Creating and retaining jobs is top of mind for the six people running to be Saskatoon’s mayor in the 2020 civic election.
Incumbent Charlie Clark said, if re-elected, he’ll focus on protecting jobs now and in the future.
For the short-term, he wants to collaborate with Tourism Saskatoon to create COVID-19-safe winter events, getting people out of the house to support local businesses.
“I’ve already been in touch with Tourism Saskatoon and their new CEO Stephanie Clovechok as well as partners like the Chamber of Commerce and (Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority) about how do we be nimble and adaptive and merge the work of the Saskatoon winter city strategy with some of the initiatives that these business leadership groups (have) to create events, activities in the downtown,” he said on Friday.
“And in some of our business improvement districts in the area as much as possible to continue attract people inter-provincially to be able to come to the city and support hotels and restaurants while doing it safely,” he said.
His long-term plans include building a tech accelerator to help grow that industry and a food-processing hub.
“We have for far too long, been shipping off raw resources, raw grains, pluses, even oil without adding value and processing those resources right here,” Clark said.
Candidate Rob Norris said as Saskatchewan’s former employment minister, he knows a thing or two about creating jobs.
“My track record is rock solid from moving the entire business and investment attraction arm of the immigrant nominee program to Saskatoon from Regina, which I did as minister, to making significant investments. I know how important that relationship is with Regina,” he said.
With an established global network, Norris said he’ll focus on growing exports and attracting foreign investment.
“It’s about making sure that we are creating an environment for the private sector to thrive,” Norris said.
Mayoral hopeful Zubair Sheikh said he’d also work to drawn in international investors.
“If we want to give a boost to our city and make it one of the greatest cities in Canada, we have to introduce our city to the international markets,” Sheikh said.
“Even in Canada, if you go somewhere and you say Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, maybe a couple of people, they don’t know where we are. So we need to have our product directly sent to those Europe and central Asian, the (United) States and plus the southeast Asia … that’s my plan.”
Former mayor and candidate Don Atchison said he’d do the same.
“I want to resume the work to attract foreign direct investment, particularly by making connections with local established companies as partners. And I can tell you, I’ve spoken to many, many individuals out there who have companies. There is tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, of people in our community that want to be able to invest in new partnerships to make Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan healthier and more vibrant,” he said.
Atchison is also keen on building a downtown entertainment district.
“This will rejuvenate the city centre which will help retain current jobs in the construction phase and even more jobs for the long-term,” Atchison said.
Candidate Cary Tarasoff said projects like a downtown arena don’t create jobs immediately, so his focus is on job retention.
“It’s a lot easier to keep existing jobs than to try to create brand new ones,” Tarasoff said.
He said during the pandemic, the city could help reduce costs for small businesses by bulk buying personal protection equipment (PPE).
“We can bulk buy as a city. We can bulk buy things, even though they didn’t do a very good job on their mask costs for the bus system. We could both buy enough that we could literally start helping smaller businesses and mid-sized businesses,” Tarasoff said.
He and others seeking the city’s top job say the city needs to reduce red tape.
Candidate Mark Zielke said the zoning and permitting processes take too long.
“City hall needs to get rid of red tape that prevents business from actually doing business here in Saskatoon,” Zielke said.
“When we’re talking about zoning issues, we’re talking about how much time it takes to go through processes at city hall. If anybody has gone through city hall for any of these issues. It’s not a quick process. In fact, it’s a bloated process. And their excuse is always put towards people on why the outcomes cannot happen. I’m in the business of making solutions happen and providing solutions, and that’s what I (would) bring to city hall.”
The candidates ultimately agree whoever is elected must create a stable and collaborative environment for business owners.
Saskatoon’s civic election will take place on Nov. 9.
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