Saskatchewan’s population continues to grow, but it’s slowing down.
That’s in part because the province is still losing thousands of people to interprovincial migration, most of them pursuing opportunities in Alberta.
Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, said that’s no cause for panic.
“The reality of any economy, (Saskatchewan’s) and Canada’s is that it ebbs and flows,” McLellan said.
He explained while it may be concerning to see Saskatchewan lose more than 8,500 people to other provinces, Alberta lost a similar amount in ratio to its size. Alberta is four times bigger than Saskatchewan and lost about 23,000 people.
McLellan said most of the people moving from Saskatchewan and Alberta are drawn to jobs in skilled trades. He explained a bigger province is likely to have more jobs.
“Alberta’s economy is recovering, if you will, a little bit quicker than Saskatchewan’s.”
As the price of oil increases and conventional oil wells are being drilled and maintained, McLellan explained that’s also keeping Saskatchewan workers in the oil patch.
McLellan pointed out there is lots to celebrate in the latest quarterly population report. Saskatchewan has recorded 49 consecutive quarters of positive growth.
“That’s a miracle in the history of the province. I don’t think that’s ever happened,” McLellan said.
McLellan is not surprised to see growth slow down and even suggested the total population may one day dip backwards a little bit. He explained skilled workers in Saskatchewan will follow the jobs, creating that ebb and flow with Alberta.
“It’s not like people woke up one morning and said, ‘Jeez, I don’t like Saskatchewan,'” McLellan said. “They get up and they say, ‘There’s an opportunity for me as a tradesperson.'”
As the economy continues to rebound, McLellan expects to see some of those people return like they did around 2006 as the population spiked.
To get out of the slow growth environment, McLellan said commodity prices have to be more fluid and quantities selling out. He would also like to see an upswing in uranium prices to bring miners back to work in Saskatchewan.
McLellan thinks he’ll see employment growth in very select areas, most optimistic in value-added agriculture and the protein industry.