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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Yesterday was an unusually busy Sunday on the Swenson farm as we sorted, loaded and shipped away 72 of our spring calves which will be sold this coming Tuesday in Moose Jaw. Like all other cattle people in Saskatchewan, we are hoping for better prices this year to get us back to where we were before BSE hit in 2003. It has been a hard 7 years for the cattle industry and it would sure be great if better prices once again become the norm. It’s good for agriculture and it would certainly be good news on the agricultural front after all the devastation of the rains in 2010.

I attended the Legislature on Thursday last to listen to the debate on the motion presented by the Sask Party Premier which said that Saskatchewan would not support the takeover bid by BHP-Billiton for PCS. As I sat behind the bar down on the floor and watched the performances of the Premier, Mr. Lingenfelter, Mr. Boyd (Minister of Energy), I thought back to a debate which I took part in 21 years ago when the Progressive Conservative government privatized PCS. I saw a lot of grandstanding and politics on Thursday but I can honestly say that I didn’t see a lot of substance other than the fact that potash royalties have not changed in 16 years. Tell me what has not gone up in 16 years in all our lives. Brad Wall bragged about it. I truly believe that if we weren’t in an election year, I’m not sure if this even would have taken place. It appears from all of the news reports and insider information that seems to be floating around internet-land that there is now a good chance that the Federal government has changed it’s mind and may put an end to the bid by BHP-Billiton or at least put enough conditions in place that they would walk away.

There is an excellent article that appeared in last Thursday’s Leader Post written by Mr. Colin Boyd who is a Professor of Management at the Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan entitled “Potash: Premier is wrong to throw up a wall”. It basically refutes all of the arguments I heard the politicians making last Thursday and I would encourage all of you to go to the Leader Post website and read the article if you haven’t done so already. The article appeared on page B10 (Leader Post, Thursday, October 28). I am sure there will be much more to be said on this topic after the Federal government brings down their ruling this Wednesday. It is a strange position for Canada to be in when we have just witnessed Viterra and Agrium buying up huge chunks of the Australian grain handling industry and farm supply business. They simply went in and made an offer for the shares of the companies they wished to buy and because they offered enough money, they were successful. So I guess we will wait to see what happens this week.

The Throne Speech presented by the government on Wednesday last was basically a rehash of election promises made 3 years ago. This is a government that has had unprecedented revenues – the highest in the history of the province and also unprecedented spending – the highest government spending in the history of the province. There are still roads washed out since last June. There are hundreds of people waiting to have their homes assessed to see if they will be fit to live in with the first winter storm already upon us. The government brags about building 161 affordable housing units this year when there have been hundreds damaged or destroyed by flooding. The Throne Speech dwelt at length on the purchase of helicopters to provide emergency medical services with one stationed in Saskatoon and one in Regina. At the same time, we have more communities in rural Saskatchewan losing the services of a doctor and the closure of health care facilities because of the lack of qualified health care professionals. I have always believed that you should have your basics covered first when setting your health care priorities and the basics of health care are having boots on the ground to serve the people of this province as close to home as possible. We don’t even have a hospital with a helipad as part of its infrastructure to my knowledge and for this to work, we can’t have them touching down on some ball diamond a few blocks away and then loading people into an ambulance. On most days you can’t find a parking space around the General Hospital in Regina much less land a helicopter.

Let’s get the basics right and the frills will come later.

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