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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing Family Day long weekend. It's hard to believe that its February 21st already with spring just right around the corner. I'm sure Old Man Winter isn't quite finished with us yet but there is light at the end of the tunnel. One of my neighbours has been calving since the middle of January and really appreciates this nice weather. Hopefully when our turn rolls around on April 1st, we will get more of the same.

An issue that seems to have come out of nowhere in the last year in North America is the idea that most of our news is "fake" news i.e. it is made up by reporters and networks and is a distorted view of what is real. Let's face it ... both Canada and the United States have founding principles based on the freedom of speech and the freedom of press so that various types of tyranny could not occur here as they had in places where many of our ancestors came from. I think we have a pretty strong belief in our society in those fundamental rights.

I, like many other Canadians, believe that our electoral system needs an upgrade after 150 years as a country. Canada has changed dramatically in that amount of time. We have seen the continued shifting of population from east to west. We see a country that has increasing ethnic diversity and we see a country that is more engaged than ever before with other nations around the world.

Unfortunately, we also see a country where only about half of our citizens take the opportunity to vote on who they want to govern this vast and wonderful country. Something is wrong.

Congratulations to David Prokopchuk of Saskatoon for accepting the PC Party's nomination in the Saskatoon Meewasin by election which has been called for March 2nd. I have known David since our days together in the PC Youth organization and I know his experiences working on Parliament Hill for a Quebec MP, working for the City of Saskatoon for many years and running his own financial investment business will put him in good stead with the voters of Meewasin.

I look forward to door knocking with David and talking to the people of Meewasin about the record of the Sask Party government and why it is time to have a more effective opposition in our Legislature. With new revelations coming out of the CBC this past weekend on the ever-expanding circle of Sask Party players in the GTH land scandal, it is absolutely incumbent that we bring accountability back to our governing processes. If you can find the time to give David a hand for a day or two, please come out and join us in the Meewasin by-election.

Yesterday I had the good fortune to finally be able to take in a day of the great Canadian pastime - ice fishing! The weather was a wonderful +7 on January 29th. I was with a couple of good friends, had lots of bites and brought home enough perch for a good feed. Buffalo Pound Lake had enough ice shacks and trailers on it to resemble a good sized town. When I tell my friends in the southern United States about this pastime, they just shake their heads in wonder that a person could sit on a 5 gallon pail, looking down a hole in the ice and enjoying themselves. All this while being dressed usually in very heavy clothing in order to put up with our winter environment. Yesterday was the exception as I was using bare hands some of the time. I hope there are a few more trips to the ice before winter is done.

Speaking of things being done....I am really getting tired of all of our television networks talking about all things "Trump". I want to be able to sit down in front of my television set or turn on my radio at news time and actually get some news about what is going on around me other than the prognostications of Donald Trump. I know he is the President of the most influential country on earth but surely there are other things going on than this constant barrage of what this man does on a minute-by-minute basis or a tweet-by-tweet basis. The good thing about the United States of America is that they have term limits on the office of President and many other political positions and therefore you can get rid of them in a timely manner.

Back here in Saskatchewan, I am expecting the Premier to call a by-election in Saskatoon Meewasin either tonight or tomorrow sometime. It should be a very interesting campaign with all of the different issues that have arisen in Saskatchewan since the last election campaign. Dr. Ryan Meili is now officially the NDP candidate and is a gentleman with radically different views on how our society should be structured. The Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals and the Green Party will also be contesting this election. The Sask Party candidate and the Sask Party government are going to have, I believe, a difficult time explaining all of the broken promises, deception and radical turns on policy which have occurred since the last election campaign.

This week's commentary by PC Party President Grant Schmidt

I am using the Leader’s Monday time slot to take care of P.C. Party Business.

There will be a by-election in Saskatoon Meewasin before June. We guess Brad Wall will call a by-election on January 31st, 2017 for the end of February.

Why will Wall call so soon? To get his lost seat out of the way before the ugly March, April, May or June budget. We know from last year’s election Wall has mismanaged the boom so bad he is having a hard time counting up his deficit.

Last week, I joined thousands of others paying a visit to the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon. The day I was there, the place was packed which is a very good sign after a very disappointing 2016 harvest for many producers. For a politician, it is a great place to meet people, say hello to old friends and acquaintances and get a sense of where agriculture will go in 2017. And of course the farmer in me is drawn to the shiny new equipment and products that are available. You also marvel at the price tag on most of this stuff and wonder how the input costs of agriculture will remain sustainable. My hat goes off to the people that organize this show on a yearly basis. They really do a tremendous job of putting it together in a format people can appreciate.

Sustainability is a word that can mean many things but it is something that is more often mentioned around the production and availability of food across the world today. You have heard me mention in this commentary many times that I believe Canada and Saskatchewan need to start putting in place the right environments to secure fruits and vegetables on a year-round basis from our own production.

You all have seen and read indicators recently that talk about the rapid escalation of price in these particular food products. That is happening for a number of reasons. Lack of water in certain growing regions, increased transportation costs and the fact that populations in North America are growing. It takes more food to provide a healthy diet for our population.

I'm sure all of you remember the television and radio ads the PC Party ran in the last election campaign where we called for the elimination of the health regions and bringing accountability back to the Legislature for health care spending. Low and behold last week, the Sask Party government took a big step in that direction. The advisory committee which they set up way back last spring finally reported to the Health Minister and the government. Their conclusion was that the health regions should be eliminated and replaced with one health region for the entire province with a CEO and Board of Directors. The Athabasca Health Region which is almost all First Nations with a heavy proportion of Federal funding will remain.

In my view, this is a huge step in the right direction but as is always the case, the devil will be in the details. Minister Reiter did not seem to have a clue at the news conference when this was announced about how this process would unfold. When the PC Party called for the elimination of the health regions over a four-year period of time, we did not envision replacing fourteen bureaucracies with another single one. We envisioned the Department of Health once again assuming responsibility for the delivery of health care and health care professionals taking responsibility for how they spend taxpayer's money.

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