August 29, 2023, Message to the Membership

Posted on August 28, 2023 in

August 29, 2023, Message to the Membership

Still on the train of thought from last week’s message to the membership (WOW! A two-for-one deal… we aim to please at the NSBA) where I elaborated on a presentation of some cost-saving considerations for City Council at a pair of recent Special Budget meetings this summer, I’d like to follow up along a different course of action. 

Last week’s message, in case you missed it, was all about how the City could save tens of millions of dollars if only they would be courageous and right-size their workforce. This week, however, we’re taking a different tack with comparisons that were made to the City of Edmonton. 

Now I’ll be the first to admit, I have a personal bias for our beautiful city of Saskatoon and therefore, have a hard time putting any other centres ahead of ours. And indeed, it seems that City administration does too, because boy, were they laying it on thick at that particular meeting. 

Indeed, it was pointed out how favourable Saskatoon compares to other centres. City administration did a wonderful job pulling together positive and flattering statistics, showing how competitive Saskatoon is to other cities. 

Particular notice was paid to our comparisons to Edmonton, in which admittedly we do have a few competitive advantages, municipal tax rates and commercial tax ratios being among them. What the city either fails to understand or recognize, however, is that we need these competitive advantages because of the many others that larger centers such as Edmonton have over us. 

For instance, Edmonton is a much larger trading centre and therefore has a significantly higher amount of available workers. And this goes all the way through the gamut from unskilled labour on up through doctors, lawyers, engineers, project managers and the like, and everything in between. A larger, more skilled (by volume and volume alone – it’s hard to keep those biases under wraps, after all) Edmonton also boasts of much larger international and multicultural population.  

Why is this important? Well, because immigrants tend to settle where they feel most comfortable, and where they feel more comfortable is generally among their fellow nationals. Therefore, the larger the pool of international people, the more it attracts their compatriots. This is particularly critical moving forward, as Saskatchewan is tracking towards the need for another 160,000 workers in the next decade, and where are those workers going to come from? You guessed it, international immigration. There is no other way. 

While we’re on the topic of volume, Edmonton also has a much more voluminous list of vendors and suppliers for businesses to take advantage of. This is also important, as it also brings with it a connotation of competitiveness that we cannot match here in Saskatoon. As free market thinkers, we’ve always said that competition is a good thing, and this is one example of that.  

By virtue of their size and volume, Edmonton also has a larger GDP and entrepreneurial ecosystem. This, again, is important because these are the true wealth creators in any economy. Indeed, as their businesses become not only viable but profitable, many of these wealth creators will become angel investors, further nurturing that entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Those that were in the audience last week at the NSBA Network Series presentation about Startup TNT, given by Jesse Wiebe and Jim Nowakowski, heard that exact same message – that we need more investors to truly ignite our potential we have as a tech hub and/or centre of excellence. Well, larger centres such as Edmonton have us beat there. 

And by the way Edmonton is located in the province of Alberta, which has no provincial sales tax. So add another 6% to your bottom line right off the hop, which may in fact be the most competitive advantage that Edmonton has. Granted, it’s not controlled by the City, but it’s still a fact that we have to compete with. 

Edmonton also has amenities such as LRT for commuters and a highly desirable downtown entertainment district. So you have more restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theatres, museums, schools, hospitals – perks in general – making Edmonton appealing in ways that Saskatoon just simply cannot compete.  

And finally, Albertans earn on average 12 per cent more than Saskatchewanians, according to Statistics Canada’s average weekly earnings rate. Alberta ranks first in the country, while Saskatchewan is fifth. This in turn gives them more disposable income (particularly when you take into account the lack of PST as mentioned earlier.). 

That’s why Saskatoon needs to have as many competitive advantages at its disposal as possible, and this must (not should, or nice-to-have, or maybe, or over a period of time etc.) include a highly competitive municipal tax rate. We need all the help we can get. 

Until next time, be safe, be smart, be considerate, be well, but most of all, be kind.  

Keith Moen  

Executive Director  

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