If you were listening hard enough on September 26, you might have heard the sound of champagne corks popping, people cheering and festive music blaring from Regina.
Saskatchewan's population has reached 1.1 million. For a lot of people, it was an important milestone; for others, it was a chance to smugly say “I told you so.”
It wasn't that long ago when Saskatchewan was hovering around a million people. Sometimes the population would dip below a million; other times it inched above that mark. Meanwhile, the other provinces in the country were reaping the benefits of more people, a larger tax base and better perceptions beyond their borders.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to perpetual stagnancy: the province's population started to grow. And the economy started to improve. And that growth has continued, despite a change in government, a global recession and wild swings in prices for our coveted natural resources.
The governing Saskatchewan Party will note how the province has grown since they took power, and they do deserve a lot of credit for what has happened in Saskatchewan since 2007. But a lot of the growth trends – including new business investment and an influx of newcomers – began when the NDP was still in power.
The population has increased quicker because the Sask. Party is in government as opposed to the NDP, because the business climate is better. But to give the Sask. Party all the credit for the boom would be historical revisionism, and it wouldn't be giving the NDP the kudos they deserve for some philosophical shifts in their final years in power.
There are challenges associated with growth, and the government continues to work through some of those hurdles eight years after the boom began. But anybody with a modicum of common sense will want growth and its hurdles over the comforts of perpetually being in neutral.
And if Saskatchewan wasn't growing, then many of the services that we've enjoyed for so long, especially in rural communities, would be disappearing. School boards rarely have to discuss closing schools and transferring teachers out of low enrolment schools now; they'd rather tackle issues related to higher student enrolment than consider the highly-emotional issue of school closures.
The 1.1 million milestone is a big deal for a lot of people, particularly for those who were mocked for claiming Saskatchewan had the potential to reach that figure. But it is also a number. Before too long – likely in 2018 or 2019 – Saskatchewan's population will be 1.2 million.
And suddenly 1.1 million won't seem like that many people.