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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

It looks like southern Saskatchewan is going to get rain and snow again on Tuesday and Wednesday which is a good thing and a bad thing. We always need moisture and we always want to get the crop in on time. Politics is much the same way. You try and do the right things but sometimes your timing is lousy. A case in point is last week’s announcement by the three western provinces that they have entered into some kind of agreement that is supposed to facilitate expanded inter-provincial trade, free movement of labour and its services and ability of the three provincial health departments to purchase goods and services as a block buy. As a Progressive Conservative, I have no problem with these goals. We are the Party which championed the North American Free Trade Agreement back in the 1980’s - a relationship which is certainly not perfect and which needs updating from time to time but has benefited Saskatchewan more than not having it.

The difference is that the free trade deal was debated openly for months, an election was fought on the issue at the federal level and at the end of the day, whether you were a supporter or were opposed - you had your say. This current agreement has been done in the dark of night. It is supposedly not the TILMA agreement rejected by both the Sask Party and the NDP because it would be bad for Saskatchewan Crown Corp’s and municipalities and comes on the heels of the news that the Saskatchewan’s economy contracted a full 6% in the last year. As the final line in this weekly message says “These issues must be debated for the Right Reasons” not pulled out of the hat on the eve of the Premier’s Dinner in Saskatoon where another Premier could introduce him and in the midst of a Legislative session which the Sask Party government has lost badly. We, the taxpayers of this great province, deserve the opportunity to have a well-rounded discussion on an agreement which could affect all of our lives for decades to come.

This brings me to another topic. Our illustrious government seems to jump from pillar to post with no idea of the consequences. During the tough years of drought, low commodity prices and high interest rates in the 1980’s, the PC government was doing all it could and probably a little too much to maintain rural Saskatchewan. It was recognized that economics aren’t the solution to every problem and in one particular area - that of conserving our valuable wildlife habitat and natural areas - we needed to something which would stand the test of time. After much discussion with many stakeholder groups both inside the agricultural community and outside with conservationists, hunters and fishermen and related enterprises, it was proposed and passed that over 3 million acres of Critical Wildlife Habitat would be set aside for perpetuity. These lands in many cases continued to be used by the people who had been leasing the land for generations or was already being used for recreational purposes by the public. The Sask Party government all of a sudden last week announced it was changing the regulations to allow the sale of some of this land and consulted with no one except for a select few people involved with one of the provinces cattle organizations. Once again, an issue which should have been widely consulted on, an issue which affects people across our province has been haphazardly handled. Once this land is sold, it is permanently gone from the public domain. Hopefully people across this province will say enough is enough to this arrogant government and demand a say before this is a done deal. I encourage you all to speak out on both of the issues raised today.

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

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