Thursday 8 March 2012

New Directions in Saskatchewan Public Policy

There is a spirit of optimism in Saskatchewan nowadays, a growing belief “that the province has undergone an enduring and fundamental transformation. The ‘old Saskatchewan’ was centred on an unpredictable boom-and-bust grain economy that created eternal pessimism and constant fear of economic insecurity. The old Saskatchewan was concerned with living within its means and not expecting too much in the way of wealth or national and international influence. The best for which people could hope in the old Saskatchewan was a stable standard of living and moderate population loss as the province’s population hovered around one million people and its status as a ‘have not’ province seemed entrenched. On the other hand, the new Saskatchewan is the land of limitless economic opportunity and unbridled optimism headed towards significant population growth, sustained prosperity, and growing clout within Canada and the world.

New Directions in Saskatchewan Public Policy, edited by David McGrane, explores the public policies that are needed to “ensure that all residents of the province benefit from increased economic prosperity.” In the Introduction to the book, McGrane goes on to say that “Without public policy that shapes and regulates economic growth and supplements it with innovative social programs, the potential of the New Saskatchewan to create a more equal, caring and just society will remain unrealized.

The book, published in 2011 by the Canadian Plains Research Center Press, covers a wide range of different policy areas: Shaping a Poverty-Free Saskatchewan, Population Aging, Multiculturalism/Immigration, Indigenous Perspectives and Involvement in Policy Making, and Workers’ Rights.

Of particular interest to EcoFriendly Sask readers are the chapters on Climate Change Policies that Work; Constructing Sustainable, Socially Just Agricultural Policies; and Saskatchewan Taxation Policy. (The chapter on Equitable Urbanism by Ryan Walker has already been examined in It’s Our Choice: People-Friendly Urban Design.)

Climate Change Policies that Work: Finding the Right Scale in Saskatchewan
Scott Bell and Jamesy Patrick argue that, “due to the realities of appropriate scale and divided jurisdiction, the Saskatchewan provincial government should focus on small-scale environmental programs within its borders while seeking to co-operate with other Canadian provincial jurisdictions, American state governments, and the Canadian federal government to combat climate change.

They advocate strongly for the reintroduction of the Climate Change Secretariat. “The Climate Change Secretariat is a novel idea that provides a mechanism for provincial policy implementation as well as coordinating such implementation with both local scale activism and federal and international policy. It could aid in the organization of small-scale projects within Saskatchewan as well as promoting co-operation with actors in jurisdictions outside of the province. Furthermore, from the perspective of policy efficiency, such an office could ensure that provincial policies are consistent with the policies of neighbouring or larger jurisdictions and, where there is a conflict between or among jurisdictions, ensure that the Saskatchewan policy is well-defined and defended.

When Elephants No Longer Dance: Constructing Sustainable, Socially Just Agricultural Policies in Saskatchewan
Darrell McLaughlin and Daniel DeLury believe that “in this era of globalization, a strong state is required to establish and protect food sovereignty and security and to foster a culture that endorses a sustainable, socially just food system.

The authors argue that the current farm crisis “is not one of yield, production, or sales. It is a crisis of farm income due to concentration of market power off the farm” as a small number of multinational corporations “control the food system from gene to supermarket shelf.”

After reviewing agricultural policy under past governments, McLaughlin and DeLury emphasize the need for government regulations and institutions that will redress the imbalance of power.

Quoting from the Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project, they emphasize the need for agricultural policies that address all aspects of the food system. “Food citizens are ‘concerned about environmental sustainability, the health of farmers and consumers, issues of justice for farm workers and the poor, and democratic participation in determining where our food systems is heading.’” They stress the importance of local and organic production, the need for a Zero Hunger policy, a farm transfer program to assist young farmers, and transportation policies that equalize the cost of getting goods to market and reduce reliance on oil.

Balancing Conflicting Purposes: Saskatchewan Taxation Policy from 1991 to 2011
David McGrane provides an overview of Saskatchewan taxation policy during the past 20 years. Taxation serves many, sometimes conflicting purposes, from wealth redistribution and support for social programs, to attracting external private investment and increasing the competitiveness of the provincial economy.

Urban planners and municipalities will be interested in McGrane’s belief that “the attraction and retention of skilled workers depends on an aggressive international recruitment strategy, job creation, cultural vibrancy, and liveable cities with good transportation infrastructure. Large weekend farmers’ markets, ‘cool’ summer festivals, and improved systems of bike paths in Saskatchewan’s cities will do much more for retaining and attracting skilled workers than a decrease in the taxation rate of high-income earners.

McGrane also advocates for tax incentives attached to the purchase of green products and home renovations that increase energy efficiency, a carbon tax or cap and trade policy, and urges that Saskatchewan join the Western Climate Initiative.

See also:
Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally-Elected Leaders
It’s Our Choice: People-Friendly Urban Design