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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Right off the top, I would like to take the opportunity to invite everyone who might be interested in attending the PC Party of Saskatchewan’s Annual General Meeting being held at the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa in Moose Jaw on Saturday, November 8th. As I mentioned sometime ago, Mr. Brent Rathgeber, Independent Member of Parliament and former Conservative MP from Edmonton, will be the guest speaker after lunch. There will be the opportunity for folks to pick up a copy of Mr. Rathgeber’s newly-published book on his experiences as a backbench MP trying to look after the interests of his constituents and all the problems that poses for backbench Members of Parliament. I am also expecting to have some individuals declaring their candidacy for ridings in the upcoming provincial election and as always, some good discussion on topics like the CPP purchase of farmland in our province. The Party will be electing a new slate of officers and beginning to set the agenda for the next provincial election. If you are interested in attending, please call Dale at 693-7572. Hope to see all of you there!

Once again, last week’s Question Period was dominated by two issues – the smart meter fiasco at SaskPower and the government’s “lean” initiative in health care. I don’t think I have ever seen the Premier quite so frustrated and in ill-humour than last week. I’m sure that ill-humour grew by leaps and bounds when his Minister of everything, Bill Boyd, admitted that he either doesn’t read his briefing notes or outright lied about the fact that the smart meters were causing fires in other jurisdictions two years before installed in Saskatchewan. It’s amazing how a politician’s memory becomes clear when they are faced with the possibility of losing a fancy office and a big fat salary. I’m sure there will be more revelations on this file.

As I predicted sometime ago, the CEO of SaskPower Mr. Robert Watson would be sent packing. I just didn’t think it would be this quick as I thought the Wall government would wait for all the cost overruns at the Boundary Dam Power Station to come forward before giving Mr. Watson his pink slip. I am wondering why the Board of Directors of SaskPower who are all Wall government appointees have not come under more scrutiny. You would think that when you appoint someone to a Board and give them a $30,000 a year plus retainer to give good advice and provide oversight of your largest crown corporation that they would have some degree of accountability attached to the appointment. If they don’t have that accountability, then why have them? Save the ratepayers the expensive bill, have your management responsible and if they screw up, fire them. That would be much cleaner and much simpler.

It is obvious from comments coming out of the shortline rail industry that the federal government legislation which mandated Canada’s two major railways to move a specific amount of grain each week is not working as intended. Many of the producer-car loading operations on the shortline railways have still not received the grain cars that were ordered last spring. The railways are meeting the commitment by putting the grain cars only on the main lines at the largest terminals and forcing producers to move their grain there if they are going to get it out this year. This is defeating the whole idea behind shortline railroads which was to take the pressure off of our highways and grid roads by putting the products on rail tracks that can better take the load.

In my own RM, we are seeing the results of this policy where we have many producers hauling through our RM on our grid roads in order to get to the CP rail main line in Moose Jaw. Combined with wet weather, this is a recipe for disaster on our secondary highways and grid road network. In many cases, the grid road repair bill falls to the local taxpayer with no help from senior government. This is absolutely unfair, unwise and bad public policy. There should have been a requirement for shortline railroads and producer car loading spots to get their car allocations the same as the major grain companies who run the large concrete inland terminals. If this is not rectified soon, we will have shortline railroads no longer viable even though they had enough traffic booked to be profitable and our road network in Saskatchewan will deteriorate further. Producers are also having to pay higher transportation costs and face far larger basis margins than if they were able to load their producer cars as scheduled.

Saskatchewan seems to have been the province that has borne most of this hurt and the corresponding economic loss. Manitoba and Alberta seem to have escaped most of these issues around the federal legislation. My question is this…..where has our provincial government been on this issue as this has been unfolding. Our Minister of Agriculture, our Minister of Highways and Transportation and certainly our Premier should have been raising this particular issue with the federal government on a monthly basis.

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”.

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