Friday, March 23, 2012

Rook to Queen. Check, Mate.

I love a good game of chess. It's all about strategy and mind mapping. So the recent news of Sask Tourism becoming one of Saskatchewan's newest CIC crowns has me thinking.  

The Government of Saskatchewan's budget included $22 million in efficiency measures as a result of the following:
  • Seniors and children will pay more for drugs, saving $10 million dollars. 
  • The film industry funding has been cut with the winding down of the Film Employment Tax Credit, saving $8 million dollars. 
  • The Enterprise Region Program has been cut, saving another $4 million. The Regina Regional Opportunities Commission (ROCC) funding was reduced. 
The budget giveth, and the budget taketh away, just as the good book says.  We are told a new tourism crown corporation will be created. The Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport says the move is all about aligning tourism with other economic developments in the province. 

In strategy terms, "aligning" is just another word for "restructure". It usually refers to reorganizing current holdings in order to optimize and leverage (take advantage of) competencies and resources and to do more than what is possible in the current structure.   

So let's think for a moment about what other tourism and economic development interests could be "aligned" with the likes of tourism.  

Consider the Revitalization Vision which envisions the development of commercial buildings, condos, entertainment, shopping and a commitment to the arts and sports, brought to life by the entertainment facility, where we can "express ourselves". Put our best artists and performers on display.  A state of the art residential neighborhood will be built to create affordable residential units.  The overall goal is to create mixed income neighborhoods, where we will attract diversity and ethnicity. 

Uploaded by  on Apr 18, 2011
Regina Revitalization project announcement video. 

 (I  hear the Coca-Cola song in my head  . . . "I'd like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love. . .")

Back to business.  Since alignment tends to happen on the current portfolio of economic interests, let's take a quick look at our most treasured and viable economic engines, our Crown Corporations. SaskTel is in the business of telephones and television; SaskPower keeps the lights on. SaskEnergy keeps us warm in the winter and our BBQs glowing in the summer.  STC provides bus service within Saskatchewan, albeit at a loss.  Information Services Corporation keeps the records straight on who owns what, SOCO is all about technology, Sask Gaming is all about entertainment, casinos and tourism and now there is soon to be a corporation dedicated to tourism and other fun stuff that promotes economic interests.    

Now, I am not a betting woman (seriously, I have a $5 dollar limit when it comes to losing money) but I would guess that when it comes to defining fun, the Minister is not referring to our utilities, bus service, technology development or our information. Clearly, these are not fun, but they are necessary, and not to be gambled with.

So in this game of chess, I would venture the next move to be an alignment of crown investments that connect the businesses of fun and tourism to support our economic growth agenda. Maybe then we can recoup the $22 million we lost today (to the power of infinity and beyond), so that we can improve the lives of our seniors, children, create a place for families to live quality lives, where private enterprise businesses generate the balance of economic strength, where neighhoods and schools are safe, where we appreciate and celebrate the arts and the artists, and still be that tourism mecca we so long to be, such that tourists want to come by the busload to spend their time and money here.   Ah strategy. It's always entertaining.

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