Saskatchewan premier likes job training, infrastructure money in federal budget

REGINA – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says overall, he likes what sees in the federal budget.

“We were hoping for some infrastructure support and additional Building Canada money. Here we see new Building Canada money that is going to be important for a growing province,” said Wall.

The budget includes a renewed infrastructure fund worth $47 billion over 10 years. One component is the P3 Canada Fund, which looks at projects with potential public-private partnerships.

“We’re pretty hopeful that that P3 fund is actually going to help us with some significant infrastructure projects that we already have on the books, that we’re going to be moving forward with, some very important to the capital city here,” said Wall.

“And so these things are very positive.”

The Saskatchewan government is looking at a possible P3 to build a highway bypass in Regina.

The centrepiece of the federal budget — a revamped plan for skills training — was also something Saskatchewan wanted as it faces a labour shortage. The province has said at least 60,000 more workers will be needed by 2020 to keep the economy growing.

The federal budget also has $241 million over five years linking training programs to First Nations people collecting income assistance.

Wall says he believes that will help address an employment gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

“I don’t know the details about how those will work, but I think they’ll help. Any move in that direction is positive for us,” said Wall.

“You know, on a per capita basis we have a large First Nations population. They’re not as employed, as fully engaged in the economy as they want to be, as we would like them to be, as we need them to be, so we welcome any move in this regard.”

According to Statistics Canada, between 2008 and 2010, the unemployment rate in Saskatchewan for non-aboriginal people aged 25 to 54 ranged from 2.8 to 3.9 per cent. For aboriginal people, the unemployment rate more than tripled — it was 11.3 in 2008, 10.9 in 2009 and 12.8 in 2010.

However, the premier does have some concerns with the federal budget.

Wall has questions about tax changes for new mines or expanding mines.

“We have new mines on the block…so we want to find to out what’s the impact of these tax changes on new mines and expanding mines in the province. We don’t know that yet,” he said.