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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Just a reminder about the Progressive Conservative Party’s General Meeting and Policy Discussion in Saskatoon this coming Saturday. I would love to see as many people there as possible to have a well-rounded discussion on the policy areas that we are addressing in the afternoon. If you are thinking of attending and haven’t done so already, please let us know by calling us at (306) 692-5060 or (306) 652-2044 by this Thursday (16th) so that we have enough coffee and lunch for everyone. This meeting is not limited to members. You can apply for a membership or renew your current membership at the door. Hope to see you there.

The Federal budget was presented this last week and there weren’t a lot of surprises. This was pretty well the same document that was presented before the election. One noticeable change was the $2.2 billion to Quebec because they have harmonized their sales taxes with the Federal GST. This now leaves Saskatchewan and one other province as the only unharmonized provinces in Canada. There was an interesting commentary by Paul Martin, the Saskatchewan business commentator, the other day. He said that the business advantages and employment advantages that Saskatchewan had gained during the recent recession were now beginning to evaporate because provinces like British Columbia and Ontario had harmonized. His feeling was that businesses there were now able to offer better incentives in order to grow their workplaces and gain market share. Paul Martin hardly ever has anything negative to say about the current government but his final comment on the matter was that Mr. Wall and company were more interested in playing politics and looking after their safe seats in the Legislature than they were doing the right things for the right reasons to build Saskatchewan’s economy. The PC Party has believed in the concept of harmonization since 1991. It’s just a matter of doing it at the right rates and with the right offsets for various segments of our population. If anyone has the opportunity, check out the pro-HST ads being run by the government of British Columbia and you will get a sense of what should be talked about in our province.

This certainly is turning into the summer of labour unrest. We now have the postal employees holding rotating strikes around the country. Locally, Canada Post has just announced that they will only be delivering mail three days a week due to decreased amount of mail. I guess the question we all have to ask ourselves is … are we prepared to pay or not to pay for postal service? Can we live with a privatized system or should the government agree to what Canada Post employees are demanding? I know this isn’t a provincial problem but because of our large distances in this province, we may not have the same opportunities for service that Canadians that live in denser populated areas would have with a more privatized system. I know in my ten years as an MLA representing a large rural area, that the removal of a community’s post office was always an occasion for a great deal of anxiety, anger and many calls to their MLA. Let’s hope for a quick resolution one way or the other on this age old question of mail delivery.

My final comment for the week is on the continuing labour dispute in the health care sector. SAHO has rejected the latest proposal from the health care workers and we are now back to rotating strikes. Once again, this is a proper place for an outside mediator to be brought in. I think we need to get to the crux of the matter and that is the government of Saskatchewan continues to hide behind SAHO. It was the Sask Party government that brought in the essential services legislation. It was the Sask Party government and Brad Wall who gave the nurses the huge pay increase three years ago which has raised everyone else’s expectations. It is the Sask Party government which sets the budget of the province and makes the choices – choices such as pouring $1.2 billion into unproven coal technology or spending more on things like health care. It is time for the organ grinder to step up to the negotiating table and give the monkeys a holiday. Before the formation of the health districts/regions, someone from the Minister of Health’s department would sit down and negotiate with the people that were affected by that department. And yes, some days it was hard to wear that hat because you have to make tough choices, respect the taxpayers’ dollars and be fair with your employees. Ever since Louise Simard and the NDP brought in the health districts/regions, governments of all stripes have had this layer of boards of directors mainly filled with their own brand of supporters supposedly doing the dirty work for them. You are elected by the people to take responsibility and be accountable. Every time this current negotiation has failed, the media immediately runs to Brad Wall for comment and he automatically says “it’s not time for binding arbitration”. The media knows who the organ grinder is….it’s Mr. Wall. So let’s cut to the chase and get the organ grinder at the table. And if that takes a professional mediator to make that happen, then so be it. That is what worked in the past and that’s what will work again.

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

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