When I was growing up, the United States was larger than life.
It was the peak of the Cold War and we thought at the time only Ronald Reagan, the United States military and our Canada Cup hockey team was standing between us and the evil Soviets.
Fast forward and I am now reading that much of the U.S. Navy is rusting out because they can’t afford maintenance or spare parts (how very Canadian of them).
S & P downgraded the U.S credit rating, and the government just cut $900 billion dollars from its annual budget.
Many economists think this could send the country back into recession. China is now saying it is growing tired of buying up U.S. debt.
In more tangible terms, one third of American high school students don’t graduate or graduate late. In 2005 the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report card on U.S. infrastructure, giving the U.S. a D, with the highest mark being C+ for solid-waste handling.
One in five Americans are now on food stamps. The country no longer looks so large or powerful.
Europe is in worse trouble. Greece seems about to topple, Portugal and Spain are teetering, and Italy’s debt is 120 per cent of its GDP – around $3 trillion.
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown said that he sees G20 and IMF intervention coming to the continent very soon.
In Asia, China is battling inflation at home, which is generally fought with higher interest rates and a reduced flow of investment capital.
If Goldman Sachs is right and the United States does head into another recession, Saskatchewan will probably escape this downturn in a similar way to how we did the last one. Demand for our potash, oil, and food will remain constant if not increase, which means maintaining the status quo will be pretty tempting.
Foreign investment dollars will tighten up, however. Expect tourism and manufacturing to face some challenges due to a weak U.S. dollar and foreign markets struggling because of austerity programs abroad.
Despite our strengths and good luck, Saskatchewan is a $46-billion conomy in a $62-trillion world, which means if the world markets convulse and shudder, we will feel it.
While we can’t totally avoid what is happening out there, we can take this time to figure out how to come out ahead. Former prime minister Paul Martin told the Globe and Mail recently that Canada will attract the best and brightest from around the world because of our stability. He also added that investments in infrastructure and education would continue to push the Canadian advantage.
We have the time to figure out how to make the right investments. It took Canada and Saskatchewan almost a decade to find our way out from our economic crises of the 1990s, and expect it to take at least that long for the U.S. to recover.
Saskatchewan elections are typically pretty mundane affairs. We tend to look at election issues and promises for the short-term view. We have an election coming up in November that doesn’t have many issues that either party seems to be able to use.
Instead of creating fictional quotes for radio ads, why not talk about some of the more substantial issues facing the future of the province? What should Saskatchewan look like in 2031 and how do we get there?
We need to ask what it will take to attract the top talent to Saskatchewan. How do we create an atmosphere of innovation and entrepreneurship in a province historically dominated by Crown corporations?
What role does the University of Saskatchewan play in our future and what resources does it need to fill that role? Do we have industries or technologies where targeted investment would allow them to take off ?
What do race relations look like in 2031? Are our public schools preparing children adequately for the future?
How are we going to pay for it? Do we use non-renewable royalties to fund government operations now or should we be creating our own version of Alberta’s heritage fund once the oil and other nonrenewables are gone?
I guess the first question we should ask is: "Are we are ready to have an election about real issues or should we settle for one dominated by fear mongering, childish stunts and ridiculous debates?"
I would prefer forwardlooking election platforms and some real vision from both parties to figure out where we are going and how will we get there.
Times like this only come by once in a lifetime.
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