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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Moose Jaw has now been added to the list of Saskatchewan communities that is facing closure of a long-term care facility. The Ina Grafton Gage home which has been run by the United Church of Canada for many decades announced last week that it could no longer keep the home running because the new collective agreement is too expensive and Saskatchewan Health will not help with the funding of levels I and II care facilities. This closure means that over 30 elderly residents will have to find other accommodations. This means some of them will probably be shipped to other communities therefore increasing the cost to everyone else. It seems that if you are not in very poor health or can have someone assess you at a higher level, you are simply a commodity to be moved around from place to place in Saskatchewan. This is not an acceptable way to treat our senior citizens who contributed so much to the building of our province.

The CEO and senior staff in our health region just received huge wage increases and benefit packages. I would think that there would be enough resources to start looking at ways of maintaining viable facilities like Ina Grafton Gage. There must be a better policy developed that will allow our senior citizens to live in dignity.

It now seems that we will have another vote on the issues around the Canadian Wheat Board and its role in marketing wheat, durum and barley. This vote is being sponsored by the CWB as a response to the pronouncement from the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture for Canada that the Federal government is going to bring forward legislation to nullify the Canadian Wheat Board Act. I believe the vast majority of the farming public want both the Federal government and the Wheat Board to stop the grandstanding and gamesmanship and do what is in the best interests of the people that grow the product. For a long time, I have believed that if the CWB is given the proper tools, it can compete in an open market system. The part about the proper tools seems to be the catching point. A CWB without facilities, without the ability to guarantee payment and without access to port facilities could not compete. Likewise the other parts of the system that farmers rely upon like producer cars, like farmer-owned terminals and on-track loading facilities and the financial assurance that they will get paid when delivering their product are all things that the CWB now does for them must be maintained. Likewise is the huge investment by farmers over the years in the marketing, testing and developing of new varieties, baking quality trials and other things to sell Canadian grain paid for with deductions from every farmer’s grain cheque.

Minister Ritz and the government that he represents, I believe, have an obligation to address these issues before taking away the CWB’s ability to compete. Presently, all of the grain companies act as agents for the Board and are paid fees – very large ones I might add – to handle Canada’s grain trade. They even make overseas sales as agents of the Board. I do not wish as a farmer who grows wheat whenever it makes economic sense to be without as many marketing options as possible. Therefore, it is incumbent upon both the Federal government and the CWB to get down to business and provide the best economic plan for all farmers. This cannot be simply a plan for a few big guys or people who support one party or another politically to get ahead of everyone else. At the end of the day, young people like my son and the sons and daughters of the average farm family should have the opportunity to grow grains and market them successfully to make an honest living.

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

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