Monday, December 31, 2012

On forced growth

Saskatchewan's NDP leadership campaign has featured plenty of discussion as to how to define success as a party and a province. But it's well worth contrasting the varying forms of quality-of-life and social health themes being debated within the NDP against an announcement which epitomizes the appallingly narrow focus of the Wall government:
Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall is pledging to hike crop production by 10 million tonnes over the next decade.

According to the Saskatchewan Agriculture Ministry, total crop production was 25.9 million tonnes in 2011, up 8.7 per cent from the 2001-10 average.
...(T)he government says its growth plan is focused on increasing crop production and boosting agricultural exports.
Now, there are certainly circumstances where an increase in crop production could be a major plus for Saskatchewan.

However, there's a difference between pursuing a plan where increased production might be the result of a focus on developing healthy industries and communities, and focusing on growth-for-the-sake-of-growth. And like the Sask Party's general governing philosophy, Wall's announcement positively reeks of the latter theme.

Even putting aside the possibility of considering social health or well-being, one would expect an economic plan to at least address industrial sustainability, jobs and incomes as end goals. After all, those are the only excuses that can possibly serve to make the general public see any benefit out of corporate-focused development.

But they don't even rate a mention in Wall's preferred development path.

Instead, Wall is pitching "more stuff" as the highest possible good - with no regard for what gets produced or how changes in production patterns affect farmers, workers or communities. Which signals that we can look forward to policies favouring the most exploitative possible model of corporate farming over any interest in smaller-scale or localized production.

And of course, Wall's new focus comes at a time when both the provincial and federal governments are also going out of their way to demolish longstanding programs which ensured some balance between the short-term desire to wring every possible cent out of Saskatchewan's soil, and the province's longer-term sustainability.

In other words, Wall is apparently applying his party's rip-and-strip resource philosophy to agriculture as well at exactly the time when that approach looks to do the most damage. And we may need to start planning now to repair Wall's mess down the road.


  1. That doesn't even make sense from an economist's prospective. It reads like a Five-Year Plan. Why would your pursue *specific* production targets? What if crop prices fall significantly? What if input costs rise? What if it doesn't make economic sense for Saskatchewaners to invest in that much agricultural production in ten years and invest in other types of production? It makes sense to talk up things that the Government actually produces, or to talk up broad variables that the government can improve though it's own investments, but to pick a category of goods to be increased, outside of the context of costs and benefits, is a sort of meaningless puffery

  2. Crop prices will definitely fall, if supply increases by 10M tonnes.