Since my commentary last week, it seems that the mess in grain transportation and in commodities transportation by rail in general is finally getting the attention it deserves. It’s good to see that our Premier – fresh back from his Arizona car auction – finally had something to say about this critical issue for Saskatchewan two days after my commentary. Somebody in Executive Council knows how to read!
The Federal Minister of Agriculture is now promising a $3 million study on what the problems are over the next five years. He might as well of saved his money and breath and put the money toward hiring a logistics coordinator to start sorting out the mess that was left over with the demise of the CWB and its grain logistics group. The knowledge that this group had should have been placed with a new agency that would have acted as a transition to the new environment. It is only logical when you go from 70 years of doing something one way to something else that there will be issues to resolve. When you add this to the fact that CP Rail has hired a new CEO whose mandate is to cut costs and get rid of union pension benefits no matter who gets stepped on and you have a recipe for disaster.
Larry Weber of Weber Commodities gave an excellent presentation at Crop Production that minced no words and got right to the matter of the issue. At the current rate of disappearance, the carry over of western Canadian crops will take the equivalent of 77,500 ten thousand bushel grain bins to store what farmers won’t be able to sell. This is a cost that will be born by the primary producer not the grain companies, not governments and certainly not railroads.
This cost and lack of cash flow will reverberate through Saskatchewan’s economy, western Canada’s economy and Canada’s current import/export imbalance will continue to grow. This thing has been studied to death and many including myself were predicting this two years ago. I am including the link to a website for a petition being organized by Weber Commodities to the Federal Government. Whether you are a farmer or not, every sector in Saskatchewan is affected by the transportation of all of our commodities and their sales worldwide. Please take the time to consider signing this petition.
To the surprise of almost no one, the government has finally admitted that the surgical wait time improvements and promises from 2010 have not come to pass in either the Saskatoon or Regina health regions. The government would like you to believe that all the other parts of the province have had dramatic improvements but the sad fact is that almost all of the surgeries are done in Regina and Saskatoon. Perhaps if more surgeries were done outside of the two major centres, some of the pressures would be alleviated. Not putting an MRI in the new regional hospital in Moose Jaw is a good example of what is wrong with the system. Saskatoon according to government sources will meet their targets in another year and Regina supposedly a year after that. I will believe it when I see if.
We have more nurses and more doctors than we have had for years. The problem is that we also have more bureaucracy and more paper pushers than we have had for years. Until the resources are taken away from the non-essential health region bureaucracies and put into front-line service providers, we will not have permanent solutions. Not once in the discussions around “lean” technology and its application to health care in this province have I heard a serious discussion about the duplication and growth of the bureaucracies in the health regions. You can organize how you build rooms in hospitals and you can organize the people providing the services to the patient and you can organize how families interact with those patients but until the other part of the equation is changed and this province goes back to a command and control structure, I don’t believe we will get the results that the public demands and deserves.
That requires political will and political courage to fundamentally alter the structure and that seems beyond the scope of our current politicians. This government is very good at getting out their political message and their propaganda. Our Premier is a master at it. But at the end of the day, all the spin control in the world is not going to shorten surgical waiting lists. Health care election promises should be banned from our system. They make very poor public policy.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.