Alberta’s Got Gas and Sask’s Got a Pharm!

I’m currently reading a book called “Stampede! The Rise of the West and Canada’s New Power Elite” by Gordon Pitts of the Globe & Mail.  This book came to my attention after winning a 2009 National Business Book Prize and, as you might expect given its title and author, it’s a fairly pro-business look at the rise of the west through the development of the energy economy.

Although the main focus is Alberta, the book really takes a cross-country look at the current state of the Canadian economy – from the impact of the oil sands on the people of Newfoundland to the fall of Ontario as a manufacturing centre (and subsequent shift of economic and political power to Alberta)to the unlimited potential of BC as a hub between the prairies, the American west coast and Asia as well as a retirement/leisure paradise.

Pitts also includes a chapter at the end which begins with the words: “In writing this book, I almost missed the real story” where he goes on to talk about how Saskatchewan is the province that’s poised to be the true tiger of the Canadian economy in the near future.  Unlike Alberta which is so tied to oil and gas, we have everything here – not only oil and gas but potash, diamonds, all types of agricultural products and more.  (In terms of our crop growing capabilities, he points out that oil & gas are finite resources but if you can always grow food, people will always need to eat.)   He also reveals that Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has a bigger market capitalization than Encana, Alberta’s biggest oil & gas company!

In talking about Saskatchewan, Pitts includes an interview with Paul Hill who is the third-generation head of Saskatchewan’s most powerful family.  Mr. Hill makes a strong attack on Tommy Douglas who he labels as the reason that Alberta, not Saskatchewan, became Canada’s thriving oil & gas hub.  (There’s possibly some truth to that but I can also imagine a history where we ended up with US-style healthcare system if Tommy Douglas hadn’t come along when he had so I’ll take that trade!)

Anyhow, having just about finished the book, it connected to something else I recently came across via The Accidental Jurist.  Social democratic principles don’t need to be completely adversarial with the business world (after all, it was Lorne Calvert’s NDP government who revised our royalty rates that led to much of our current boom.  And NDP governments have been the most fiscally responsible wherever they’ve held power across Canada.)

Former NDP leadership candidate, Ryan Meili, recently published an article about one of his pet ideas – SaskPharm – in the Canadian Medical Association Journal which shows that business acumen and socialist ideals don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I’ve written about the “inter-connected beauty” of his idea for a Crown corporation in the business of making generic drugs before – how it could provide a permanent market for our agricultural crops, how it would provide even more impetus for our booming science R&D sector, how it could provide a revenue stream by selling generic brands to other jurisdictions and how it could help lower healthcare costs as we face an aging boomer population.

Like Medicare, it’s too good of an idea to let go and I suspect that in some shape or form, we may see something like SaskPharm at some point in the future.  (You heard it here first!)

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  1. From Head Tale - I’m Voting For Nathan Cullen (And If You Want Stephen Harper Gone, You Should Too!) on 13 Mar 2012 at 9:55 pm

    […] But when I looked at that list again, I realised that Cullen checks off most of those same points as well – youth (check), progressive ideals (check), multilingual (oui! si!), highly educated (as far as I can tell, he only has an undergrad degree so am I moving the goalposts to say I’ll take his international development experience and community organizing as an equal substitute to some type of grad degree?  And at any rate, he’s been called the “by far, the smartest leadership candidate” by someone who should know a bit about these things.).  True, Cullen’s not from the Prairies but he is from the west (and from a rural riding to boot) and whether you mean Alberta, the prairies or everything west of Winnipeg, it’s clear that the Canadian west is becoming (if it hasn’t already become) the new seat…. […]

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