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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

This morning I will be commenting on two areas affecting Saskatchewan where I think there is a total lack of common sense.

I am sure many of you have seen the news items over the last week about the concerns of the people in Balgonie, Saskatchewan and their issues with the south Regina bypass.  I know from following some of the social media comments on this issue that many people outside of Balgonie and area believe the people there are simply whiners and complainers and should just keep quiet about their access situation with the TransCanada Highway.

The Balgonie intersection with No 1 Highway was one of those places that had become dangerous with increased traffic flows in recent years.  The requirements for an overpass because of issues like public safety were certainly warranted.  What the people of Balgonie have done is once again expose the Sask Party government's reliance on P3s as a way to move forward on public infrastructure.

Under the P3 contracts, we taxpayers will be paying for these things for up to 30 years but have very little ability to influence change unless our government can negotiate that change with the contractor and of course at extra costs.  We have seen recently with the new schools in the Saskatoon area who could not open windows in the school when the air conditioning broke down for the comfort of students and staff.   They couldn't do that because the contractor says he needs a whole year in which to establish heating and cooling costs to charge the government.

The people of Balgonie cannot have access to the No 1 Highway for their emergency vehicles because the contractor says there isn't room for a right-hand turning lane out of the town even though they did provide one for White City down the road.  The people of Balgonie have to travel a kilometre to the west in order to cross the highway and that crossing has been blocked twice in the last few weeks because the roundabout near the top of the overpass cannot be negotiated by large equipment or over-length trucks.  What would happen in the case of fire or an accident when the overpass is blocked?

The Sask Party government cannot have the squared curbs changed to rounded ones to accommodate the over-sized traffic without first getting the permission of the contractor and negotiating a bigger price.  Our public servants in the Department of Highways have now become unabashed apologists for the company out of France which is the main contractor on the south Regina bypass.

Our public servants in the Department of Education have now become apologists for the contractor who built our P3 schools when teachers and children are being told they cannot hang things on the walls of their classrooms because we don't own the schools.  We taxpayers are on the hook for annual payments for both of these Sask Party negotiated deals long after Brad Wall and company have been sent packing from public office. 

I always thought in our system of government he who paid the costs called the shots.  That's the foundation of parliamentary democracy.  Any changes that we taxpayers wish to make on these deals will have to be made on bended knee to these out-of-province contractors at a cost satisfactory to their whims.

I wonder if our Sask Party politicians knew these facts when they signed on the dotted line or were they simply throwing caution to the wind so that they could have the appearances of another construction boom for the 2016 election like they did with the billions of dollars in tax credits to the potash companies before the 2011 election.  We now know how well that illusion is working out whereby PCS is shutting down the Lanigan and Allan mines for extended periods because they can fill their current demand from the Rocanville mine which us taxpayers have paid for.  So much for expanded employment and new potash markets around the world.  But the perceived construction boom in potash did get Brad Wall and company another large majority in the 2011 election.

I'm not sure how we taxpayers are going to be able to rectify these three examples of politicians trying to make themselves look good by signing long-term deals with large multi-national companies whose tax dollars don't end up in Saskatchewan.  There must be a government in Saskatchewan that will take a tougher stand down the road and a government that has a longer-term vision of our future than the current bunch of politicians who live in the four-year election cycle and their own wellbeing. 

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.

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