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4 Nov 2014
The StarPhoenix
Developer warns housing has cooled
The City of Saskatoon is planning to service land for 16,688 new houses and multiunit dwellings over the next three years to keep pace with four per cent growth.
A local developer, however, cautions that the housing market has cooled and unsold inventory is already high.
According to a report on land development presented at city council’s finance committee meeting on Monday, builder and developer inventory hit 1,783 for single-family homes as of Aug. 15 — well above the target of 1,195 — and 3,492 for apartment, condo and townhouse units — drastically more than the target of 2,490.
Saskatoon population growth scenarios
The single-family inventory marks a high for the last five years and the multifamily inventory is the highest since 2010. Still, the city plans to accommodate growth in Saskatoon’s suburbs by servicing 5,106 more units in 2015, 3,763 in 2016 and 4,483 in 2017. “I would say it’s a bit of overkill,” said Ron Olson, general manager of Boychuk Homes and past president of the Canadian Home Builders Association.
“We’re not suggesting that it’s critical, but anybody in the industry knows there is an oversupply of vacant lots and completed houses.”
The report charts possible growth rate scenarios over the next three years: Four per cent growth would mean Saskatoon’s population would balloon to more than 290,000 by 2017, while a more modest 1.5 per cent growth rate would result in significantly less than 270,000 people.
Olson stressed he’s not overly critical of the city’s approach, but pointed out there are fewer buyers out there, especially in the $500,000 to $650,000 price range.
“We’re just being cautious right now on the private side,” he said in an interview.
As of Jan. 1, most of the inventory of 1,394 singlefamily lots were located in Stonebridge (510), Evergreen (438), Rosewood (257) and Hampton Village (107).
Frank Long, the director of Saskatoon’s land branch, said the city got caught with an inventory that was barely sufficient to keep ahead of demand several years ago and wants to make sure enough serviced land is available.
“I think what we’ve got now is a better balanced inventory than what we had three or four years ago,” Long said.
Coun. Charlie Clark expressed concern that suburban development shows the city has made little progress toward improving its growth ratio from 80 per cent in the suburbs and 20 per cent in the core to the stated goal of 70-30.
“This report shows a massive amount of greenfield development,” Clark said.
Ryan Walker, a professor of urban planning at the University of Saskatchewan, said city officials talk about the need for sustainable growth, but since — unlike most municipalities — the city is also a land developer, there is an “addiction” to the money from suburban growth.
“The great contradiction is that over time it’s actually more costly to the people of Saskatoon to pay for that outward expansion,” Walker said in an interview. “City hall talks out of both sides of its mouth.”
Coun. Tiffany Paulsen called for changes in the way the city reports on suburban growth, pointing out the impact of growth on the mill rate is not revealed in reports like the one presented Monday.
Of the 16,688 serviced units planned, 8,960 would be multi-family units like apartments, condos and townhouses. The report also says developers plan to service 430 acres of industrial land over the next three years, most of it in the Marquis Industrial area, and more than 295 acres of commercial land.

Sask. hosts largest diplomatic visit ever

21 Oct 2014
Sask. hosts largest diplomatic visit ever
Economic mission to boost trade
Senior diplomats representing more than 50 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, descended on the province this week as part of the first-ever Economic Mission to Saskatchewan, organized by House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer and the federal and provincial governments.
“This is the first time the economic forum has been hosted in Saskatchewan,” Scheer told reporters on Monday, the first day of the diplomats’ five-day visit to the province. “It’s the largest gathering of ambassadors and heads of mission in Saskatchewan’s history.”
Scheer said the mission was timed to coincide with the opening of the fall legislative session and Speech from the Throne on Wednesday, but also includes visits to Mosaic Potash’s solution mine at Belle Plaine, Evraz Steel mill and Brandt Industries manufacturing plant in Regina, research facilities at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and SaskPower’s carbon capture and storage project at Boundary Dam power station in Estevan.
Scheer said the economic mission underscores the importance of having positive trade relations with the rest of the world, especially for an exporting province like Saskatchewan. “We’re an export province in an exporting country,” Scheer said.
Scheer said the mission will expose many ambassadors to the province for the first time and should help increase trade, investment and educational exchanges between the province and the 50 or so countries. “It’s very important that the ambassadors can … talk about the opportunities that exist here. They’ve been on the ground. They’ve visited the facilities. They’ve met with representatives of industry.”
Florence Chideya, ambassador of Zimbabwe since 2005 and dean of the diplomatic corps in Ottawa, said she would like to visit all the sites on the mission, but will concentrate on educational institutions, like the U of S.
“Our population is young and our population is hungry for knowledge, especially at (post-secondary) levels,” Chideya said. “Zimbabwe, in the continent of Africa, is No. 1 in terms of literacy — 97 per cent — and that will show you that our people want to move forward.”
While she shares concerns about the “brain drain” from Africa, Chideya said countries like Zimbabwe also benefit from the return of students from Canada, so there’s also a “brain gain.”
Veselko Grubiscic, Croatia’s ambassador to Canada and vice-dean of the European diplomatic corps in Ottawa, said Croatia, which is the newest member of the European Union, hopes to use the recently signed Canada-Europe trade agreement to increase trade and investment ties with Canada. “(CETA) is probably the most comprehensive trade agreement of all time and it’s going to be great for Canada and all the EU countries.”
Grubiscic, an engineer by training, said the CCS project in Estevan is the most interesting site for him, given Croatia’s reliance on coal-fired electricity generation.
“I never expected, when I was studying chemical engineering, that I’m going to see in Saskatchewan the top of innovative technology (in CCS in the world).”
The delegates will attend the official opening of the Legislative Assembly Wednesday and depart Regina on Thursday.

OIl prices and exchange rate down – bad and good for Saskatchewan

October 15, 2014
For 2014-15, when considering the provincial budget assumptions, it is estimated that :
• a US$1 per barrel change in the average WTI oil price results in an estimated $20 million change in oil royalties;
• a 1 U.S. cent change in the average value of the Canadian dollar results in an estimated $31 million change in non-renewable resources revenue.
Note, this is a full-year average and based on production amounts not deviating either.
The 2014/15 Saskatchewan budget was based on:
  • WTI oil prices are forecast to average US$94.25 per barrel in 2014-15
  • Exchange rate of 91.50
  • WTI is lower than forecasted at US$82.31 per barrel (not good for Saskatchewan)
  • Exchange rate is lower than forecasted at 88.31 (but this is good for Saskatchewan since we sell our oil and potash in US dollars and thus realise higher revenues)

Why Saskatchewan Works

Sun News’ “Byline” with Brian Lilley explains why Saskatchewan works.

Saskatchewan aiming to triple exports to Asia

1 Oct 2014
Sask. aiming to triple exports to Asia
Hoping to hit target by 2020
Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan is looking to triple its exports to Asia by 2020 to keep in line with recommendations from a report released on Tuesday.
The Saskatchewan-Asia Advisory Council made 45 suggestions, such as more Asian language studies in schools and increased recruitment of international post-secondary students from that continent.
“There are some pretty bold recommendations,” said Wall, who added the province has already increased its role in Asian markets.
“Lest anyone doubt that this is possible, consider that between 2008 and 2012 Saskatchewan exports to China grew from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion.”
The council, formed in May 2013 to provide advice on Saskatchewan’s trade with Asia, reports Asian countries have the highest demand for provincial products.
It warns Canada is lagging behind countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Australia.
Recommendations include the province creating project proposals for at least 10 major investment opportunities for Asian entrepreneurs to consider.
Council chairman Grant Kook, who is CEO of Saskatoon-based Westcap Mgt. Ltd., said Asia is set to account for half of the world’s global domestic product by 2050. He suggests Saskatchewan can reap the economic benefits by attracting Asian investment.
“There is a lack of urgency in national efforts to enhance and transform our Asian relationships,” Kook said. “We believe Saskatchewan can and should lead the nation in Asian engagement.”
The report says Saskatchewan’s trade in 2013 with Asia was at an all-time high of $6.6 billion in exports to major partners such as India, Indonesia, China and Japan.
It recommends Mandarin language programs in schools starting at the primary level and calls for efforts to double Saskatchewan’s international postsecondary recruitment by 2020, with a focus on Asian students.
“We’re going to be careful about any major curriculum changes,” said Wall, who added extracurricular programs are one possible option for increasing the presence of Mandarin at the grade-school level.

Grain prices down; potash, uranium up #uranium #potash

30 Sep 2014
The StarPhoenix
Grain prices down; potash, uranium up
Agricultural index down in August
Commodity prices are a mixed bag for Saskatchewan producers, with most agricultural commodity prices down in August, including wheat, canola and hogs, while other commodities like cattle, uranium and potash are showing signs of strength, according to a bank commodity report released Monday.
Scotiabank’s commodity price index report indicated its agricultural index was down 6.7 per cent in August over the previous month, mainly due to declines in grain and livestock prices. “The decline was led by barley, pushed lower by very low U.S. corn prices, a competing grain for livestock and poultry,” the Scotiabank report said.
The silver lining for Saskatchewan wheat producers is that some higher-grade crops left over from last year are fetching good prices because of the large, but relatively low-quality wheat harvest this year.
“While the world wheat crop is also expected to be a record this fall, crop quality will be poor in the United States, Russia, France and Ukraine, boosting premiums for high-protein bread wheat,” Scotiabank said. “Excessive moisture will also take a toll on Western Canada’s wheat quality, but carryover volumes of higher-wheat from 201314 will add to Prairie farm income this year.”
On the mineral side, potash prices were up slightly, while uranium prices have hit bottom and are moving upward, Scotiabank said.
Spot market potash prices were at US$310 per ton in August, up only slightly from the January low of US$295 for standard-grade potash. However, Uralkali, which caused potash prices to plummet when it left the Eastern European potash cartel BPC last July, has increased granular prices in Brazil and across Latin America to US$380 per ton.
Uralkali also intends to boost contract prices to China by 10 per cent in the first half of 2015. As a result, China will exercise its options on Canpotex volumes, eager to purchase more tonnage before prices move up.
Canpotex — the overseas sales agent of Potash Corp, Agrium and Mosaic — is effectively soldout over the balance of 2014, Scotiabank said.
Record deliveries
Global potash deliveries were at record levels in the first half of 2014 and will likely increase by eight per cent to nearly 59 million tons in 2014. Canpotex producers have the bulk of the surplus capacity available for world markets. As a result, Potash Corp is recalling staff at previously curtailed operations in its Canadian mines and will consider raising its production to 10.5 million to 11 million tons in 2015 from 9.2 million tons this year.
Patricia Mohr, Scotiabank’s commodity specialist, said Potash Corp hopes to increase production now in the expectation of higher prices later. “They would like to have the volume gains, rather than substantially higher prices.”
Spot uranium prices have also lifted decisively off a US$28.25 per pound low in June to US$36.50 in mid September.
“Improving market sentiment reflects prospects for two nuclear reactor re-starts in Japan, more active midterm utility demand and production deferrals and curtailments,” Scotiabank said.

Saskatchewan farmland prices up again

Farmland prices holding steady despite falling crop values

Eric Atkins

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 30 2014, 5:00 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 29 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

The value of agricultural land across Canada is generally holding up despite falling crop prices, regional flooding and a long winter that kept buyers at bay, a new report shows.

However, the study from real estate company Re/Max adds that price increases for most farmland are expected to slow this year, with the exception of Alberta, southwestern Ontario and parts of the Ottawa Valley.

In Alberta, bidding wars have helped drive up the price of farmland by as much as 20 per cent year over year to around $10,000 an acre in the southern part of the province. Even unproductive scrubland rose in value as city dwellers bought rural getaways.

“Western Canadian farmers and their families continue to display resilience, surefootedness and enduring optimism,” said Elton Ash, regional vice-president at Re/Max of Western Canada. “Intense demand and short supply in Alberta has caused bidding wars like we see in Canada’s hot housing markets.”

The picture was not as bright in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where flooding and a harsh winter hurt farm profits and kept per-acre values generally flat year over year. In Saskatchewan, prices increased from between $1,500 and $2,000 an acre in 2013 to between $1,800 and $2,200 in 2014. Manitoba saw its price range go from between $1,350 and $1,600 to $1,500 and $2,000.

The report said the most typical buyer of farmland anywhere was a farm family expanding their output by buying more land. Proximity to local processing facilities was also a big factor in purchases.

In Ontario, farmland north of the Greater Toronto Area slated for redevelopment has hit $54,000 an acre, double the value of producing land in the region. The southwest tip of the province, Chatham-Kent, saw prices increase by 40 per cent from 2013 to $25,000 an acre. The rise drove some families looking to expand their farms out of the region to find more affordable land, the report said.

In Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo area, the bulk of the buyers were wealthy city folk looking to start a hobby farm. These farms ranged in size from 15 to 50 acres and typically cost just under $1-million, slightly lower year over year. Farmers in this area are also having to go further afield to find affordable land to expand their operations.

British Columbia’s blueberry-growing region, the Fraser Valley outside Vancouver, is also drawing a lot of interest from buyers. In the wake of a good blueberry crop in 2014, prices for an acre of farmland rose modestly to as high of $63,000 an acre from $60,000 in 2013.

In Nova Scotia, a number of new vineyards help send up prices 25 per cent to as much as $10,000 an acre.

SaskPower to launch carbon-capture plant

SaskPower to launch carbon-capture plant


REGINA — The Canadian Press

Published Sunday, Sep. 28 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

Last updated Sunday, Sep. 28 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

Saskatchewan’s government-owned power utility is set to launch its flagship carbon-capture-and-storage project this week when it cuts the ribbon on a $1.4-billion addition to its Boundary Dam power plant near Estevan.

Billed by SaskPower as the world’s first and largest commercial-scale, carbon-capture operation of its kind, the project outfits part of the coal-fired power station with a mechanism to capture carbon dioxide emissions and transport the gas through a steel pipeline into storage deep underground.

While its proponents say the project represents a way to burn fossil fuels – such as coal – more efficiently with less greenhouse gas, critics argue carbon capture simply enables the status quo and does little to mitigate the damage caused by carbon emissions.

“It’s a waste of vital capital that should be invested in conservation, efficiency and renewable [energy],” says Sierra Club Canada director John Bennett. “It doesn’t get us off fossil fuels.

“We can no longer talk in terms of using less of them, we have to be working towards eliminating them.”

The project aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one million tonnes annually, which amounts to about 90 per cent of the emissions from the plant.

“We sincerely expect this to become a model for plants around the world,” SaskPower chief executive officer Robert Watson says. “This is what we think is a long-term, fiscally responsible way of getting less emissions into the air.”

Some of the carbon dioxide will be liquefied and sold to oil companies to help extract more crude from the ground. The utility has a 10-year contract with Cenovus Energy Inc., a Calgary-based oil company, to buy the captured carbon.

The power station will also capture sulphur dioxide, which can be converted to sulphuric acid and sold for industrial use. A byproduct of coal combustion called fly ash will be captured and sold for use in concrete products.

The plant has been touted as a solution to climate change since 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the site and announced $240-million in federal funding.

While the final costs are still being calculated, Mr. Watson acknowledged the project is over budget. Last fall, that overage was pegged at $115-million, or 9 per cent.

He said while the carbon-capture facility was “essentially on budget,” there were unforeseen issues with the power facility, including rebuilding the boiler and costs arising from an asbestos scare.

“Things that were beyond our control caused those issues,” he says.

Those issues led to delays. The plant was supposed to start storing some carbon in April.

Mr. Bennett says the investment in Boundary Dam could have been put toward renewable-energy projects, such as outfitting homes with solar panels.

“I don’t see this as having much of a long-term future,” he says.

Arvind Rajendran, a professor in engineering at the University of Alberta who studies carbon capture and storage, says the technology has been used in other industries, including the fertilizer industry, but not on the scale of the Boundary Dam.

“From that perspective, the data that is going to come out of Boundary Dam is very important. It will tell scientists and policy-makers the costs that are involved,” he says. “You have to supply extra energy to capture the [carbon dioxide] and that energy has to come from somewhere.”

“Healthy gain” in Saskatchewan business optimisim in September: CFIB

27 Sep 2014
‘Healthy gain’ in optimism in September: CFIB
Optimism among small business owners in Saskatchewan increased 3.2 points to an index of 68.2 in September from 65.0 in August, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said in its latest monthly ‘business barometer’ survey released Thursday.
“While small business optimism in Saskatchewan has been unsteady through 2014, it is encouraging to see a healthy gain in September,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president for Prairie and agri-business.
“Saskatchewan is once again near the top of the pack on indicators, like hiring plans and the general state of business health. However, we know entrepreneurs continue to feel the pressure from labour shortages, increasing wage costs and high fuel and energy costs.”
Just over half (52 per cent) of businesses in Saskatchewan say their overall state of business is good (versus 42 per cent nationally), while 10 per cent say it is bad (versus 11 per cent nationally). One in five (21 per cent) of Saskatchewan businesses plan to increase full-time employment in the next three to four months (versus 19 per cent nationally) and 7.0 per cent plan to decrease employment (versus 8.0 per cent nationally).
The shortage of skilled labour remains the main operating challenge for Saskatchewan small businesses, with 50 per cent reporting difficulty hiring qualified staff, second-highest in Canada after Alberta at 53 per cent.
Nationally, small and midsized business optimism remained steady in September, with CFIB’s business barometer index holding at 65.6, just a fraction of a point from August’s 65.5. “These fairly consistent readings over the last two months suggest the Canadian economy is growing at a moderate pace,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president.
Business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador remain the country’s most optimistic, maintaining an index level above 74. Alberta small business owners are right behind at a robust 73.8. Optimism in British Columbia (70.9) and Saskatchewan bumped upward as well this month.
In the Maritimes, we have seen a strong rebound in Nova Scotia business sentiment (to 63.5) at the same time as sharp downdrafts in New Brunswick (59.8) and P.E.I. (53.8). Results for Ontario and Quebec are largely unchanged, with index levels at 65.2 and 60.5, respectively.
An index level above 50 means owners expecting their business’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. September’s findings are based on 1,022 responses from a random sample of CFIB members. Findings are considered accurate plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times in 20.



Released on September 26, 2014

Saskatchewan’s population kept growing in the second quarter of 2014 (April 1 to July 1), increasing by another 5,281 people to 1,125,410.  In the past year (July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014), the province grew by 19,163 people.
Both the quarterly and annual growth rates are the second highest among the provinces, behind only Alberta.

SK population Sept 2014
Premier Brad Wall said Saskatchewan’s continued growth is a clear indication of a strong economy.
“The population grows when the economy is creating new jobs and opportunities,” Wall said.  “That has been the case for several years now in Saskatchewan – a complete reversal from when Saskatchewan was losing people, jobs and opportunities.”
Wall noted that in the last seven years (July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2014), Saskatchewan has grown by more than 123,000 people – a sharp contrast from the seven years prior to that (July 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007) when the province’s population dropped by more than 5,500.
“A strong economy and a growing population means a growing tax base that helps us to meet the challenges of growth,” Wall said.  “It’s a virtuous circle as opposed to the vicious cycle of decline we used to face.”
Saskatchewan remains on track to meeting the target of 1.2 million people set in the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth while Statistics Canada said the province’s population could hit 1.5 million by 2038.
For more information, contact:
Kathy Young Executive Council Regina Phone: 306-787-0425 Email: Cell: 306-526-8927

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