I’m sure by now some of you have seen that great picture that has gone viral on the internet of the newly-married couple in central Saskatchewan who are sharing a kiss on the road with a tornado in the background. Talk about timing! I hope the tornado in the background is not an omen about how the marriage will go. Saskatchewan has had its share of extreme weather over the last couple of weeks. We have all seen the pictures of the suffering and havoc that has been wrought on various parts of our province.
Much the same picture is happening in our neighbouring province to the east as Manitoba has had to ask the federal government for military assistance to combat rising water throughout the Assiniboine river system. This has become almost a yearly experience and many are wondering why the water seems to be coming faster and in greater volumes than ever before. In talking to friends from some of the affected areas, they feel that the smaller creeks and various tributaries are filling up much faster and delivering such volumes of water to lakes such as the Qu’Appelle system that these water bodies go to flood stage on very short notice.
Individuals, farm groups and resort village associations have been telling government for some time that unrestricted drainage is becoming an issue that goes well beyond the farm gate. The province of Manitoba has been publicly saying for quite sometime that they believe a lot of Manitoba’s flooding problems are a result of unrestricted drainage in Saskatchewan. This is a topic that all governments have been loath to talk about and to actually do something about for a long time because flooded or unseeded ground is not something any farmer wishes to deal with. The various disasters unfolding before us demand that the truths about this issue must be found out about and dealt with or else the consequences and a pushback from non-agricultural society will continue to grow.
Last winter the Sask Party government held a consultation process spearheaded by the Water Security Agency and this consultation was supposed to give government direction on how to handle this issue. The problem that I had with this was that it was almost all done online and by written submission. There were few if any public meetings and there was no forum for most people in this province to talk directly to provincial politicians or the bureaucrats that would be implementing any policy changes.
I believe it was done this way so that Sask Party politicians would not have to stand up in public forums and number one answer for what has happened in the past but also have to give commitments to do something about what is occurring in the present. I am sure most of you saw the pictures of our Premier paddling through the puddles as he did his tour of the flood area and speculating that the costs of the latest disaster could well exceed the $360 million that the one in 2011 cost the taxpayers of this province. It would seem to me that if unrestricted drainage is part of the reason for these escalating costs then government has the responsibility to start managing water in this province in a more responsible way.
In years gone past when drought was the main problem on the prairies, the federal government had the foresight to create the PFRA and dedicate resources for engineering and structures to drought proof western Canada. Unfortunately as we all know, the PFRA is no longer around to help deal with too much water and the consequences of it. Maybe it is time for the federal government and the three prairie provinces put in place a successor to the PFRA with the legislative teeth to backup a system of controlled drainage which can benefit all aspects of our society. To continue relying on so-called “rainy day funds” in this province is a process that lacks vision or the courage to implement long-term solutions but it is simply a short-stop political solution that is simply not acceptable to the taxpayers of this province. Simply draining water past your own property line where it becomes someone’s problem can no longer be the norm.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.