This first blast of winter is not to my liking. As I sit here doing this commentary, the wind is blowing at 50-60 kilometres an hour and the snowflakes are going straight sideways. We were supposed to preg-check cows today but working with cattle in a wind like this is almost impossible.
Picking a topic this morning was also difficult because there are so many choices. There is the on-going Senate mess in Ottawa. There are reports of people having to deal with feces on the floors and walls of hospital rooms in Saskatoon. We just had a Throne Speech in the Saskatchewan Legislature which was a total non-entity and Saskatchewan’s teachers have resoundingly rejected the latest contract offer. I could go on-and-on.
One of the challenges of a short commentary is to deal with the subject concisely and in a form that folks don’t get tired of reading and still get your point across all at the same time. My comment this morning is dealing with one item that I am sure that some of you noticed in last week’s newspapers and that was the top 100 companies, Crown Corporations and government-related organizations in Saskatchewan which is printed every year.
After reviewing the list as I have done every year since it was first published, one thing becomes very apparent. After 6 years of some of the best economic potential that this province has ever seen, the list of private companies growing and doing business in Saskatchewan has hardly changed at all. In fact, looking at the top half of the list without all of the Crown Corporations, health regions and other government-related entities - all of those which you and I pay for – Saskatchewan’s list would not look very good at all. The other entities that stand out are the former government agencies and crowns which were privatized by the former Progressive Conservative government which have done very well financially and certainly dominate the top third of the list. This is the Potash Corp’s, Cameco’s, etc.
Probably the government’s privatized portion of ISC will show up on next year’s list because of all of the government-related business it has been handed on a platter. This list begs the question….where are all of the private sector successes – the Saskatchewan-based companies – that the Sask Party government talked about with all of their various industrial strategies? Have all of the government granted tax credits to resource companies grown any Saskatchewan based corporations in the top 100 that weren’t there previously? If they are there, I didn’t recognize them and I don’t think anyone else will either because that strategy has not worked. Looking over the list – where are the value-added manufacturing companies that we so desperately need? I don’t see them in the top 100.
I believe that when that list is published next year, all of the entities which you and I pay for as taxpayers – either directly or indirectly through utility rates and backdoor taxation – should be excluded from this list. The only way that we can get a proper indicator of how well our economy is doing and whether the people that we are attracting to this province are doing simply more than working in the service industry should be measured by companies who are building, adding value and doing things to make this province economically stronger.
The list is very deceptive to Saskatchewan people because it shows organizations and CEO’s that are quite frankly not an indicator of corporate success but simply an indicator of how many tax dollars are spent. Maybe it is time the government does away with the taxpayer funded tax credits, the royalty holidays and other short-term measures and simply moves to harmonization of the PST and the GST – a move which would give Saskatchewan headquartered businesses the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with other jurisdictions and a move which would allow taxpayers a cleaner and simpler view of our corporate world and how well we stack up.
The current top 100 list – in my view – is an embarrassment to this province that has so many natural resources and so many opportunities to lead and that leading should be done by Saskatchewan companies not taxpayers.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.