This summer, heat waves and flooding pushed people and nations to the edge. It’s not hard to find examples. Pakistan is dealing with unprecedented floods and, closer to home, Western Canada has experienced extreme drought and dangerously hot temperatures.
Saskatchewan shares these rising temperatures with the rest of Canada. We also share inflation, taxes, equalization, diversity, and the Canadian Constitution. Still, we don’t always share political views when it comes to policy objectives and spending, while recognizing that is democracy: government by the people.
In addition to Saskatchewan politics and our spirited conversations about our place in the Canadian federation these days, there are many other factors that make Saskatchewan unique. Like every other region in Canada, Saskatchewan has its own strengths to build on, competitive advantages to cultivate and challenges to face head-on. That said, as a federation, we are much stronger and more globally competitive, with huge potential to advance prosperity, when senior levels of government, industry and Indigenous nations collaborate, co-operate and compromise.
Based on my experience in business, Indigenous and regional economic development and Parliament — and considering the challenges and values we share across Canada — co-operative leadership will serve us best. For example, a constructive approach would benefit Saskatchewan at the forthcoming federal-provincial Energy and Resource Table, as we look to define our future in a changing economy. That doesn’t mean we need to give up negotiating or litigating what we believe is rightfully ours. But we also keep in mind the big picture.
Only active co-operation can deliver success on three related subjects that are vital to Saskatchewan’s prosperity and well-being: energy, the environment and economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples on treaty lands. While we have spirited conversations about autonomy, let’s not miss our chance to capitalize on opportunities and build on our reputation for hard work, innovation and patriotism. Let’s find ways to simplify complex situations for others by devising made-in-Saskatchewan solutions. We have what the world wants, and we can deliver.
Events this year in Canada and the United States have reminded us of the importance of maintaining the rule of law in our democratic societies. Peace, order and good government are Saskatchewan values as much as they are Canadian values. The centre of Canadian federalism can and must hold, including respect for federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous jurisdictions, public institutions and Charter values.
So what can co-operative leadership achieve for our province? One achievement underway is affordable childcare, further to the 2021 federal-provincial agreement. That agreement will give many children in Saskatchewan a better start in life and will help many parents better balance family, business and social pursuits. This example of co-operative leadership is a credit to both levels of government, and a model for how to approach other challenges.
On energy and the environment, federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson — who grew up, studied and worked in Saskatchewan — launched the Regional Energy and Resource Tables on June 1, 2022. This is a collaborative effort to bring together the federal and provincial governments, Indigenous peoples, business leaders, industry groups, unions and others to advance key priorities in the natural resources sector. The tables initiative has commenced working-level discussions to establish a Saskatchewan table. I hope that Saskatchewan will embrace this conversation, take our seat at the table and fill our boots.
Saskatchewan has much to contribute to a greener economy. Our areas of strength include carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies; flood and drought mitigation through the proposed expansion of Lake Diefenbaker irrigation, which will support sustainable agriculture and food processing; Protein Industries Canada, our plant protein supercluster; biofuels; small modular reactors; and critical minerals, including uranium from the world’s largest high-grade deposits.
Saskatchewanians can welcome opportunities to leverage these strengths and create future prosperity, while contributing to Canada’s scientifically grounded environmental goals. A just and fair transition.
Speaking of just and fair, all these efforts can and must support economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. On June 6, 2022, a coalition of more than 25 Indigenous organizations unveiled a new National Indigenous Economic Strategy with four strategic pathways: people, lands, infrastructure and finance. Their 107 calls to economic prosperity can provide new energy and guidance to discussions between jurisdictions.
Co-operation is the key to Saskatchewan and Canada’s shared success on energy, the environment and economic reconciliation. Amongst the many things we might do, our province must take its rightful seat at the Saskatchewan Energy and Resource Table and contribute our vision for a prosperous future for Saskatchewan and Canada.
Senator Marty Klyne represents Saskatchewan in the Senate.
A version of this article appeared in the August 5, 2022 editions of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.