Returning to Normal

Based on the results of Regina’s June Economic Report Card.

It’s almost hard to believe that only a few short months ago neon signs sat at the Regina city limits urging the public to avoid travel to and from the area. Thanks to effective distribution of vaccines and the public’s willingness to receive them, we find ourselves on the precipice of that long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel: A return to the “normal” life we have not experienced in nearly 16 months.

As of July 8, 64.1% of people in Regina have received their first vaccine dose, a number which is expected to climb as the Saskatchewan Health Authority makes vaccines more accessible through first-dose pop-up clinics across the city. At the same time, 47.1% of people in Regina have been fully vaccinated, and case numbers are reflecting this. The total number of active cases in the GRA has fallen from 761 at the beginning of May to just 80 at the time of writing. In response, and in accordance with its reopening vaccination targets, the province has announced that all provincial restrictions will be lifted on July 11.

However, even prior to a complete province-wide reopening, Regina’s economy has seen remarkable improvements in the last few months. Employment is increasing at a significantly faster rate than that experienced at the provincial level. Average year-to-date total employment in the Greater Regina Area was up 3.1% or 3,980 positions as of May 2021 over the same period in 2020. By comparison, provincial year-to-date employment in May 2021 is up only 0.4% compared to the same time last year.

Regina’s unemployment rate also dropped from 8.6% in April to 7.5% in May, the lowest rate among peer cities like Saskatoon (7.9%), Calgary (8.6%), or Edmonton (10.5%).

All this spells good news for most sectors of the economy, particularly the retail and restaurant industries which have been particularly hard hit. With future shutdowns unlikely, these industries are now able to experience a true and lasting recovery as opposed to the uncertainty offered by previous reopenings. The hope is that loosened travel restrictions will allow for a similar boost to the tourism and accommodation sectors, in additional to bolstering Regina’s population, which has traditionally benefited from international immigration.

The forward economic momentum generated by this strong recovery is also being bolstered by new and substantial investments in the region. At the beginning of June, Red Leaf Pulp Ltd. announced its intention to build Canada’s first non-wood pulp mill in Regina, generating $350 million in economic impact and creating 110 full-time jobs. The decision comes on the heals of back-to-back announcements that both Viterra and Cargill plan to open world-class canola crushing plants in the region, making Regina a global hub for canola processing. Even Regina Exhibition Association Ltd. (REAL) – which has faced immense challenges without the ability to host large-scale events – is looking well beyond the pandemic. The Evraz Place operators recently announced the addition of a state-of-the-art brewing and distilling facility set to open in Spring 2022.

Covid-19 isn’t in the rearview just yet, but we’re getting closer and closer to something that looks and feels like “normal” As the number of fully vaccinated continues to grow, the stranglehold of the pandemic on our lives and the economy becomes looser and looser. Sooner than we thought possible only a few months ago, the neon signs outside Regina will welcome passersby to visit, experience, and enjoy Regina, instead of turning them away.

Editor’s Note

We would also like to note with National Indigenous People’s Day having just passed, and with the tragic news emerging from First Nations across the country (including close to home), that we share in the outpouring of grief that has taken place across our community. We are proud to be located on Treaty Four Territory. We know that working toward economic reconciliation is more important than ever. And we acknowledge and understand that Indigenous Peoples will play a critical role in Regina’s economic future.