In the last week, there has been a lot of water flowing under the proverbial political bridge. Last week, a half dozen PC Party candidates and staff took in the provincial budget which was supposed to be a transformational one for Saskatchewan. In the weeks leading up to the budget, the Sask Party government and particularly its Premier, had been leading people to believe that they were going to quit driving Saskatchewan into debt and were finally going to curb their spending habits on foolish projects. Talk about a let down!
Absolutely nothing transformed on budget day. The province now has a structural deficit and they will be adding $1.4 billion to the total debt of the province over the next year. There was a lot of rhetoric in the budget about studying every aspect of Saskatchewan's government footprint and of course, lots of consultation but no game plan.
I went there believing that the PC Party's plan to eliminate the health regions would be announced and we could begin the gradual process of winding down that expensive and ineffective way of delivering health care. That money that could be saved desperately needs to be directed to frontline services both rural and urban.
The government made a big thing of no new taxes. They didn't even touch cigarettes and booze. Instead, they increased prescription costs for senior citizens! Of course they neglected to mention the rate increases in the crown corporations which are simply backdoor taxation. SaskPower will be putting all of our rates up well into the foreseeable future and then turning around and providing big dividends to the government. These people are absolutely no different than previous NDP governments in this regard.
An old political friend of mine emailed me the day after the budget and said when is Brad Wall going to understand that a debt is a debt is a debt? At some point in time, a government will have to increase taxes and do the tough things in order to pay Brad Wall's debts. There was a half of a billion dollars of borrowed money in this budget for the south Regina bypass. That's only one of many payments to come and at the end of the day, there will not be one new job in Saskatchewan because of all that spent money. Just a few happy developers contributing to the Sask Party's coffers.
The other water flowing is very important to all of us in southern Saskatchewan. I attended a news conference yesterday morning sponsored by the Friends of the Qu'Appelle Valley who raised some very significant concerns around the proposed Yancoal potash project. You have heard me comment many times about this Chinese company which wants to build a potash mine in Saskatchewan.
Yesterday was the deadline for submissions to the Environment Minister for comments on the EIS submitted by Yancoal. It was great to see that this organization which represents thousands of people along the Qu'Appelle Lake system are getting involved in this issue and raising very legitimate concerns. I don't believe the government has adequately answered the issues around the location of the mine, the vast amounts of water that it's going to draw from Lake Diefenbaker via Buffalo Pound Lake and what the long-term impacts are on ground water and the Qu'Appelle Lakes down the road.
This is a company controlled by a government whose Foreign Affairs Minister told journalists in Ottawa last week that it was none of Canada's damn business what China did in regards to human rights in that country or anything else that it was doing. China is currently bullying all of its neighbours around the South China Sea and is currently being hauled before The International Court in The Hague, Netherlands for its transgressions on its neighbours in that area.
Their record on protecting the environment in their home country is horrible. I emphasized at the news conference yesterday that the government of Saskatchewan needs to slow down the process of approval because of the unique nature of this company and must ascertain if having them here mining potash is good for the overall health of our potash industry. Imagine how well a farmer from around this mine will do with a legitimate complaint given the Chinese government's attitudes toward anyone or anything that gets in its road.
At the very least, there must be a full and open debate in the Legislative Assembly and not just a rubber stamp of approval from whatever Environment Minister Mr. Wall has keeping the chair warm. Goodness knows that there have been so many of them lately that we forget their names.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.