Welcome to 2013 and to full-blown winter. I hope everyone had a great holiday season with family and friends. There are parts of Saskatchewan that have already set records or near-records for the amount of snow fall that we have received this winter. It certainly brings back memories for many of us of winters gone by where it seemed all we did was shovel and plough. It is certainly come home to me in my first winter as a Municipal Councillor in RM 131 that did not used to do much in the way of snow clearing on RM roads. This was a job that was done in the past by private individuals or “snow-plough” clubs. With the decrease in rural population and the need for Saskatchewan people from rural areas to commute to jobs, that process is no longer viable in much of rural Saskatchewan. So I have now joined with the hundreds of other municipal politicians who are trying to stretch budgets and provide services to our ratepayers and at the same time try and balance the books. It is a challenge that must be accomplished for a province like Saskatchewan which can have up to 6 months of winter.
Speaking of challenges, the recent announcement by Canpotex that they are going to sell one million tonnes of potash at $70 per tonne less to the Chinese than the March 2012 contract with China stipulated means that Saskatchewan’s 2012 budget numbers were just a figment of Mr. Wall’s imagination.
As you are all aware, Saskatchewan’s royalty from potash is based on the price of the product not the volume of tonnes. This means that the selling price of potash could be around the $400 tonne mark rather than closer to the $500 a tonne mark that many were forecasting. This transaction is absolute proof that the owners of the potash resource – the people of this province – need to have a royalty structure in place that pays us by the tonnes removed from our province’s resource base. Company CEOs make decisions to shut down mines and layoff the workers to manage inventory. This has happened across Saskatchewan this winter. Company CEOs and their marketing organization can make the decision to undercut the market or cave in to customer demands to satisfy their own bottom lines and the demands of their shareholders and their customers and the government has no say in the matter.
When new mines come on stream who are not members of Canpotex, I am sure they will be marketing millions of tonnes at prices competitive to or less than Canpotex. If the Communist Chinese or the Indian governments purchase a mine, they will wish to remove as many tonnes as possible as cheaply as possible because both of their governments still control much of the fertilizer business rather than private companies. Their politicians will want to look good at home. The politicians in this province have the responsibility to ensure that Saskatchewan people receive their fair share regardless of the machinations of company CEOs or foreign governments. That means we get paid by the tonne. This process should be open and accountable to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan as the PC Party proposed over 2 years ago not just the Premier and the Finance Minister getting the “company line”.
This coming week is Crop Production Week in Saskatoon. It is the week when much of Saskatchewan’s agricultural community comes together to see what is new, what ideas are good, what didn’t work and what we can learn from each other. My hat goes off to the people that had the foresight to put this show together back in the early 1980s and have stuck with the dream of creating a world-class agricultural symposium in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.
Like many other farmers and people involved in agriculture, I will be attending for at least 3 days this coming week learning, talking to people and I am sure, talking about how maybe Saskatchewan can do things a little bit differently and maybe a little bit smarter than we are currently doing them. That is the beauty of our system – you can go and learn and also strengthen our democratic process at the same time. I hope Mr. Wall’s people are doing a good job of listening rather than simply telling us what to do which has been their style since the last election. The recent change to the provincial logo where the wheat sheaf has been pushed aside in favour of something abstract with Sask Party colours is just another example of arrogance rather than consultation. It is no big deal if we are allowed to give our opinion and then something happens that is constructive. Lately Mr. Wall and his friends simply want to tell us what is good for us and we should keep our mouth shut. I don’t plan on keeping mine shut anytime this coming week and I would hope that all of you would take the opportunity whenever possible to voice your opinions because your opinion should count at the end of the day.
Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our website at pcsask.ca.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.