The Saskatchewan government is defending its latest international trade mission as an opportunity to promote the province as a destination for global investment, and an important partner in North American energy security.
Premier Scott Moe and his delegation returned Friday from a five-day trip to the United States, which included meetings in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Saskatchewan has “the food, fuel and fertilizer that the world needs, in particular in a post-pandemic world,” Moe said after his arrival in Saskatoon on Friday.
“I think we’re seeing the results in the province as to some of this engagement that we’re having around the world.”
Saskatchewan Minister of Justice Bronwyn Eyre, who was previously minister of energy and resources, joined Moe in Washington on Tuesday.
“What we were really putting in front of the elected folks in Washington, D.C., is a real need to have a plan for continental energy security,” said Moe.
Looking at the energy situation in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the premier said he doesn’t want North America to end up in a similarly vulnerable position.
“North American energy security means removing impediments to moving our oil back and forth — not only across the 49th parallel, but east and west as well — and removing any impediments … in providing uranium, as energy security is broader than just oil.”
Moe said the delegation also advocated for uranium to be put back on the U.S. list of minerals that are critical to that country’s economy and national security. Uranium was dropped from that list in 2021.
This year’s revised list dropped potash, which the Saskatchewan delegation also urged the U.S. to restore to the list.
Moe said people he met seemed open to that conversation.
During more than 40 meetings during the five-day trip, including 25 during the last two days in Washington, the delegation promoted Saskatchewan as a supplier of oil, uranium and rare earth elements, Moe said.
The trip’s meetings in New York focused on the financial and investment sector.
Sask. NDP criticizes the premier’s travels
Provincial government officials are returning to international travel after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saskatchewan NDP has criticized Moe’s international trips, saying the Saskatchewan Party government should instead focus on issues at home, like fuel price relief.
The provincial government should abandon an upcoming PST expansion — which will add the provincial sales tax to admission and entertainment charges, including gym, golf and curling memberships — and implement an immediate cost-of-living rebate, the NDP said in a media release.
“We have a government that is more focused on travel, more focused on their own bottom line when households and businesses can’t meet theirs,” Aleana Young, the Opposition critic for jobs and the economy, on Wednesday.
As of Saturday, the average price for regular gas in the province was 205.1 cents per litre, according to the Canadian Automobile Association.
Moe said his travel and a potential response to the current gas price situation are not connected.
The premier once again criticized the federal carbon tax for “pushing that fuel price higher.”
“We have a carbon tax in this nation that can be removed, and should be removed,” he said, while once again hinting some relief could be coming.
“If the natural resource prices are continuing to show strength, we will look at how we can, you know, cushion that for Saskatchewan people,” said Moe.
“As we find our way into our first quarter of the budget cycle, we will, if there’s a projected surplus, look at how we can treat Saskatchewan people equally and fairly with that surplus. It is ultimately their surplus.”
The first quarter update for the 2022-23 annual budget is expected to come out later in the summer.