Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget implementation and the government's objective to diminish private economic activity through the reckless spending of public money.
Before I get there, permit me to provide a bit of information on the province I call home, as it seems from this budget that both the Minister of Employment and the Minister of Finance appear to be unfamiliar with where and what Saskatchewan is.
Saskatchewan is a landlocked province. It represents 7% of the land mass of Canada and has 10% of its fresh water. Saskatchewan is a cartographer's delight, as its borders are all parallels and meridians. There are two major natural regions, the Canadian Shield in the north, and the Interior Plains in the south. We have over 11% of the rail network, and the largest network of secondary roads in Canada.
In Saskatchewan, we are mighty familiar with sunny ways, as we receive more hours of sunshine per year than any other province. We also understand the deception, that sunny ways does not necessarily mean warmth. Some people think our winters can be bitterly cold.
With 3% of Canada's population, Saskatchewan contributes 4.5% to the GDP. Our GDP per capita contribution is $28,000 more than Quebec, which has seven times our population. Since 2007, we have also become a net contributor to the equalization scheme. Despite the provincial economy that is experiencing challenges due to decreases in world oil prices, we are forecast to contribute a further $1.7 billion, or 10% of equalization transfers for our fellow Canadians to the east.
In Saskatchewan, we have a very diversified economy, much of which was not recognized in the borrow-and-spend budget. Saskatchewan is often referred to as the bread basket, due to its producing 47% of the wheat grown in Canada. Along with peas, soybeans, lentils, flax, barley and canola, Saskatchewan is able to contribute to feeding both Canadians and the world through exporting these crops. These farms are small businesses, which the budget betrays by not reducing the small business taxes promised by the Liberals during the election.
Beyond its size, the agriculture industry in Saskatchewan has actively participated in modern agriculture techniques that are highly technologically advanced; help produce larger, more nutrient-rich crops; help maintain soil conditions; and help sequester greenhouse gas emissions like C02, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Modern farming techniques contribute to a dichotomy between the ability to feed vast numbers of people, thereby reducing starvation, and the role of food production as carbon sinks in climate mitigation. Agricultural producers in Saskatchewan are very cognizant of the negatives of natural and man-made CO2, and continue to work diligently to adopt zero tillage, organic farming practices, and the development of crops that require less water to grow.
In place of flying in jets to hobnob with environmentalists from around the world and promising to reduce emissions by government fiat, Saskatchewan's agriculture producers are taking a proactive role in reducing emissions through their actions.
In Saskatchewan, we work hard to both provide economic activity and to ensure that we are stewards of the land and resources.
In my riding of Souris—Moose Mountain, we have over 300 years of proven coal reserves. We use this coal to generate electricity, which meets 50% of Saskatchewan's electricity requirements.
While the government wants to shut down the coal industry because it is dirty and pollutes the environment, in Saskatchewan we came up with a less radical plan. Rather than shutting down the coal plants, losing millions of dollars of economic activity, and throwing thousands of people out of work, we instead invested $1.4 billion in an innovative carbon capture project, to which the previous Conservative government contributed $250 million.
The carbon capture project cleans the CO2 particulates produced from using coal for electrical power. While this continued use of fossil fuels is an anathema to environmentalists, the project at Boundary Dam is designed to remove the equivalent of pollution emitted by 250,000 automobiles per year. In fact, in the month of March 2016, over 83,000 tonnes of CO2 were captured, the equivalent of 700 cars per day being off the road.
The CO2 is sold to an oil company which uses it to stimulate oil and gas wells to improve its productivity while reducing the use of chemicals and water, which are also used to stimulate oil production. It is also sequestered miles underground.
This is technology that can be used around the world for coal generation plants that continue to meet the needs of electricity requirements of more than 50% of the world's population. This is innovation. This is infrastructure. This is green technology. This creates jobs.
Carbon capture is not a perfect system, but we take a measured approach in Saskatchewan. This is proving to be a less disruptive solution to reducing C02 emissions than simply shutting coal-powered generation facilities with nothing to replace that source of electricity.
I am sure that those who believe that The Flintstones is a documentary, and who continue to burn fossil fuels to attend conferences around the world to discuss how to shut down the fossil fuel industry, are appalled by this approach. However, it sure beats their alternative of economic disruption, massive unemployment, and, as has been experienced in Ontario, huge increases in electricity costs. This will harm businesses and individuals by increasing the energy costs by over 70% in the next 10 years.
The Liberals talk a good game about growing the economy and environmental protection. In my riding, we also produce lots of oil. Moosomin, Saskatchewan is the proposed jumping off point for the proposed energy east pipeline to transport oil produced in Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and Alberta across Canada to refineries and ports in the Atlantic provinces. This would remove millions of barrels of oil from being transported by rail across the country and through communities. The government response to this huge influx of private capital into infrastructure has been to dither and delay.
The government provided nothing in the budget for a proposal from a resident in my riding, which was supported by Premier Wall, to engage out-of-work oil workers in oil sites reclamation projects. Instead, the Prime Minister came to Saskatchewan and told us that we should be happy that the downturn in energy prices has not hit us harder. I am not sure how to explain that to an oil field services company that has had to lay off 22 of its 26 employees. There are no job-creating strategies within this budget.
While an American oil company proceeds with building a 50,000 barrel-per-day refinery in North Dakota, a few miles south of my riding, we study and delay $15 billion of private money to expand a transportation system for Canadian-produced oil. I am not sure why sunny ways should make us glad that our biggest competitor in the oil industry in North America generates employment and economic activity while we equivocate and utter meaningless bromides.
Over the past 40 years, a fairly consistent cycle of activity has been followed in the oil fields in southeast Saskatchewan. Oil workers stop work for two to three months in the spring while the land thaws. Some of these workers take up part-time work in the agriculture sector during seeding, or apply for employment insurance while they wait for work in the oil industry to resume. With the changes in the oil industry and lack of encouragement for the industry by the government, instead of applying for employment insurance, these oil workers are simply giving up. Again, I am not sure why we should be glad in Saskatchewan that the government has no idea where the oil field is and refuses to extend, by a few weeks, the access to employment insurance in the oil fields of southeast Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan is a province that is very dependent upon the export of our products and services. The TPP agreement, entered into with 12 other Pacific countries, provides an opportunity for ranchers, architects, manufacturers, food producers, education and health workers, and all the other sectors of Saskatchewan's diverse economy, to have access to wider markets. Removing tariffs on cattle, canola, honey and other agriculture products, and allowing for the unimpeded movement of professionals, is nothing but great for the Saskatchewan economy. The positive impact of this agreement was ignored in the budget, and the government seems to be sending signals that it is unsure if it wants to participate with countries representing 40% of the world's trade.
In conclusion, Saskatchewan is an important contributor to the well-being of the Canadian economy. We have a way of life that allows individuals and communities to grow, to contribute to the image of Canadians all around the world as fair-minded, honest, and law-abiding people. The indifference of the Prime Minister to the challenges of those employed in the fossil fuel industry, the uncertainty of the government's actions with respect to privately funded national infrastructure programs, and the lack of commitment in supporting free trade agreements is causing concern among the many industries and communities in Saskatchewan. They are being left with an impression that the federal government is more intent on attacking the way of life we have developed than in providing support, leadership, and a commitment to improving the function and future of our community.