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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Today the Parliament of Canada resumes with our first majority government since 2004. This will be quite a change for Canadians because once again, we will have a government with the ability to bring forward an agenda and have that agenda passed into law after debate instead of having the debate ruling the agenda. There will be several pieces of legislation that will impact Saskatchewan. Some of these impacts will have economic consequences and others will be more about setting a social agenda. Certainly the doing away with the long-gun registry will be well received throughout our province. It was bad legislation to start with and did not go anywhere near solving the issues of crimes committed with firearms.

The issue that possibly will have the largest impact on our province is the issue around the CWB marketing monopoly on wheat, durum and barley for export. The CWB did about $5.5 billion worth of business in the last year with over half of that coming back to Saskatchewan producers because we are the largest agricultural land base in Canada with about 44% of Canada’s farmable land. The Federal Conservative government seems committed to removing the CWB act so that the removal of the monopoly cannot be challenged in the courts. I believe what should be happening in this whole debate is a sound economic analysis of what the ramifications are. No one from the Federal government or any of the provincial governments in the affected area has put forward any economic analysis that will show the impact of this change.

There are a whole host of issues such as where will producer cars fit into the transportation queue once the CWB is no longer directing that traffic. Currently, a producer car is at the head of the queue because there is a guaranteed market provided by the CWB and a necessity by the privately-owned terminals to unload that car. If these cars now go from the front of the line to the back of the line, there will be an economic consequence. The producer who loaded that car will bear a lot of that economic fallout. There are a host of issues similar to this which will have economic impacts. I believe it would have been prudent for the federal government and particularly the Saskatchewan government to want to understand what these impacts are because any less money coming back to producers in this province means less money through our entire system and that would be a detriment. By the same token, if an analysis shows that there is going to be more money, then there would be the opportunity for communities and businesses to grow around that new money. We only have until August 1, 2012 to answer these questions and I don’t think either level wants to address them. This is not right.

Last week you all heard news about continued problems with the FSIN – the umbrella group of all the First Nations in Saskatchewan. This group cannot seem to get their act together. First there is the firing of the current chief Guy Lonechild and a huge severance package to get rid of him and now we have revelations about large sums of money from the gambling operations run by FSIN. SIGA which is the umbrella organization set up to govern the Indian-run casinos is run by a board made up of chiefs from various bands around the province. It appears that one of them, Dutch Lerat, a disgraced former head of SIGA, is back running the gaming operations. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in question here and many band chiefs and others around the province are speaking out about the questionable spending and perks of the current board. The provincial government is in partnership with SIGA through its own liquor and gaming operations. The provincial government gets 25% of SIGA’s revenues. Brad Wall’s government is now saying that they are questioning their partnership with SIGA and will look at this relationship but only after the next election and if they are re-elected. That is an absolute copout. Brad Wall is the Premier today and if there are issues that need dealing with and it appears there are, then you step up to the plate, call your SIGA partners in for a chat and begin to fix what is broken. I believe taxpayers around this province expect no less and are beginning to grow tired of the horror stories coming out of our First Nations community and about their inability to manage their own monies and the monies from the taxpayers of this province. Mr. Wall – get off the pot and do your job.

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

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