I mentioned a few weeks ago about our Annual Meeting that was to take place in Saskatoon. At that meeting, we elected our President and 1st Vice President for the coming year. Congratulations to Lori Isinger of Saskatoon who was re-elected as President of the Party and to Grant Schmidt of Melville who was re-elected as 1st Vice President. As any of you who have been elected to positions of authority in a political party will know, there is a great deal of responsibility and hard work involved. I personally want to thank these two individuals for their dedication and commitment to the PC Party of Saskatchewan.
I would also like to thank the three speakers (Carter Currie, Dan Patterson and Erhard Poggemiller) who made presentations to the delegates during the policy debate section of the meeting. These gentlemen all have extensive knowledge and practical working experiences in their areas of expertise. The topics included SARCAN and new ways to recycle, farmland ownership in Saskatchewan and the crisis in rural health care. There was a very lively debate on all three topics and that discussion will help the PC Party finalize its policy positions in these areas. I would appreciate any feedback that viewers of this commentary might have in these areas as I think they are fundamental to life in this province and if we don’t make the right decisions, our province will be much poorer for ignoring these three areas.
Speaking about areas being ignored, it seems our provincial government has forgotten all about financial prudence and responsibility. The summary financial statements of the province were released last Friday and it showed that Saskatchewan took in $11.06 billion in revenue in 2010/2011. This is more than a billion dollars above what was expected at budget time. If you remember back to my commentaries at that time, I was saying that the government had purposely underestimated revenue because we were going into an election year. The sad part is the government’s spending increased by $841 million to a total of $10.97 billion. Yes I know that Saskatchewan had problems with flooding last year just as we are this year. But if you look at the amount spent to mitigate the flooding in places like Maple Creek and all of the farm land in northeast Saskatchewan, you are only talking about $100 million. So it’s fair to ask the question….where did the other $700 million and change go to? There has been no new development of our resources like a fertilizer plant or an upgrader. There has been no new program to provide housing to Saskatchewan residents. There haven’t been any new hospitals constructed. So one has to ask the question….why are these people spending like drunken sailors and where is the money going? We have certainly had some labour contracts settled in the last year. I could see this money being used if the teachers’ contract was settled (which it isn’t), if the health provider services contract was settled (which it isn’t), if the Saskatchewan cancer agency contract was settled (which it isn’t), but these are not part of the extra $800 million+ in the 2010/2011 budget year. These contracts should have been settled because they are all 2 years since their expiry and the appropriate place to budget for them should have been in this budget year. Obviously the government had a billion dollars in extra revenue that wasn’t budgeted for.
The sad thing is the same kind of financial nonsense is probably going on right now in the province of Saskatchewan. This is a government that lives day-to-day and from crisis-to-crisis and worries more about their political needs than they do long-term planning for the province of Saskatchewan. A good example is the Premier’s recent grandstanding on crop insurance. There is no question that the comments from the head of SGEU stating that this was a good time for crop insurance workers to go on strike because of the pressures of flooding set himself and his union up for a public flogging. But the fact of the matter is that last year was no different. The contract with the crop insurance workers had expired in 2009 and that at any time in the last 2 years there were pressures on that agency to deliver the program to a lot of Saskatchewan farmers who were in duress because of excess moisture. Mr. Wall saw a photo opportunity after his tour of flooded southeast Saskatchewan and listening to Mr. Bymoen’s stupid and insensitive comments to once again be the hero by re-calling the Legislature to come back and settle the strike which had only been going on for 24 hours. Happily, crop insurance workers are going back to work with a new contract doing the job which they have been doing without a contract for the last 2 years. Probably half the people at crop insurance are farmers themselves or farmers’ spouses and they understand the situation. I am sure they don’t like being used as Mr. Wall’s fall guy because we are going to have an election this fall.
If the agenda of the Sask Party government is to make all public sector workers essential services or without the right to strike, then the Premier should simply say so. To allow bargaining contracts to expire and make no effort to settle them in a reasonable period of time (i.e. 6 months to a year), then something is terribly wrong. It should not be up to union leaders and their agendas or governments and cabinet ministers with their agendas to allow this type of situation to carry on. The cabinet ministers whose responsibility it is to oversee government expenditures in areas where labour contracts have expired should be held accountable when those contracts are not renewed in a reasonable period of time. How can the taxpayers of this province be assured that fiscal management is being properly looked after when we see what has unfolded in the last few months? Obviously Saskatchewan is not short of money. It appears what we are short of are people with good common sense and a responsibility to the greater good than their own political backsides. It is time for another option – another voice of responsibility in this province.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.