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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Last Thursday, I had a bit of a gap in calving so I took the opportunity to go down and take in Question Period at the Legislature. As a past member, I'm allowed to sit on the floor behind the opposition and watch the action unfold.

I like to do this periodically because you can tell a lot about what is going on in both the minds of the government and the opposition by the body language of the various players. I wanted to gage if the recent polling data was having an effect on the Sask Party government and whether the addition of Ryan Meili had made the NDP opposition more assertive and confident.

I also wanted to see how all of the public backlash against the Sask Party government's budget was playing out with how the various Ministers handled questions in the House. There is also some very contentious legislation before the Legislature with a Bill that takes away the ability of municipalities to sue the provincial government over the loss of grants in lieu and a Bill that will allow the government to sell up to 49% of certain Crown Corporations like SaskTel.

Who would ever have thought during the last election campaign that we would have seen either one of these initiatives coming from a Sask Party government. Also the fact that they have done away with STC without any plan in place to replace bus service in much of rural Saskatchewan was unthinkable 12 months ago. I think all three of these things plus the raising of taxes in the manner that the Sask Party did it would have made for far fewer seats in the Legislature if all of this had come out before the last election.

I think many of us don't philosophically have problems with some of the things the Sask Party is doing. What is very apparent watching this government in action is that they are still very arrogant and condescending when held to account for their actions. Brad Wall and company are very secretive and they still believe they do not have to account to taxpayers for the money they are spending. The large majorities which the Sask Party has enjoyed over the last three terms combined with a very weak and leaderless NDP opposition seems to have fostered this idea that they are unaccountable to anyone and can use tax dollars to reward their friends.

An example is the gift of 300 acres of GTH land to CP Rail and the millions of infrastructure costs that this government has provided to a very large and wealthy company. The Privacy Commissionaire has twice ruled that there is nothing about this transaction that needs to be hidden from the public and yet this Sask Party government refuses to reveal the financial information. It took them several days after the CBC revealed part of the deal to even admit the documents were real. If you believe you are doing the right thing for the people of this province, what have you got to hide? Brag about it and say this is what we were elected to do.

Last Thursday I watched members of the opposition and the media asking the Minister responsible for SaskTel, Dustin Duncan, if they were having any conversations with other telecommunications companies about acquiring 49% of SaskTel. He stated empathically that they weren't. And yet just yesterday, it was revealed that late sometime Saturday that there were discussions going on and the Minister had to apologize. Either the Minister really doesn't know what's going on in his Crown Corporation or he was simply trying to pull a fast one on the public like Bill Boyd attempted to do with the GTH land scandal. I think most of us believe those discussions have been going on for months because the government is broke and scrambling to find fast cash. Why not be honest and accountable if you believe in what you are doing?

Unfortunately we have seen a pattern with this Sask Party government on so many issues like the GTH, the Regina bypass, the P3 projects, school district amalgamations and many other issues where this large majority Sask Party government doesn't feel their actions and the money they spend needs to be accountable to us the taxpayers.

I don't think this is about philosophy any more or voting to keep some other party out, the big issue that we all need to ask ourselves in the coming days, months and years is if our government won't talk to us now in an accountable way, what is this Sask Party going to be like 3 years from now and how big will the mess be that has to be cleaned up?

Obviously I will be attending a few more sessions of the Legislature to see how this continues to unfold. I hope all of you are also paying attention. After all....it's your money.

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons

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