Premier Wall considering options for fund for future development in Saskatchewan

REGINA – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he thinks it’s a good idea for the province to try to save money for the future while also paying off the debt.

Wall made the comments after the official release of a report Tuesday calling for the creation of a permanent fund for development using non-renewable resource revenues, such as those from oil and gas.

“I think you want short-term cash, long-term savings and overall a plan to keep the debt coming down, that’s how I would sort of see us moving forward with a model like this,” said Wall.

“We need to achieve all of those things.”

The report, by former University of Saskatchewan president Peter MacKinnon, makes 10 recommendations, including putting a high priority on creating the fund. He says it needs a clear purpose as a permanent investment fund that which would be available 10 years from now, 100 years from now and “hopefully forever.”

“It’s not an economic development fund. It’s not a rainy-day fund. It’s not a fiscal stabilization fund, although this fund would bring some fiscal stabilization naturally,” said MacKinnon, who was appointed by Wall in October 2012 to produce the report.

Alberta, Alaska and Norway have similar funds. MacKinnon noted that all state petroleum revenues go into the Norway one. But he said not all revenue from natural resources from Saskatchewan should be channelled that way, because some of that money is already ear-marked for other uses.

MacKinnon recommends that, starting next year, the province should put a cap on the amount of resource revenue it uses for purposes other than deposits to the fund.

The report, which was accidentally released to the news media last week, suggests the Saskatchewan Futures Fund be set up as soon as possible.

MacKinnon outlines three options.

One is to use non-renewable resource revenues in excess of the cap to pay off the provincial debt and then funnel them to the futures fund. The second would see half the revenues above the cap go to debt reduction and half go to the fund. A third option could be a 2014 budget allocation of $100 million to launch the fund.

The premier says the government will consider all the options as it works on the budget for next March.

Wall said he likes “the mandated discipline that would come from a program like this.

“We’re looking at it very carefully. I don’t personally think it’s unreasonable given that it is the average over the last while,” he said.

Wall has previously said the province should look at saving money from non-renewable resources, but not until after the debt is paid off.

The Saskatchewan NDP pitched the idea of a fund based on non-renewable resource revenues during the 2011 provincial election. Party leader Cam Broten compared it to a family paying down their mortgage, while also saving for their kids’ education.

“A step needs to be made,” Broten said Tuesday.

“I’m OK personally with it ramping up over time, recognizing that that may be required, but it is important to start the process and to have the structure in place and the rules.”