Saskatchewan Day was celebrated in many ways this past weekend, reflective of the wonderful diversity of our province. The motto on our Saskatchewan emblem From Many Peoples, Strength so fittingly describes the identity of our province. Our population is comprised of many cultures and backgrounds, and the variety of skills and talents within have built a strong and diversified provincial economy.
The Saskatchewan flag portrays our geographical diversity; the upper half is green, representing Saskatchewan’s northern forests, while the lower half is gold, symbolizing the southern grain areas. With approximately 651,900 square kilometres, one half the province is covered by forest, one-third by farmland and one-eighth by fresh water. Saskatchewan has a wealth of resources which has enabled us to weather global economic cycles and is the envy of many nations. We export agriculture products, potash, uranium and oil. Saskatchewan is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, dried peas, mustard, flaxseed and canola. We have the largest potash industry in the world and the world’s largest high-grade uranium deposits. Our growing manufacturing sector exports products to all corners of the globe.
Three per cent of the Canadian population reside within Saskatchewan, yet our province accounts for 36 per cent of Canada’s primary energy production. Saskatchewan is one of very few places on the globe that produces crude oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, biofuels, geothermal, wind and hydro power. Our economy has developed because Saskatchewan people are innovative people. People came to Saskatchewan and continue to come here because they are prepared to embark on new endeavours. That attitude remains an economic driving force. Saskatchewan Research Council is one of Canada’s leading suppliers of applied research, development and demonstration services, as well as technology commercialization. The Canadian Light Source is Canada’s only synchrotron and one of the most advanced in the world. The University of Saskatchewan has built an international reputation in health sciences, agriculture, and environmental and life sciences. Recreation opportunities and the arts add to the colour and vibrancy of Saskatchewan, as we see in our own Festival of Words, Rhubarb Productions and tourism attractions. We are being noticed. Canadian visitors increased their spending in the province by over ten percent last year.
We have seen tremendous growth in the last decade. Our Gross Domestic Product increased by 18.7 per cent. Our population is the second fastest growing province in Canada, growing by 167,000 people to 1.16 million. We have 40 new or replacement schools and 25 major school renovations with 840 more teachers and 173 more student support teach- ers working in our schools.
The Seniors Income Plan benefit has tripled and 15 new long-term care facilities have been opened. We have added nearly 900 more doctors and over 3,700 more nurses. We went from having the longest surgical wait times in Canada to among the shortest. Investments in hospital projects doubled, including our new hospital, the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon and the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford.
Saskatchewan Day was a good time to reflect on the many positive aspects of our province. Economic growth is encouraging, and the natural beauty is astounding, but it’s the people who truly make this the best place in Canada to live, work and raise our families.