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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Some of you older folks will remember the song “Singing in the Rain” – well this year it seems it’s the same old tune but with different words – “Seeding in the Rain” and it isn’t much fun. I finally finished my last flax field just after lunch with the windshield wipers going and praying that the discs didn’t plug on the airdrill. I was fortunate to be on a piece of sandy land that was last fall’s breaking so I wasn’t sinking to China. There are many people in the province today that are not so fortunate. I talked to a friend of mine who farms just north of Estevan on the weekend. He and his son have 5500 acres to seed and have only seeded 160 acres. Many people in that area of the province have seeded nothing at all and Wednesday is the 1st of June.

Last year when there were large areas of Saskatchewan that did not get seeded by the crop insurance deadline, the Federal Government stepped up with a flooded acreage payment. That acreage payment was the difference to a lot of farm families being able to pay their bills this past winter. No one wants to see government having to come up with ad hoc payments. What agriculture needs is a better insurance system whereby producers can purchase crop insurance and some form of revenue insurance. Fixed costs in agriculture today are so high that without a source of income like a good insurance program, it is almost impossible to carry on business. Many agricultural producers in Saskatchewan are facing the prospect of missing 2 crops in a row. It is time for both senior levels of government to sit down and redesign our current risk management tools. I would far sooner pay higher premiums and get some certainty of a livelihood than throw good money after bad on the current set of risk management tools. I know it is a little bit early to predict another major crop disaster but anytime you get after the 1st of June, the probability of good yields and quality quickly diminishes. For once it would be nice to see politicians and bureaucrats get ahead of the game rather than simply reacting and causing negative connotations from the rest of the folks who are not involved in agriculture.

Saskatchewan teachers proved this last week that they are sticking together and that they are going to take their demands for a new contract right to the government’s doorstep. As I said last week, I don’t know what the proper level of remuneration is but when the two sides do not sit down at the beginning of an expiration of a contract and get to work on coming up with a new one, both sides become entrenched. In visiting with several teachers over this last weekend, I get the feeling that this is about more than just wages. I heard talk of new responsibilities in areas like special needs children and no new funding, children with emotional and family problems and more responsibilities for teachers. I believe there is also a sense amongst our educational community that they feel not as valued as certain others in the professional workplace. Some of these issues cannot be solved simply by changing a person’s salary. The current Minister of Education in Saskatchewan – the Sask Party member from Humboldt Donna Harpauer – seems to have a track record of inflaming those she is entrusted to serve. You remember that this was the Minister of Social Services who had the entire department in an uproar because of what was happening with foster families in particular. She has been shuffled over to education and seems to have been able to cause the same type of anger in her new department. Cabinet Ministers have a responsibility to learn and listen in order to provide good governance. They are not there to make ultimatums and give people the signal that it’s my way or the doorway. It seems that with this government that once you get past the Premier, the competence level deteriorates rapidly and ultimately taxpayers have to pick up the pieces because once the backs are up people do not settle amicably.

My final comment of the day is on the pending labour dispute at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. I am very familiar with the Allan Blair Clinic in Regina having been a patient there undertaking 9 months of chemotherapy 24 years ago. As I am walking at my local Relay for Life this Friday, I will be hoping and praying that we do not have a labour dispute which will take away from the ability of cancer patients to get the proper care. In all my months of attending Allan Blair and the subsequent checkups for many years afterwards, I never saw any of the staff people at that facility not doing their job. I believe it is only right and proper that the individuals charged with the responsibility of tending to the hundreds of cancer patients in our province should receive the same remuneration as others working in the various medical fields. I have never understood why the agency has a separate bargaining unit. I asked the question at the time of my treatment because I was a Member of the Legislature. I did not get a reasonable answer from my own government and to this day, I do not understand why medical people working for the cancer agency are treated differently. It is something that should be discussed in the Legislative Assembly and it is time that cancer patients and those of us fortunate enough to have survived should be making our voices heard so that a labour dispute is resolved before job action is required.

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