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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

It looks like agriculture in Saskatchewan is heading for its worst spring in living memory. Even the provincial government is now saying that probably less than 70% of the crop will be seeded this year. It now poses the question – what will senior levels of government do to mitigate this disaster for many thousands of Saskatchewan farm families?

We have the ridiculous scenario unfolding this past week of the provincial and federal governments announcing $114 million in drought relief for 2009 cattle producers and at the same time, some of their grain-farming neighbours will be applying for the unseedable acreage benefit of $50/acre because of excessive moisture conditions. Obviously, we need mechanisms that would have responded to the drought-stricken cattle sector in 2009 that isn’t delivered a year late. Farmers shouldn’t be faced with having to go out and seed a crop in 2010 because of a government-imposed deadline simply to claim crop insurance - that will lead to abuses. Their neighbour who may have already spent $100-$150 an acre on inputs is only going to get $50/acre less administrative fees just across the road and will find it very unfair if his neighbour gets double that amount without spending any money on expensive inputs. It really makes you wonder what all of these 3 & 4 term rural Saskatchewan Party MLAs have been thinking about as they collect their $82,000/year salary. When the PC government brought in GRIP and NISA, there was some predictability in agriculture if Mother Nature or the markets suddenly turned against you. Yes, the fees from both government and the producer were high but I am sure that many farmers who face the prospect of no or very little crop would like to be tapping into their NISA account instead of having to go to government and beg for some kind of assistance that will happen in less than 12 months. This is all the more reason why we need to send some PC MLAs back to the Legislature to speak on behalf of agriculture.

Speaking of influencing the government, did you hear about the Premier’s golf tournament at the Willows golf course in Saskatoon being sponsored by the Minister of Enterprise Saskatchewan (Mr. Cheveldayoff)? It seems for a cool $6,000 you can send 2 people to a private little dinner with the Premier and members of his Cabinet so that you can hear about his plans for economic development in Saskatchewan. I am wondering how many drowned out farmers can afford that kind of influence peddling. Seeing as how the provincial government has already spent about $85 million on Enterprise Saskatchewan without creating one single job, it must be getting to be a bit of a tough sell to soak some company for $6,000 for more of the same. But I guess if you are a friend of the government like the contractor in Saskatoon who received the non-tendered contract for a new health care facility that was recently announced, what’s $6,000 to make millions?

Finally, it seems that the government is now breaking their own rules. The Premier announced with great fanfare that they would be cutting the public service to reduce the province’s debt and that particular attention would be paid to the number of communications people that the government had been hiring to sell their message. Well it appears that this only applies to ordinary folks. If you happen to be the past president of the Saskatchewan Party and a former Sask Party candidate, you can score a job as Vice President of Communications and Community Relations with Casino Regina for $115,000/a year. Michelle Hunter would not have been hired in the line departments of government because of the hiring freeze, so they have now snuck her into a Crown Corporation because obviously the Premier’s rules don’t apply to the crowns or his friends. This is the very thing that the Sask Party in opposition criticized the NDP for because they were always hiring their friends and putting them in the crown corporations. How quickly the Sask Party has learned from the NDP. It’s time to start running government and crown corporations for the right reasons.

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

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