Thinking the world of Sask. resources

Business students hear of reputation we’re developing


Stephen Halabura, president and CEO of Concept Forge Inc.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix

One local geologist believes Saskatchewan’s prosperity relies on going back to the future.

Stephen Halabura, president and CEO of Concept Forge Inc., shared his knowledge about this province’s resources with business students Friday at the University of Saskatchewan.

“For 30 years there was information being kept,” Halabura said. “Nothing was happening. It’s been a whole generation that stayed frozen. That’s why the resources stayed in the ground.”

Halabura, along with a team of researchers from Anglo Potash, are responsible for revealing historical documents that showed what a trove of potash the province was sitting on.

It wasn’t until Halabura visited the third floor of the Geodata branch in Regina in 2005 that he was able to find what he calls a treasure chest – data from individual potash drilling projects showed the extent of the resource.

“I began looking through all the records of exploration projects from the 1960s. It was all there. It said everything,” Halabura said of the exploration plans shelved in a dusty back room. The government requires all exploration companies – going back to the turn of the 20th century – to file all of their exploration material.”


The team found records that showed a vast network of resources covering most of the province. The research was the impetus for the Jansen project, which became the basis of BHP Billiton Ltd.’s entry into the global potash business. Today, Halabura is telling business leaders and youth around the world about Saskatchewan’s mineral riches.

On Friday, Halabura told youth at a Global Vision luncheon to take risks and be fearless.

“I’m a 20th century guy,” he said. “I’m not going to be the destiny of this province. (Youth) are going to be the destiny of this province.”

Global Vision brought Halabura in to share wisdom garnered from his aggressive career starting businesses and consulting for global companies.

The organization helps young Canadians become more business savvy.

In the audience listening to Halabura was Aaron Lingrend, who recently left Saskatchewan to pursue a degree in international business at Carleton University in Ottawa. Lingrend says although Saskatchewan is still battling stereotypes outside its borders, it’s a province many eastern Canadians are talking about.

“In my studies at Carleton, Saskatchewan was one of our main topics,” Lingrend said. “Between potash and our rich agriculture sector that we have, people are taking note.”

Global Vision has selected the native of Watrous to represent Saskatchewan on a trade mission to Malaysia and Indonesia in August. Lingrend will tell people about the province’s agriculture sector.

“I think I’ve been bitten by the entrepreneur bug,” Lingrend said. “Learning about international relations, learning about how Canadians can promote business within the global economy, this is what I hope to take away from this experience.”


Sarah Guinea, a member of Global Vision who travelled to Malaysia in the winter of 2010, organized this year’s event. The recent graduate of the Edwards school of business is moving to Calgary this fall to article for Deloitte and Touche. She says many of the experiences she learned while participating in Global Vision programs helped her realize her future.

“There are just things you can’t learn in a classroom,” Guinea said. “How to make a cold call, how to speak in front of a crowd and even how to network are things Global Vision introduced me to.”

This summer, Halabura will be taking the message about the province’s lucrative stash of resources to Europe and China.

“Now, global business leaders look not to Canada first, and then Saskatchewan via Alberta, but Saskatchewan first.”

Making sense of it all: Saskatchewan Budget 2011

It was a flurry of action this past Wednesday at the Legislature in Regina as the Saskatchewan Party announced their fourth consecutive budget. While I thought I was prepared (I mean who couldn’t be, just look at a few numbers and tell us what it means) quite the opposite took place. I got lost at times in all those numbers. I had the daunting task of writing the budget overview, as well as a story on immigration numbers coming out of the budget. Both posed challenges.

Luckily, I was able to pick the mind of former NDP MLA, Pat Atkinson, who admitted to still having difficulty figuring out what all the facts and figures meant after 25 years of doing it. She did offer some insight; the most important thing she said was to pay attention to the forecasts and estimates the government is making in the budget. As we saw a couple of years ago, the Potash estimates were way off, causing great strain on the government. Atkinson, in her first year being away from the budget, still had that fire for politics in her eyes. (quotes from her to follow).

In tackling the budget overview, I focused mainly on what the government themselves were highlighting. Of course it was all good news on their front. Finance Minister Ken Krawetz delivered what he’s calling “a balanced budget.” Called the ‘Saskatchewan Advantage’, the budget focuses on lowering taxes, improving services, and lessening debt. That seemed easy enough. But the opposition had some choice words for what they called a “failed” budget.

NDP opposition critic for Finance, Trent Wotherspoon, in a passionate rebuttal to the speech, gave this response.

“We didn’t see the kind of broad-based relief we would like to see at a time of so-called prosperity being touted by this government, “ said Wotherspoon. “We see more revenue from this government but we just simply don’t see it being connected to the well-being of Saskatchewan people.”

After finishing the budget overview, which more-or-less wrote itself (thanks to Atkinson), I had to shift my focus to immigration. While the overview allowed for a less-focused approach, the immigration story required specific detail to one small part of the budget. Hidden in the budget was a $1.8 million increase to the $14.7 million already being spent on immigration in Saskatchewan.

I guess what was shocking to me when compiling this story, is that population growth, numbers in and out of Saskatchewan, seemed to be the issue of the day more often than not. Now, slid in between all the big headlines and bolded words was a small couple of paragraphs on immigration.

But when asked, Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration, Rob Norris, was quick to highlight that since 2007 (same year the Sask Party took over) 50,000 people have come to Saskatchewan. Here’s some of Norris’ thoughts:

‘We know there’s a lot more work to do in this area, it comes with the territory. The great news is that for years leading up to the 2007 election about 30,000 people left this province. Since then, about 50,000 people have come to Saskatchewan. It’s now the fastest growing province in Canada.”

“These are new dollars within the Ministry to help ensure there are greater settlements and supports. We don’t do this in isolation we do this with many partners from the private sector to the community from post-secondary educational institutions and educational instituations as well. “

But with increasing population comes a housing crisis, and quickly that’s the new hot topic button for the opposition. Below are some quotes from the opposition, including Pat Atkinson on this issue:

Cam Broten NDP MLA Saskatoon Massey Place

“We know in our cities, in our towns in our rural areas housing is a major concern whether your student, low income earner, or a young coupe trying to start out in the world.”

“What is absent in the provincial government strategy is a housing strategy. It’s done in an adhoc way. What’s really needed is a comprehensive strategy that increases supply through incentives.”

“The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee program was brought in by the NDP government and is a good program. People are accessing it which is a good thing. But at the end of the day there’s needs to be proper resources in the community that allow immigrants to do well. “

“Really it comes down to issues of affordability. Some of these immigrants are very well to do, but many are not. Many are struggling while starting a new life and the issues of housing, rent, and general affordability is a real concern.”

Pat Atkinson – Former NDP MLA (Also oversaw Sask. Immigration)

“We had some demographic work done that showed we were going to have a significant labour shortage. We needed to make sure that Aboriginal and Metis people in the province had the same access to employment as the newcomers. So we had a balanced approach to the whole labour market issure. “

“We ramped up the program very carefully. We didn’t just say we’re going to bring in 10,000 people, so I would say that what we have now in the province of Saskatchewan in terms of population growth is many many newcomers that are coming but agencies, schoolboards don’t have the fiscal capacity to handle it all, so the government is going to have to put more resources into the system to support immigrants and their children.”

“I think what they have to do is to support the new people coming but they have to do their work on the aboriginal side otherwise you create difficulties. We see aboriginal employment has dropped drastically in the province while immigrants are coming and taking those jobs, so what we need to do is be very careful. We need to have support for newcomers so that they can be integrated into civil society.”

Dwaine Lingenfelter – Opposition Leader

“It’s no doubt that Saskatchewan was built with immigration. Many of our families came here from around the world so immigration is an important part of Saskatchewan’s culture. But it has to be done in such a way that when new people come here there are jobs for them, housing, they’re not taken advantaged of with their rent or the power rates. Also you make sure that your employment rate within your aboriginal population isn’t suffering as a result of other people coming from other parts of the world. It’s a neat balance you have to strike and I think in the past year we’ve seen a fairly rapid escalation in the unemplouyment of abolifingal people so we have to be careful that we have programs and jobs in place for the original Canadians, let’s put it that way.”

“What they’re not meeting is the needs of immigrants and aboriginal people on the area of housing, utility costs, and also on the quality of housing. We have a major shortage of quality housing across the province .”

“It’s really difficult to see a continued immigration policy where you’re attracting more and more people but you’re not building the infastructure to look after them. That’s a big failing of the Wall government.”

“It’s an interesting though, the new Saskatchewan they talk about. If they’re talking about the new Saskatchewan being a province where you have anti-labour, if you’re talking about huge housing shortages, that’s the new Saskatchewan, or if it’s the long line-ups for daycare and childcare in the province, we want to make sure the new Saskatchewan is infact a better Saskatchewan, and I’m just not sure many families feel they’re a part of the booming economy.”

So there you have it – the thoughts and feelings surrounding immigration in the province, mainly from an opposition perspective.

It was a frenzied day, one full of adrenaline and stress… but I’d call the budget coverage a sweeping success for the University of Regina’s School of Journalism.