After being in politics in Saskatchewan for nearly 40 years, I've often thought that it's very similar to weather in our province. You think you've got it figured out so you can go ahead and plan things in your life and business and your family time and Mother Nature throws you a curve ball and brings up an unexpected weather event that changes everything.
Last week, we had such an event in our political world. Most everyone involved in Saskatchewan politics felt that after winning his third general election, Brad Wall would find some other endeavour to keep life interesting. No one expected though that this event would happen slightly over a year after the last election campaign.
We in Saskatchewan are now into a totally new political dynamic. Everyone of our registered political parties here is either in a leadership renewal, just finished one or will just be starting one. The dynamic in the next provincial election three years from now will be totally different as far as personalities go. Many of the issues will be the same. The challenges will be huge. Pulling Saskatchewan out of its current economic conundrum will take vision, courage and a deep understanding of what makes Saskatchewan's population tick.
Brad Wall was a tremendous communicator. He had spent most of his adult life in politics and had a good sense of issues management. His inner circle of advisors, most of whom came from the same political background, stuck with him through thick and thin. It was a recipe for political success. A booming Saskatchewan economy probably made it fun at the beginning of his political life as Premier of our province.
Anyone that makes the sacrifices to family, to your own personal agenda and enjoyment that you have to make when you enter into public life, I believe, should be commended for strengthening our democracy. Brad Wall and his family gave up a lot of personal life to contribute to Saskatchewan's ongoing success as a province. As I said in our news release the day that he resigned, the PC Party thanks him for his contribution and wishes him well in life after politics.
Finally we received some rain on the Swenson farm! I know it was probably a pain for some of the folks who were camping over the August long weekend but we received an inch of rain out of four different storms over the last 6 days. I don't know how much good it will do at this stage of crop development but just knowing it can rain is a great psychological lift. The grass around the yard has already greened up a bit so hopefully we will see the same in our pastures in the next few days.
Last Thursday I journeyed up to Saskatoon to be part of and speak at the PC Party's nomination in the riding of Saskatoon Fairview. Past Arm River candidate Ray Carrick joined me for the trip so as we travelled we got to talk a lot about rural health care as Ray is the Party's health critic. More on that later.
I'm very pleased to welcome Dave Prokopchuk as the PC candidate in Fairview and know that he is going to work very hard at putting together a team to represent us in the upcoming by election. We had 38 folks out at this uncontested nomination meeting which tells me that the PC Party's message is finally starting to get out, that we can be fiscally responsible and socially progressive without running the province into debt like the Sask Party has done.
It's hard to believe today is the last day in July and we have not had 1 rain all month or even a thunderstorm. There was a thunderstorm that went to the north of us Saturday night which made water run down the streets of Moose Jaw but we didn't even get enough to wash the dust off the front step. As you go south on the TransCanada highway, the drought gets progressively worse and will certainly present challenges for farmers and ranchers. I have heard of feed costs already up in the $150 a tonne range which is not good news if you have to buy feed to get your herd through the coming winter.
I didn't have time in last week's commentary to mention the Gateway Music Festival which the town of Bengough hosts on an annual basis. Joanne and I went down after lunch last Saturday and stayed through to Sunday morning. A big congratulations to the folks in that area who host this event and I'm sure put in thousand of volunteer hours to make it all happen. Tom Cochrane and Red Rider closed the show Saturday night and they were absolutely fantastic if you are a rock and roll fan. Tom is 64 years old but he can still bring it like few rockers of any age or era. I look forward to seeing who is going to be there next year because it is an event which is very affordable and well worth taking in.
Tomorrow will mark a new milestone in Saskatchewan as our Sask Party government is imposing the 6% sales tax on almost all insurance policies. This is definitely breaking new ground as the Sask Party attempts to rectify the $1.2 billion deficit they created in the last fiscal year. Every time I drive by the Highway 1 and Pinkie Road intersection where there are now 6 overpasses being constructed in this one location, I truly shake my head at the choices this government has made.
It grieves me to say "I told you so" but with the release of the province's public accounts last Friday, it clearly shows that the numbers don't lie. Saskatchewan's deficit for 2016-2017 is $1.22 billion and the provincial debt has climbed to $10 billion. One week before the last provincial election, PC Party President Grant Schmidt and I stood on the steps of the Legislature and told the gathered reporters that Saskatchewan's debt would be $1.2 billion.
Grant and I were able to come to that figure simply by looking at all of the deals the Sask Party was doing and their reckless expenditures of taxpayers' money. The Sask Party's spokesperson, Kathy Young, was quick to refute that figure and said that the PC Party's numbers were all wrong and that Saskatchewan's deficit would be as forecast. I think Ms Young and the entire Sask Party government owe the PC Party and the taxpayers of Saskatchewan a huge apology.
Every once in a while a public policy issue comes along and seems to take on a life of its own. The policy issue I'm referring to is the proposed carbon tax. The problem with an initiative like this is the fact that most of us don't have the necessary knowledge base to make rational decisions and secondly, this is an issue that is open to political grand standing.
Various forms of carbon taxes have been the reality in several Canadian provinces for a number of years now. They were instituted in order to start addressing the effects of climate change and changing the way that our society uses various forms of energy. So it is a big area of public policy. Not everyone agrees with climate change in the first place and whether you come from a consuming province or a producing province also can affect your views on this issue. We have all witnessed the war of words between the Premier of Saskatchewan and the Federal Liberal government who has decided that all provinces will have some form of carbon tax by 2018.
My hat goes off to the APAS organization for sponsoring a conference in Saskatoon last week on this topic in conjunction with their semi-annual meeting. They brought in speakers from across Canada and put together a very in depth presentations by people who have studied all aspects of the carbon issue. The conference was very well attended with a wide spectrum of Saskatchewan's population attending. The APAS organization is to be commended for a first-class effort at helping us understand where we all fit in this very complex issue.
We have to feel for our fellow Canadians living in central British Columbia as wildfires rage through that part of beautiful BC. Hot dry weather along with the ravages of the bark pine beetle which has left millions of dead trees in BC's forest have created the perfect storm for people living in that area. One only has to wonder if the heat keeps up in Saskatchewan if we will not face some of the same challenges soon.
It's been a long time since I've seen hay crops dry down so quickly. I'm baling heavy alfalfa swaths in less than 48 hours. Many producers in Saskatchewan are going to be faced with a feed shortage this winter if they did not conserve hay stocks from the previous wet years. You can certainly see the damages that are occurring to many other crops that cannot take day-after-day above 30 degrees celsius with no rain. Let's keep our fingers crossed that there is a change in the weather for a whole lot of reasons.
It would appear from the newscasts and the live coverage of various events celebrating Canada's 150th birthday that it went very well all across the country. The weather cooperated in most parts of Canada and here in Saskatchewan, we certainly had a beautiful day.
I think Canadians have really come to understand that Canada is truly a very privileged place in which to live. I think for a long time we were envious of other peoples and I can remember growing up, people would say "I would like to live in this country or that country" after they grew up and received their education. One only has to look around at the various peoples who have immigrated to Canada and why they have come here to understand how fortunate we are.