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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

As you have noticed, this commentary is a couple days later than normal. The logistics of working around the Easter egg hunt with the grandkids, attending several church services and calving a bunch of heifers for the first time in a long time meant that I, like most other people over the Easter long weekend, was taking a break from political thoughts. In fact, I sometimes think we dwell on this political stuff too much but unfortunately these days the decisions of politicians really do affect our lives in a lot of different ways.

Our newscasts are full of the ongoing discussions of the various city councils in this province as they have to redo their budgets, cut services and increase the tax bill for the average homeowner. We don't know yet what the outcome will be of those deliberations except there will be cuts and there will be tax increases.

Speaking of deliberations, it seems that our neighbour next door - Donald Trump - who bounces back and forth between good guy/bad guy on almost a daily basis - has decided once again that Canada is part of the axis of evil on the NAFTA free trade agreement. We have rejoined Mexico on Mr. Trump's shit list because of our supply manage agricultural products which we consume in Canada particularly our dairy industry.

I think most Canadians have realized for some time and our politicians for some time have realized that there would have to be changes made to supply managed food products and the high tariffs that protect them from international competition. One of the contenders for the last Liberal leadership other than Justin Trudeau campaigned on this change as are some of the people contending for the federal Conservative leadership. Canada's negotiators at whatever process the Trump administration forces on us will need to be good poker players in order to preserve a good trade agreement for Canada.

In my view, we cannot have individual politicians doing Canada's negotiations. We had the spectacle a week and a half ago of Saskatchewan's Premier in Washington, DC hobnobbing with his friends in the US Senate and breaking bread with our $400,000 a year lobbyist from South Carolina. He makes the comment at some conservative think-tank that when he is at his winter retreat in Arizona and shopping at Fry's, he has noticed that cheese is less than half the price than it is at home and we probably should do something about that.

Mr. Wall knows he has very few dairy farmers in Saskatchewan so if he has to trade off a few of them to please his friends in Washington - well, what the heck. I wonder if while he was at the Fry's store if he noticed what the price of beer was. I understand that with the new taxes the Sask Party government has imposed in their latest budget that Saskatchewan now has the most expensive beer in Canada. I wonder how all the people in the up and coming craft brewing industry are dealing with those price increases and how will this affect our own Great Western brewer in Saskatoon which produces excellent products sold all over western Canada.

Of course the difference is Mr. Wall wants about $600 million out of the booze business to make up for all of the bad management he and his government have foisted on us over the last ten years. He doesn't get much out of the cheese business so he is free to comment. In my view, we cannot have all of Canada's Premiers or other single-issue politicians running off to Washington to do the negotiations for a trade agreement which needs to last decades like NAFTA has done since the late 1980's. This is serious business for all Canadians.

One question I think we all should be asking is how much of the $400,000 Saskatchewan pays the South Carolina law firm ends up going back as a political donation to some of Mr. Wall's friends in the Senate and Congress who as we all know have huge appetites for political donations to run their multi-million dollar re-election campaigns. But then again as we are finding out on almost a weekly basis, Mr. Wall and the Sask Party are no slouches when it comes to raising money from their corporate friends.

I guess my whole point today is with all the upheaval that is going on in our province because of his past bad forecasting and budgeting, i.e. 6 deficits on a summary financial basis in the last 9 years, we need our politicians to stay at home, tend to their knitting and start thinking about long-term solutions for our problems instead of their own 4 year election cycle needs.

I said in the last election campaign that we would not see balanced budgets in the term of this government. The Sask Party said the PC Party was wrong and that we were simply blowing smoke. I stand by the PC predictions today as strongly as I did in April of 2016 and it will be up to the Premier and his government to prove that they weren't lying to the voters then with a political smoke screen.

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