This Thursday will see the Legislature brought back into session. Normally there would be a speech from the throne whereby the government would set out their agenda. Fall sittings are supposed to give the people the opportunity to comment on the government’s agenda so that when the government brings down the budget in the spring, they are following the public’s wishes. With this government, it is all about the Premier’s profile and setting his agenda for the province’s future.
So far the media have been very kind to the remarks of last week and the audiences that Mr. Wall has chosen to speak to have certainly been receptive to the message. I think probably he could have showed up at any of these functions and said that black was white or white was black and still received a standing ovation. As I said last week, there was absolutely nothing in the document presented by Mr. Wall that was in anyway fundamentally different or charting a course that would take Saskatchewan in a different direction.
That, to my way of thinking, is the major failure of Mr. Wall’s vision. Only a major world-wide economic meltdown would keep people from flowing to Saskatchewan and Alberta because of our immense natural resource potential. People are also flocking to North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming because of the same issues. Try finding a room to rent or a house to buy in Williston, North Dakota or Gillette, Wyoming and there are a number of other communities which are expecting the same kind of growth.
The trick in all of this is to put in place the necessary tools to make it last for 20 or 30 years. That long-term vision was what set Peter Lougheed above the rest in Alberta and indeed set him above most other Premiers in Canada. Alberta’s greatest challenge has been to select leadership which would not give in to the day-by-day stuff but to keep an eye on the long-term goals and the challenges that go with that.
What we have seen with Mr. Wall and his government is the desire to pump it or dig it out of the ground as fast as possible in order to satisfy today’s budget. There was nothing in that document that looked to the job creation that will be necessary in the future. For instance Mr. Wall’s document talked about exporting 10 million tonnes more of agricultural production instead of talking about exporting so many million tonnes of “value-added” agricultural production. That was the reason for my criticism back in May of the large amounts of communist Chinese money flowing into Saskatchewan to buy farmland. Their example from around the world is to produce as much raw product as possible and ship it as is back to China for value-adding.
We in this province for generations have tried to break the cycle of being hewers of wood and drawers of water. That diversification is not an easy task but if you do not talk about it and push for it and put in place the regimes like harmonization of sales taxes then you will not achieve the goal and simply remain an exporter of raw materials.
The vision, in my view, is the need to set goals that are not tied to election cycles but rather tied to the world marketplace and look for the partnerships that would allow the expansion of the petrochemical industry, the fertilizer industry, the wood industry and what educational challenges we need to accomplish to satisfy those partnerships. It is all well and fine to talk about more individuals graduating from grade 12 but my response would be….has that not been our mandate from day 1 in Saskatchewan? What has Mr. Wall’s government and his Deputy Premier - who was the Minister of Education for 4 years - been doing all of this time? Have aboriginal students been discriminated against for the last 5 years? Education is the birthright of all of us.
It has been obvious from the response thus far from the NDP Opposition that they are too absorbed in their own leadership process or simply do not have the ability to hold Mr. Wall accountable. The only remark that was of any value was Mr. Nilson’s calculation that he would be 110 and have a very long beard before we actually started putting money into a heritage fund and he is correct if you look at Mr. Wall’s timetable. The spring budget should have the first instalment to the heritage fund so that Mr. McKinnon can actually start earning his salary.
I would invite all of you who receive this commentary to feedback your opinions but also to take the opportunity to voice your concerns to the media and the public in general. Saskatchewan is blessed with vast resources. It is up to all of us to determine how we use this wealth. The discussion has to be much broader than Mr. Wall’s dog and pony show.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.