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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

It seems that with the coming of Easter, we still haven’t seen the last of winter. I think everyone was looking forward to an early, mild spring whether you are urban or rural so that we could all get some things done that have been hard to accomplish in the last two years.

Speaking of getting things accomplished, it seems that all levels of government have been springing things on various affected groups with absolutely no consultation before making significant changes in budget announcements. There are two that I wish to comment on today.

In Saskatchewan, the tourism industry has been turned on its ear by the Sask Party government. The tourism industry in Saskatchewan has evolved over the last decade into a very well organized and effective lobby and promotional organization who I believe have served their members well and the greater public who use the various tourism opportunities in our province. Its board of directors is primarily made up of people involved in the industry who give of their time and talents to promote the industry without expectation of monetary rewards. It has had very capable leadership provided by former Lieutenant Governor Lynda Haverstock and has grown from a few dozen concerned citizens to a very comprehensive, province-wide organization. On budget day, they were informed by the Minister responsible that their organization would no longer receive provincial funding because the Sask Party government was going to form a tourism crown corporation. So much for efficiency and keeping costs down.

I took the opportunity to get a hold of the legislation that sets up this tourism crown corporation and it is very evident that everything in it will be under the thumb of the Sask Party’s appointed people. This will be an opportunity for the Sask Party to reward some more of its friends, freeze out those people in the tourism sector that they don’t like or people that won’t be bullied, spend a lot more money on staff and structure and at the end of the day, there will not be any more tourism dollars spent in our province. In fact if I were making some political guesses, I would say that this has been set up to provide a soft landing for some of the folks over at Enterprise Saskatchewan because that organization has been a colossal failure for this government. The only part of Enterprise Saskatchewan that was working was the regional organizations and they were all canned in the provincial budget on the same day that tourism was.

No one has seen what the new regulations are going to look like that go along with this Act so there is a chance that people in the tourism business can influence those regulations to make sure that people in the industry still maintain some control and direction of our tourism process. But we all know with our current crop of crown corporations that they either become cash cows for the government’s year-end accounting or they are rapidly filled with friends of the current government rather than being the pure service providers that they should be. I would encourage all of you to go onto the Legislative website and take a look at Bill #37 and give me your feedback as to what you think it says and what it will mean for our tourism industry and the thousands of Saskatchewan citizens that work in that field.

The other item I wish to comment on is the move by the Federal Department of Agriculture to begin shutting down the community pasture program and the PFRA tree nursery at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. My family has been getting trees from that facility since the end of the 1930’s. I cannot imagine what our farmstead and the surrounding fields would be like without the tens of thousands of trees which we have planted through three generations of farming. When I look around Saskatchewan at all the beautiful farmsteads and conservation districts and the variety and beauty of the trees planted there, I can’t imagine what Saskatchewan would look like without the PFRA tree nursery. The government has stated that they are hoping that someone comes along and runs this facility as a private enterprise project. I would have liked to have seen them go through a process of getting the private partner in place before making the announcement. This seems too much like shooting from the hip and letting the chips fall where they may.

The same goes for the PFRA pasture program which has been a mainstay of smaller and mid-size cattle producers in this province for decades. Many of the lands in these pastures are important prairie eco-systems that should not be broken up and farmed. There should be an assurance put in place by the federal government before these lands are turned back to the province that they will be maintained for the benefit of the ranching industry and not sold off to land speculators or foreign buyers as is currently happening with other types of farmland in Saskatchewan. Once again, there should have been a long-term public process put in place ahead of budget announcements. This type of after-the-fact negotiation is simply a method for politicians to hide from the people that they are supposed to represent. If you cannot stand the heat generated by a particular political decision, then maybe the decision being made is not the right one. In the case of both tourism and the PFRA, there are dozens of ramifications for these decisions which go far beyond the paycheques of a few hundred civil servants which governments are wanting to cut because of profligate spending of taxpayers’ dollars in other areas and the necessity to balance budgets. We all want balanced budgets but we also all want well-thought out decisions for actions which can last decades.

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”.

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