This week, the PC Party is preparing for our first AGM since the spring election. As I think about the agenda and the things that the Party needs to achieve over the next four years, I was reflecting upon this commentary and all of the issues that have been commented on in the past.
It's hard to believe that the first one of these I attempted to do was in March of 2010 and there is a lot of water under the proverbial bridge since then. Saskatchewan has changed a lot but unfortunately, many things have not changed at all or very little.
The readership of this commentary has gone from a few dozen die-hard PCs to hundreds of individuals around the province - some of whom are political and some of whom are just interested citizens. There are actually a few people from outside the province who view this commentary on a weekly basis and send back their thoughts every once in a while. There have also been a few people who have let me know that they don't like my comments about Brad Wall and the Sask Party primarily and have asked to have their names removed from the list. It's a free country. I also know that other political parties monitor this commentary as do some members of the media - whether they will ever admit it or not. I can tell you that all feedback - whether positive or negative - is always appreciated. Politicians should have open minds and thick skins. That's how you affect meaningful change.
There are two items I wish to comment on this morning where I hope meaningful change occurs. The first one is that the government is announcing today their proposed legislative changes around the issues of drinking and driving. The spate of recent drunk driving occurrences causing death and the recent conviction of the Sask Party Deputy Premier for impaired driving should give the government the mandate and the moral persuasion to bring about fundamental change.
We need stiffer penalties for those who abuse their driving privileges and better educational services to drive home the message that drinking and driving is not permissible in our society today. We shall see if they have the courage to do the right thing.
The other issue I wish to comment on this morning is the recent announcement of another death by suicide of a teenager in northern Saskatchewan. It is so unfortunate that it takes these tragic events to get people focused on an issue that has been building for hundreds of years. We created communities hundreds of years ago around the fur trade industry and when that industry died, we did not begin the process of thinking of how these communities would continue to grow and prosper.
Yes the mining industry in a few locations has done a pretty good job and the tourism industry in the short season available to it also has been a pretty good employer. But the fact of the matter is modern medicine and technology means that growing populations in northern communities have far outstripped the ability of those communities to provide meaningful, long-term employment.
If you are a young person facing those realities today and you know through modern communications that there is a much bigger world available to you with many other opportunities and yet you are locked into your current reality for life then despair rapidly sets in. How much longer can we keep sustaining communities with no employment, high food costs, high energy costs and inappropriate educational opportunities? How many more generations will be subject to substance abuse and family dysfunction before we have honest and straight forward discussions about the current situation?
There are things like building all-weather roads and putting in place power generation and telecommunications that can be done primarily with northern workers and the education to do the job if some of our politicians would look past the four-year election cycle. These are things that can make fundamental change happen and they do benefit all taxpayers because they allow people to begin helping themselves and allow the rest of us to visit and work in that part of Saskatchewan.
Northern Saskatchewan is blessed with many resources. Unfortunately, the human resource is not being allowed to reach its full potential. If our northern communities cannot find meaningful employment bases and more ways to allow young people to achieve their dreams, then maybe there is no reason for them to exist in their current locations or makeup. I don't have all the answers in this commentary this morning but I do know from my few short months as Minister of Indian and Metis Affairs in 1991 to today that not enough fundamental change has occurred and unfortunately, we have not heard the last of desperate young people who see no future and therefore taking what they view as the only way out from a life with no hope.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”