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First of all, I would like to apologize for not sending out a notice that there wasn’t going to be a MMC last week. The Party’s computer was in dire need of some upgrading which took longer than expected. It seems there are always a few bugs to get out when you put in new technology. They still aren’t all ironed out but hopefully this coming week, everything should be back to working as it should with some new capabilities. The whole point of doing this is to be able to communicate better with Saskatchewan voters.

There are many issues in Saskatchewan today that will become very topical when the Sask Party government unveils its first post-election budget. As you are all aware, the Sask Party made promises last fall about how well our economy in Saskatchewan was performing. Since that time, however, we have had various indications by the government and other agencies that would suggest that Saskatchewan’s economy may not be as buoyant as the election rhetoric would have us believe.

We now know that corporate income tax is off by $200 million. Potash mines are now going into their 2nd consecutive six-week layoff and we see the government once again plundering the crown corporations to try and come up with a balanced budget. On a summary financial basis, we now know that this is an impossibility and we will be recording our 4th deficit in 5 years of Sask Party government. The rising price of crude oil because of the on-going crisis in the Middle East may pump enough petro dollars into the government coffers to keep the budget picture looking half decent. The down side of that is that the rest of us consumers, farmers, business people and everyone that operates diesel and gasoline engines in this province which is just about everyone, will have to pay more for their transportation and manufacturing costs. The last thing that agriculture needs this spring is a dramatic rise in the price of diesel fuel. The last thing that all of the rural municipalities in Saskatchewan need as they go about fixing destroyed infrastructure from the last two years of flooding is an increase in the price of diesel fuel. This province’s growth is currently driven by the host of natural resources which we are blessed with. It is time that our government started to manage not just for today but for tomorrow and the decades to come. That means spending in the right areas not just the political ones.

Speaking of politics, there was an announcement this last Friday which has great repercussions for the City of Moose Jaw and the entire province. Moose Jaw has been one of the cornerstones of the delivery of mental health services in our province since the 1950’s. The Moose Jaw training school has been at the forefront of educating psychiatric nursing practioners and other professionals and housing individuals in our society who have intellectual disabilities. The Sask Party government announced on Friday that this centre would be closed in 4 years. The current patient load will be distributed somewhere in Saskatchewan to as yet named or built facilities and the current 500 person staff would be disbursed to new locations and occupations. I think this would have been something that should have been discussed in last fall’s election campaign. I am sure it would have brought about a lively discussion in Moose Jaw but also around the province because all citizens have a stake in ensuring that our intellectually-challenged citizens are dealt with in a way that is caring, that is professional and certainly in the best interests of families and communities. The Sask Party government seems to have arrived at this conclusion because the previous NDP government stopped admitting patients in 2002. At no time in this province has there been a wider discussion on how we deal with this segment of our population in a new and better way. If the current system is not functioning, why has there not been a wider public discussion?

We have all seen in the media, heard of and read about situations where intellectually-challenged individuals have been removed from the institutions where they were safe and cared for and have been put out into society to become homeless, to be abused physically, to be incarcerated in our penal system and to simply be forgotten about once the transition was made. To do more of this would be totally unacceptable.

The Minister and the government have a responsibility to have a larger discussion on this issue with all of the stakeholders and the taxpayer and have a better reason for closing Valley View Centre than simply following through with a previous NDP policy that may have been flawed in itself. If Moose Jaw and the hundreds of mental health professionals who live in that community are not going to be one of the centres of excellence for the delivery of mental health services, the government and Mr. Mitchelson, the local government MLA, should have had the courage to say so before the last election. If we are to believe the Minister of Social Services, they have been thinking about this policy change for years and should have by now come up with the alternative plans for the future living and staffing accommodations for people in our society who need this essential service. The residents of Valley View should not be off-loaded into our already over-loaded health care delivery systems around our province which are currently strained to the limits. Once again, this seems like the Sask Party government shooting from the hip before they have figured out what the outcome and the alterative would be and we the taxpayers will have to pick up the bill whether we like it or not.

Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our ever-changing website at pcsask.ca.

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