Happy New Year to everyone! Joanne and I hope that all of you had a great holiday season with the opportunity to share fellowship with family and friends and enjoyed the nice weather we were blessed with. Yesterday we were also blessed with another grandson who decided to be born even though the outside temperatures wanted to keep most people indoors. We are thankful that Mom and baby are doing well along with a proud Dad and big brother.
On the political front, 2015 is going to be a year of challenges, new opportunities and I think it will challenge our Sask Party government like they haven’t been challenged over the previous 7 years. Because of falling oil prices and 2 crops in a row that are facing major transportation issues, there is going to be a lot of money that will not be available to Saskatchewan families or to the government.
We know that the issues around senior citizen’s health and housing will have to have more attention and compassion shown than has been the case previously. We have all seen the pictures on television, heard various families bearing witness to the treatment of their loved ones and I think a recognition by all of us that our growing senior’s population is going to demand a more disciplined use of the financial resources that are devoted to that segment of our population. I think it also says that all of us who have seniors in our families understand that we must be more vigilant and take more personal responsibility for the well-being of the people in our families that face these challenges. If government is going to have a tough time balancing the budget, it had better not be on the backs of our senior citizens.
The other area that I have mentioned many times previously where Saskatchewan politicians, both federally and provincially, need to step up to the plate is in regards to the marketing of our commodities. Our shortline rail structure is facing a very dire outlook because it is being starved for rail cars and losing many of its customers to the detriment of these farmer-owned enterprises, the communities they serve and our road and highway networks. The current federal legislation mandating grain movement has turned out to be counterproductive and Canada’s 2 national railways are using the legislation to punish the shortline rail networks and the producer-owned loading facilities which are the life blood of that system.
We hear virtually no new ideas from the provincial government on this issue and our federal Ministers of Agriculture and Transportation who were so slow to act last winter are now ignoring these new developments. These same politicians are now reluctant to switch gears and find out why this situation has developed and it is hurting once again the ability for producers to market their crops. This hurt is particularly noticeable with the flow of grains, oilseeds and pulses south to the United States and Mexico. These domestic North American markets are often the most high-value ones available and are ones that we have had for decades. Our reliability to supply these markets is being challenged by the current marketing situation which favours the east/west movement of our commodities.
Our provincial government has jurisdiction over the shortline railway network in this province. It is time that the solutions being suggested by farmers, shortline railroads and commodity groups start to be implemented and our provincial politicians demand changes from our national railways. CN and CP do have to cross this province to make their systems work. We need a provincial government that has some backbone.
On a final note, there was a great article on the front page of the last Western Producer that shows that the PC Party of Saskatchewan’s efforts to take on the Canada Pension Plan’s buying of large swaths of Saskatchewan farmland is finally being questioned by the provincial government. Producers across this province are saying “no” to this deal and the PC Party will keep fighting on their behalf until this Pension Fund and any other funds are denied access to our farmland. We will insist that the CPPIB is forced to divest itself of the land already bought in Saskatchewan.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.