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The Green Machine: Will Saskatchewan Roughriders Continue Province's Winning Streak?

November 20, 2013

Director
Centre for Municipal Studies

The 101st Grey Cup will be played in Regina on Sunday. It seems fitting that the hottest economy in the land gets to host this year’s Canadian Football League championship game. Moreover, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be a part of it! The Riders “caught fire” at the right time, allowing them to reach the big game at home—but even hotter than the Riders are the economies of Regina and Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan as a whole.

Without a doubt, Regina and Saskatoon are on an economic tear. Over the past decade (2003–12), economic growth in Saskatoon has averaged a nation-leading 4.3 per cent per year. In Regina, growth averaged a very solid 3.7 per cent (good for third place behind Edmonton among the 28 Canadian census metropolitan areas covered in our Metropolitan Outlook).

Canadians have finally noticed the economic performance of both Regina and Saskatoon. Population growth, which hovered around 0.5 per cent annually in each city from 1988 to 2006, has averaged over 2.5 per cent since 2007. Over the same period, by comparison, population growth in Canada as a whole averaged 1.1 per cent per year.

This year, the unemployment rate in Regina and Saskatoon has occasionally dipped below 4 per cent. Indeed, the labour market is so tight in Saskatchewan’s largest urban centres that employers are now facing huge issues when they need to expand their workforce. So, while overall economic growth again flirts with 5 per cent this year in both cities, it will not attain that level in 2014 because of labour force constraints!

Nowhere else in this country is growth so strong that it has reached, or is nearing, its limit. Mind you, both metropolitan economies are still expected to grow by around 3.5 per cent in 2014—a level that will be envied by most cities in Canada.

The benefits of economic growth in Regina and Saskatoon are being shared among the residents. This is not a case of one sector exploiting a resource and running out of town with the profits. Economic growth in Regina and Saskatoon lifted personal disposable income by an outstanding 8 per cent per year on average over the past decade. At the same time, house prices nearly tripled, lifting residents’ wealth tremendously.

This kind of economic growth may be relatively new, but there is one thing that it has not changed in Saskatchewan—the passionate support for the province’s only professional sports franchise, the Roughriders. And this spectacular economic growth has implications for pro sports in Saskatchewan. In our soon-to-be released book Power Play: the Business Economics of Pro Sports, Glen Hodgson and I note that all this economic growth and wealth creation in Regina and Saskatoon bodes well for the future of professional sports in the province.

The book identifies four pillars for the success of a professional sports team in a community: the size of the market (in terms of population), the wealth of the market, a sound corporate presence, and a level playing field (which includes variables such as the exchange rate—particularly for professional sports leagues, such as the NHL, that play in at least two countries).

Based on our analysis, Regina and Saskatoon are doing well in terms of growing market size and the rising wealth of their populations. And given the kind of growth that Regina and Saskatoon are achieving, Canadian corporate head offices could be more and more inclined to open their doors in either city.

So is that enough for Saskatchewan to start dreaming about another professional sports franchise for the province? Perhaps in hockey or even a second team in the Canadian Football League? Answers are in the book …

And with that teaser, enjoy Sunday’s big game!


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