Finally Saskatchewan has been blessed with some good harvest weather. Most of last week was pretty good and in fact, last Monday I had the pleasure of combining for most of the day, having my grandchildren come out and ride with me and then sit in to a wonderful turkey supper at the end of the day with four generations of Swenson’s around the table. It doesn’t get much better than that.
This week we are hoping to finish off the last 210 acres of soybeans, flax and late red lentils. I’m sure many others around Saskatchewan are hoping for the same thing.
Speaking of getting things finished off, our Premier decided that he would hurry up the Lloydminster byelection from the late February/early March date that he told everyone about to the 2nd week of November. In fact, the Sask Party had not even nominated a candidate when he switched the byelection date. That is something that I have never heard of or seen before where the governing party calls a byelection without a candidate in place. Something obviously spooked our Premier. Is it the falling price of oil and what it is going to do to his budget? Was it the fact that the PC Party of Saskatchewan started running radio ads on the Lloydminster stations last Tuesday? Were there some bad polling results from that riding because of the way the last member left? We will probably never know but something obviously spooked Brad Wall and his inner circle.
There are a couple of topics that I want to touch on this morning that I think should be spooking Mr. Wall and I believe will bother the rest of us down the road. These topics are controversial and most members of the public are hesitant to talk about them because they fear they will be branded by their fellow citizens as being irresponsible if they complain about how these two matters were implemented by our provincial government.
I am talking about the implementation of photo radar and the seizure of vehicles for various offences under the Highway Traffic Act and other provincial statutes. The provincial government has told us that the implementation of photo radar by an Edmonton company for somewhere between $3 and $4 million dollars is an issue of public safety and will never be a cash cow for the government. The seizure of vehicles we are told was a necessary step to get people’s attention, get bad drivers off of the road and in particular, stop drinking and driving. I don’t think any of us have much in the way of problems with those goals. The NDP opposition have said they believe in photo radar only they would do it with Saskatchewan people and companies instead of outsiders.
All of the above mentioned initiatives have a problem, however, and that problem is that Saskatchewan people are considered guilty and must incur all of the costs of trying to prove their innocence after the fact. One of the things that has always separated Saskatchewan and Canada from all of those places that we hear about in the news, read about in the papers is the fact that we have had a strong rule of law here where everyone is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Right now, the opposite is occurring and your only recourse as a citizen is to the Highway Traffic Board which is made up of political appointees. People are there because they are a friend of a Cabinet Minister, they did somebody’s campaign a favour or they have carried the Sask Party’s water through every election since 1999. Some of these folks, I am sure, are good people with good intentions but they are not the legal system that citizens should have in place for dealing with photo radar or having their vehicles seized.
I also have a great deal of difficulty particularly with vehicle seizures because often times the owner is not the one committing the offence and yet the vehicle ends up in a compound somewhere not to be released until many hundreds or thousands of dollars has been spent while the system grinds its way through the process. That is totally unfair and should immediately be rectified.
The other problem that I have and I am sure this will get the ire of some around this province is that in the case of drinking and driving, we are creating a two-tier system in the province. In urban centres, people have recourse to many different modes of transportation if they are going to go out on a social evening and have a few barley pops. There are taxis, buses and there are even civic organizations that provide designated driver services for people who don’t wish to take their own vehicle. That is not the case in a lot of rural Saskatchewan where you have no other forms of transportation except private vehicles. The onus is solely on the individual to be responsible and I have no problem with that but when we bring in laws in this province that make it more difficult to both police and implement social responsibility for one sector of society over another then we will build resentment in that segment.
The same applies to photo radar. If the implementation of these devices in anyway starts to be a cash grab, then the whole purpose is being defeated. In most jurisdictions where this has occurred, governments have quickly built into their budgets the proceeds from photo radar because they are significant dollars. Maybe the same concerns for excessive speeding could be handled by increasing the number of police officers, the use of dummy cars and other enforcement tools that would be more cost-effective and yet accomplish the same ends.
I know that my comments will get the ire of many around the province and I do not purport this morning to say that any of my comments are the policy of the PC Party of Saskatchewan. I hope in the coming months that our members will have a good discussion about both of these matters because I think it is extremely important that in a growing province, we manage our problems, we take the responsibility of public safety very seriously but that we also absolutely ensure that our citizens continue to live in a province and in a country where the rule of law is paramount. I think if you asked many of the new people to our province about that, they will tell you they are here because where they came from the rule of law is only paid lip-service or does not exist at all. Let’s keep Saskatchewan on the right track for the right reasons.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.