to participate in Canada’s wealth.”
Bakhtiari is an Athabasca MP but focuses his energy on the Gens de la Saskatchewan.
“They are giving us hope, because we see that they are very much excited and very much behind the dream,” said Bakhtiari. “The vision is the province that I want to have: a prosperous province.”
Bakhtiari is just one of many elected leaders in the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative Party (SPC), which includes Ottawa MP Kyle Seeback, Calgary city councillor Andre Chabot and Ron Godfrey, a former mayor of Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan party president.
Saskatchewan’s economy has become reliant on resource extraction: coal, oil and gas, plus the pipelines and mining-services sector. Many people live in remote areas.
Alberta is already a major oil producer, and a Canadian resource boom can also be tough for Saskatchewan. In 2016, growth in the province’s oil and gas sector slowed sharply, dropping by 30%.
“It definitely was not the ideal situation that we wanted,” said Joel Otto, the leader of the Saskatchewan Party, the provincial conservative party.
“There are no quick fixes.”
The economic potential from the still-developing oil and gas sector could help Saskatchewan’s future, according to Otto.
“It depends on the products we are moving out and what we are making,” he said. “Will it be food products, potash, solid mineral products – as we are exporting our mining infrastructure – and will there be more services available to service this infrastructure? That is just speculation.”