I don’t know about the rest of you but I am sick of winter already. I am afraid that last year spoiled us because this last week with all of the wind, snow and freezing temperatures has been tough to take. The idea of shovelling and ploughing snow until next April makes me wonder if we shouldn’t have taken up the offer from the Turks and Caicos Islands to become part of Canada back in the 1970s. I guess we can only dream now.
Election day occurred all across Saskatchewan this past Wednesday and Saskatchewan residents elected new civic administrations – both urban and rural. Some things stayed the same but there were a number of changes in our major cities and indeed across the province. I believe there is a renewed interest in municipal politics because of the pressures on infrastructure and the demands placed on local taxpayers by the changes occurring in Saskatchewan. I myself sought election as a municipal councillor in the RM of Baildon (and I was successful) because I thought my previous experience in government would be of value to my RM because of all of the damage which occurred during the flooding in 2010/11. The costs have been very high and it has stretched the economic ability of the RM council to respond to all of the needs. That situation is facing urban and rural municipalities across the province. The flooding only emphasized the shortfalls which were already there.
Infrastructure is beginning to show up as the number one priority of people all across this province. They see crumbling roads and bridges or a lack thereof. They see crumbling sidewalks and potholed streets with water and sewer systems underneath which are antiquated and therefore constantly breaking. We have seen the province have to bring in far stiffer penalties for people who are abusing speed limits in construction zones partially because the level of policing in our province has decreased dramatically outside of our major cities. In fact, one regular reader of this commentary suggested last week that maybe it is time for Saskatchewan to have its own provincial police force so that we could provide proper policing across the province and watch far more closely things like speeders and people who refuse to obey the various traffic laws in the province. The cost of RCMP policing keeps rising and the services provided keep dropping. This is a worthwhile idea to consider.
In my own rural municipality and in many others, we have tried to cooperate with the provincial government by designating certain gravel grid roads as heavy haul roads for grain and other materials in order to take pressure off of thin-membrane provincial highways. We try and set speed limits because our roads deteriorate so quickly under the big truck traffic and the speeds at which they travel. Without some type of policing, these posted limits are simply ignored. It is very disconcerting and damaging when you meet a fully loaded B-train coming at you down a gravel road at 110 km. You either get over or loose your windshield. This problem is only getting worse if there isn’t the ability to police this traffic as more and more areas of this province have the oil industry move in. These issues continue to grow with not a lot of the resulting wealth staying at the local level.
I would like to congratulate the current government for adopting one of the PC Party’s campaign planks from the last election. Mr. Wall had already spilled most of the Throne Speech before it happened but one thing that did come out was that the government was looking at forgiving the costs of tuition for medical students if they would commit to practicing in rural and remote areas in Saskatchewan. This should be applied universally to all areas of our province except our major cities. As we pointed out in the election campaign, it is far better to train our own children who grow up in and appreciate rural settings to be our doctors and nurses of the future rather than trying to poach them from all over the world.
As always with the Sask Party, we will have to watch carefully to see if the saying and the doing actually add up at the end of the day. Mr. Wall and his cronies have had 5 years of the best economic conditions ever seen by this province and have fallen short in so many areas. The PC Party will just continue to promote good ideas and hope that common sense prevails with this government.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.