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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

After a much-needed sabbatical from politics and farming, Joanne and I are glad to be back home and back to our normal routine. One of the beauties and the curses of the internet is that no matter where you are in the world, you can observe what is going on in the world around you at any place and at any time. So even though I was many miles from Saskatchewan, a daily look at the newspapers in Saskatchewan and watching the odd Canadian television newscast means that you are never really away from home.

The opening of the Saskatchewan Legislature last Monday and the ensuing speech from the Throne really had no surprises for anyone. The Sask Party government threw a little bit of money at a whole bunch of different things. The Finance Minister had to admit to over $300 million of deficit on a summary financial basis. So once again the public has been misled about balanced budgets by their government. It was very interesting to read the comments of the new Provincial Auditor last Thursday on how she detailed what is wrong with Saskatchewan’s financial reporting methods. We are now out of step with every other jurisdiction in Canada and we will not provide good government to this province until the taxpayers of this province get a true picture of where their money is being spent.

Already the Premier is dropping hints that the big shell game played by his government and proceeding governments concerning how crown dividends are taken may be changed again this year. That change may mean that SaskTel’s dividends are not taken away this year because of the huge mess that has arisen around cell phone coverage in our province. The 4G network introduced last spring has been a colossal mess with users having many calls dropped on a daily basis. This occurred because SaskTel did not have enough money to put in the proper allotment of towers and switching space. That is because Mr. Wall’s government stripped all of the profits from SaskTel to try and balance his books – unsuccessfully. The Crowns must be managed in a different manner as the PC Party campaigned on in the last election.

On the Federal side of government, it appears that Agriculture Minister Ritz in his haste and hate for the Canadian Wheat Board, has once again not done his due diligence and now the taxpayers of Canada and western Canadian grain farmers will have further costs with the court decision handed down this last week. The Federal court judge said that Mr. Ritz had broken the law by proceeding in the manner he did. If he did not wish to call for a plebiscite amongst current western Canadian grain farmers as the legislation stipulated, then he should have repealed the section concern plebiscites before proceeding to cancel the existing act and fire the elected directors.

The judge did not take issue with the government having the right to repeal legislation. That is a foundation of our parliamentary system. This is simply the consequences of a Minister proceeding in haste rather than doing things in the appropriate manner. This is a huge change for Western Canadian farmers and there will be large financial ramifications for tens of thousands of people both farmers and related businesses and services and this process I believe should have been handled in a more thoughtful way. The Wheat Board has been around for 70-odd years. One more year to make sure that this is done right in a 4-year term of government would not have been an insurmountable cost for anyone particularly when we are in a period of high prices. Maybe Mr. Ritz’s haste is because of the possibility of world wheat prices falling next year and then the open market may not look quite as rosy. Politics and good economics should not be separated for political gain.

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

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