What a difference two weeks can make when the weather cooperates. In my area the ag Saskatchewan people are saying that 80% of the crop is in the bin. Hopefully after today, we will be down to flax and a few odds and sods to clean up. It is remarkable for the middle of September. I think everyone in Saskatchewan is a little bit disappointed with the yield as most crops looked really heavy but have turned out to be average at best. This is a result of a whole bunch of climactic and environmental conditions all coinciding at the same time. We should all be thankful because we have a crop that will make money this year and we could be in the situation like our neighbours to the south where massive drought will put many farm families and their communities in some dire financial straights.
This brings me to one of the points I want to make this morning about the newly-signed deal entered into by the Federal government and the provinces on farm safety net tools and insurance. Some of you probably saw the articles in the media whereby our newly minted Minister of Agriculture claimed that he stood and fought for Saskatchewan’s agricultural producers but at the end of the day, he held his nose and signed on our behalf. Because Saskatchewan has half of Canada’s agricultural land, we have always had more at risk and more on the table when it comes to negotiating with the Federal government. An American style drought in Saskatchewan will dramatically affect the province’s bottom line far greater than any other province in Canada. In fact, Ontario is currently experiencing severe drought but as a percentage of the province’s GDP it will be very minor. Everyone in Saskatchewan feels the pinch when it happens here. I believe for all of Minister Stewart’s tough talk that this deal to cut both AgriStability and AgriInvest was done in the Premier’s office as is everything else in this province. Wall owed Harper one because of the tough spot Wall put Harper in over the rejection of the PCS takeover by BHP. The Federal government has shown that they had wanted to cut the agricultural budget for some time and that they wanted the provinces to cooperate.
We have had good crop prices for the last number of years. That lulls politicians into a sense of security and when it comes to budget cutting, they always look at the low hanging fruit. Saskatchewan only has 14 MPs in total so in the Federal parliament, we are at most – a bit player. The Premier of this province seems to be forgetting our history and is so busy thinking about his legacy projects that he is ignoring the facts surrounding our economy particularly when agriculture goes into a multi-year tailspin without adequate backup being in place to mitigate the damage. The public today has no stomach for any group especially farmers going hat-in-hand to the elected types to ask for help. That is why you do not take away the programs that allow them to protect themselves, their families and communities without putting something in place that is just as effective. Make no mistake about it – this deal was done in the Premier’s office – not by the Minister of Agriculture.
Here is just a quick note on the passing of former Premier Peter Lougheed in Alberta last week. There has already been much said about the metal of this man and what he meant to western Canadians and Canadians in general.
Peter Lougheed was a Progressive Conservative from beginning to end and proud of it. He was that unique blend of fiscal conservatism and a strong social conscience that makes the Progressive Conservative brand unique. As late as last spring when there was a sense that the Wild Rose Party in Alberta - which quite frankly in my view is a collection of opportunists who did not want to run under their previous brands might form government. This brought Mr. Lougheed out in fighting form warning the people of Alberta not to throw away the principles which he set in place so many years ago. Mr. Lougheed was telling Albertans that they shouldn’t be rushing to send all of their oil down a pipeline but should be refining more of it at home. He told Albertans that they should not be setting aside the health and education and social programs which have made them the envy of most Canadians. Mr. Lougheed told them that Alberta is not an insular society that can shut the rest of Canada out.
This man was a Canadian first and foremost. He fought and beat Pierre Trudeau to protect Alberta’s resources but also to ensure that Alberta’s resources and wealth could help build a better Canada. His wisdom has shown to be true in the years since those epic battles took place. Wouldn’t Canada be a better place with more Premiers like Mr. Lougheed getting together in cooperation with the Prime Minister to make Canada a stronger nation? Peter Lougheed was what I always aspired to be as an elected Progressive Conservative. As our Party rebuilds in this province, we should look to his legacy as an example of how we would govern our province. We can only wish the Lougheed family our thoughts and prayers as they go through what must be a difficult goodbye.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.