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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Hello everyone - it's now 2018!  Another year has gone steaming by and you wonder where it went.  This last year has been one of extremes as we've gone from intense heat, drought and now bone-chilling cold through the Christmas holidays.  This past Saturday and Sunday have been above zero and you would think that you are living in the best place in North America when you look at what others are experiencing on the east side of the continent.  I guess if we didn't like weather extremes, we wouldn't live here.

So Happy New Year to everyone.  I hope Santa was good to you and your families and you had the opportunity to relax with friends and loved ones and catch up a little on the family time.

Our politics is much like our weather.  You never know what's going to happen until you get up in the morning and get surprised.  The Sask Party leadership contest is grinding its way to a conclusion at the end of this month.  The animosity amongst the participants seems to grow by the day even though they pledge everlasting love to each other every time there is a public debate.

One of the big questions that can't be answered is how many school teachers in Saskatchewan took the advice of their leadership to buy memberships in the Sask Party.  They did this so that they could help choose a new Premier who would have a friendlier view of the educational needs of Saskatchewan's children than the outgoing Premier and his government seems to have held in the last few years.

The austerity budgets of the Wall-led Sask Party government have not been kind or innovative in educating Saskatchewan's future leaders and taxpayers.  Is this voting block a reality?  How big is it?  And could it be decisive in the preferential ballot system being used by the Sask Party to determine its new leader are still total unknowns. 

I can only remember one other time in Saskatchewan's history when the leadership of Saskatchewan's educators have urged their members to jump into the political process with both feet and that was in 1971 to try and get rid of the Ross Thatcher Liberals.  It certainly did play a role in the overwhelming win of the Allan Blakeney New Democrats in 1971.  That, however, was a general election and not an internal party fight where normally you would simply find hardcore adherence of the Sask Party casting their votes.

Make no mistake about it, education is extremely important and has always ranked just behind health care as one of the top priorities in our province.  So many of us are third and fourth generation descendents of immigrant ancestors from all over the globe - many of whom came here with very limited educational opportunities in the places in which they originated from.  Our ancestors saw it as a priority to build a school in every district and to fund that school through thick and thin so that their children and their grandchildren would have a better life because of a good public education.  Many of Saskatchewan's new immigrants in this latest period of economic growth probably feel the same way.

The challenge for anyone entering public life is how to find the resources necessary to keep meeting the goals of creating a knowledgeable and egalitarian society.  The numbers clearly show that our First Nations' population must have better educational opportunities and the ones that they do have need to be better used.  Our social fabric in this province is not sustainable if large segments of our population are not educated.

So I understand the want of our educators to influence the political process to bring more attention back to a priority we all recognize.  Is this the correct way to do it?  The governing Sask Party have only themselves to blame if this exercise goes sideways.  Building new P3 schools in our major cities and growth areas rather than refurbishing institutions that were well entrenched in our various communities is a very debatable point.  The taxpayers of this province are saddled with a financial burden over the next 30 years with educational facilities they don't own or  have any control over while other educational budget components are being cut to satisfy the demands of ever-growing deficits.

During the last election campaign, the PC Party proposed a way for parents to help with the education of their children especially when it comes to post-secondary education which is becoming ever-more expensive with tuitions rising on a yearly basis.

We called this policy the Educational Development Program which tied educational savings to a tax credit structure similar to the one enjoyed by politicians and political parties.  I often heard the comment when it was being discussed "if these tax credits are good enough for politicians and political parties, they should then work for our children's education".  Encouraging people to work hard and save for education is a hallmark of Saskatchewan.  The PC Party thought that giving them reasonable incentives to do so fit the Saskatchewan mould without breaking the bank.

I guess I will let you folks be the judge of that and I would encourage everyone once the Sask Party leadership is over and done with and we have a new Premier in place and hopefully some new faces around the Cabinet table that we won't let up the pressure to make sure the educational needs of our population are looked after well into the future.  We cannot live for today when it comes to educating our population.  That would be a recipe for disaster.

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

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