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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

I feel very fortunate to be living just south of Moose Jaw because we have been out seeding for a week now and if the weather holds, we could be mostly wrapped up by this coming weekend. When you listen to the news and watch the weather forecasts, there are many people in Saskatchewan and western Canada who are not so fortunate. The last crop report that I saw for Saskatchewan said that only 5% of the seeding was completed and that number would only grow to 10% by this coming week. Saskatchewan is going to need a long period of sustained good weather with very little precipitation in order to get this crop into the ground. Much of the province of Manitoba is in far worse condition and also much of the United States is suffering from either too much water or severe drought in other areas. This is good news for crop prices which makes it even more important that the majority of Saskatchewan producers get the opportunity to get a crop planted and reap the benefits of high commodity prices. This province cannot live on oil and potash alone because agriculture still drives a lot of the secondary industries and economies outside of Regina and Saskatoon. Hopefully our government with all their new-found oil wealth will be prepared to spend some of it to make sure that agriculture stays successful.

Both the teaching profession and health care providers are feeling left out of Saskatchewan’s newly-created wealth. I don’t know what the right level of remuneration is in either sector but collective bargaining usually arrives at something that is fair. Our problem here is that the Sask Party wanted to buy political peace with the nurses three years ago and that price is now reverberating through our economy. We are all inundated with the Sask Party’s ads featuring Brad Wall telling us how well we are doing and I guess every group whose contract is coming up for renewal is believing Brad Wall and wants their piece of this new-found wealth. So you can blame the teachers for being too greedy but they are professionals - the same as other groups. They are with our children for 200 days out of the year. Now it seems the government-trustee bargaining committee feels that it is necessary to run television ads to tell us what a bunch of under-worked and over-paid teachers we have. Of course the teachers’ union will respond in kind. Not a great way to bargain and only makes the ad companies and television stations wealthier. Rumour has it that the SGEU has increased their union dues in preparation for a confrontation with the government and specifically to increase public advertising in response to Brad Wall’s political agenda to privatize public services. The health care unions cannot all go on strike because of essential services legislation but down the road, this will mean binding arbitration at some point and that is something the government will try to avoid at all costs. The government is in a bind in all of these areas because of the generosity with the nurse’s union 3 years ago. That genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Our economy had better stay strong because this round of confrontation is not going to end with some groups getting very little and others a whole lot. But then again it is an election year and all things are possible.

The Legislature is expected to wrap up this coming week with hardly a whimper heard from the NDP opposition. It is like they have already thrown in the towel and have given up talking on behalf of the people of this province. There are issues that need debating. There are tremendous opportunities as I was made aware this past week after meeting with some prominent businessmen who have done a lot of work on enhancing the uranium fuel cycle. It was refreshing to sit down with people who have been major players in Saskatchewan’s economy and talk about issues that can have a real impact on Saskatchewan’s economy for not just a few years but decades to come. Issues like the uranium fuel cycle do take foresight and the ability to communicate to the public in a truthful and educational manner. It is an issue that should be discussed in the Legislature. The same goes for other segments of our economy which could add valuable jobs and are simply ignored. I am talking about the very meagre efforts that are being put forward on recycling and reusing materials which today simply fill our landfills. It has been refreshing to sit down and talk to individuals in the last week that have some really good ideas in this regard. When one looks at the feeble efforts currently in place, there is so much more that we can do. I guess once again that is why Sask Party and their friends who control our Trust monies don’t want us talking about issues like this in the broader public and advertising our thoughts. I look forward to the day when we can have a broad and open democratic discussion about items like uranium and a better way to recycle in our society.

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.

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