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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

They say that seeing is believing and after my 2 day sojourn to Yorkton and area on Friday and Saturday of the past week and talking with many dozens of people from various walks of life, convinces me that a large chunk of northeast Saskatchewan has the potential for large problems.

The snow pack is very heavy, the flooding from last year is still very much on everyone’s mind and there is a great deal of apprehension about the coming melt. The provincial government must be more definitive in its preparation work for both flood prevention and disaster assistance and there must be the dedication of senior Ministers and officials to this file. I had conversations with the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor of Yorkton, business people, homeowners and farmers and all of them were agreeing that a simple announcement of $20 million without direction is not acceptable.

The Yorkton area has experienced some really good things in the last few years and has the potential for very strong economic growth. It’s no wonder they don’t want to see another situation arise like last year where some of their citizens have still not been able to move back into their homes further worsening a housing shortage which could limit their growth potential. I took the opportunity to drive out and view the new canola crushing operations of Bungee and Pioneer and they are certainly very impressive. These should be large, stable employers for many decades to come. It is also obvious that the road and rail network around there is going to need significant upgrades in order to meet the increased traffic demands.

Something else which became very apparent after 2 days of doing a lot of listening is that the NDP has become almost irrelevant in the rural areas in this part of Saskatchewan. The NDP is not being seen as a viable alternative to the Sask Party government. What else that has become very apparent was that many of the long-term Sask Party MLAs have become arrogant and self-absorbed and are not listening to their constituents. A few of these people and I can think of 3 of them all around Yorkton that have been there for 16 years already and have been winning by very large margins. There is a tremendous opening for another party to provide an alternative message and help people out in their time of need. There are farmers and ranchers that are desperate for someone to listen to their stories and the current government simply tells them to go away or ignores their pleas altogether. Many small business people in that area make their living from servicing the agricultural sector and they know when agriculture doesn’t have money, they also don’t have money. The current insurance schemes available to people are simply inadequate. These people were telling me they do not want a hand out but they do need a hand up and government is responsible to at least sit down with them and listen to their concerns. The Minister of Agriculture spent a lot of time flying over the water last year but he needs to talk to those people that are trying to make a living in it. And the same goes for his colleagues.

There were 2 items in the news media this past week that I thought were very telling. One was an article by Murray Mandryk of the Regina Leader Post, who is a syndicated columnist in many of the Saskatchewan weekly newspapers, said that NDP backroom boys are telling a story of woe that they may not be able to maintain the number of seats which they won in 1982 which was only 8 seats. It’s almost like they have admitted defeat ten months before the election. The old Sask Party argument which everyone heard prior to 2007 about not splitting the vote and allowing the NDP to win is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And in fact that line was only thrown at me once in the 2 days that I was in the Yorkton area.

The second article was about the record profits being generated by the Potash Corp of Saskatchewan and how Mr. Doyle, the CEO, said it was a good thing that the BHP bid didn’t go through but even if it had, their shareholders would have rejected it for being way too low. The projections of their profit brings me back to the argument you have heard myself and the PC Party making for months now that it is time for a royalty review in this province. The owners of the resource are not getting a fair shake and one of the only reasons Mr. Wall jumped on the anti-BHP bandwagon was because he does not want to open up the royalty structure to the scrutiny of the people of this province in an election year. All of the little side deals that the Sask Party and before them, the NDP, governments have cut over the years with the big 3 potash producers would not look good in the eyes of the voting public and therefore, it is extremely important that we do make it an issue so that people clearly understand whose getting what of our potash resource. I know that takes courage but that is what’s needed.

A special thanks to James and Cindy Yachyshen and Grant and Sheron Schmidt who helped so much in allowing me and the PC Party to do 2 days of good work on this trip. Their generosity and kindness was sincerely appreciated. Great volunteers are what we need to get our message out especially with the Sask Party and their hired guns still controlling the PC Party Trust Fund.

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