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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Welcome to the first full day of spring. It’s looking more like winter again with up to 25 cm of snow forecasted for parts of the province in the next few days. This isn’t the kind of news that anyone wants to hear as it can only add to the flooding worries of many of our citizens. Every day that the spring melt is delayed, is another day closer to having it all melt at once. That certainly is not a good scenario for agriculture in Saskatchewan.

Things could always be worse because we could be living in Japan where the ground continues to shake every day and they continue to find hundreds of bodies in Japan’s cities, towns and villages. When you look at that kind of devastation, there are some distinct advantages of living in a place where the worst thing that occurs to us is winter. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Japanese people and the folks in New Zealand who are unfortunate enough to live along the “Ring of Fire”.

Speaking of Japan, the unfolding nuclear reactor crisis there is certainly raising all kinds of concerns about electrical generation with nuclear power. The usual naysayers are up on their stumps and giving us the “I told you so” speech. We have the local anti-nucs once again calling for Saskatchewan to be a nuclear-free zone and banning any possibility of ever storing used fuel in the province. It is very difficult to ascertain what is exactly happening to the damaged reactors in Japan but one thing that has come out is that their stockpile of used fuel rods has been damaged. Either the earthquake or the tsunami has damaged the holding ponds which are used to store the spent fuel rods from the reactors. Because no one in the world has developed the appropriate storage facilities for the spent fuel rods, they have to be stored on-site in large ponds of water in order that the fuel stays cool and inactive. If that water disappears and the material becomes exposed to the air, they begin to heat and begin to release radio-active material into the atmosphere. This can become a so-called nuclear meltdown. Our Party has been in favour of finding a solution to this problem by developing the appropriate storage facilities in the Precambrian Shield area of Saskatchewan. This would mean that Saskatchewan uranium would be mined here, processed here, sold or rented to our customers around the world and when the fuel had reached the end of its useful life, it would be returned to a safe environment in northern Saskatchewan from which it originated. This would allow our great uranium resource to be value-added many times over to what it currently brings us. Imagine how many billions of dollars it would be worth to our long-time Japanese customers if there were not those large stocks of used fuel rods at this site. The technology is available to handle this used fuel and Saskatchewan would lead the world in the safe-storage of the used uranium fuel rods. There are very few locations in the world with the right kind of stable shield-type rock to store this material. Saskatchewan is not only blessed with the raw material but with the appropriate internment geology. That geology could turn into a huge financial reward for all of our people and provide thousands of high-quality jobs for decades to come. This entire proposition was laid out to the Perrin’s Commission a year and a half ago by myself on behalf of the PC Party of Saskatchewan and is available for anyone to examine.

The recent large demonstration on the front steps of the Legislature by many groups demanding that the provincial government become more involved in finding solutions to our housing crisis drives home the message that Saskatchewan is falling short in this area. As you have all become aware, the NDP have reverted to form and immediately have called for “rent controls” as the solution. Certainly government has a responsibility to make sure that citizens are not being gouged by unscrupulous landlords but to suggest that every landlord is gouging is totally unacceptable. The solution is to find ways that would encourage individuals, co-ops, large companies and others to construct more affordable housing units. Unfortunately because our economy has been doing well because of our rich resources, builders have been concentrating on providing accommodation to those with rising salaries. It has been pointed out to the government that there are a lot of people in our province who do not fit that particular housing market. A lot of Saskatchewan’s housing was built many years ago in the booms following the 2nd world war and the resource boom in the 70’s. Much of that housing has become substandard and must be upgraded. During the 1980’s, the PC Party put forward initiatives that paid people with grants or low-interest loans to try and improve their housing. That type of incentive probably won’t work today so we must find new ways of encouraging young people and low wage earners to become involved in solving their housing requirements. Perhaps things like allowing young couples to claim both the GST and the PST on materials for construction of a house would encourage people to find their own solutions. Perhaps it can be offering co-ops similar incentives. One thing is clear, Saskatchewan’s government must quit thinking about grandiose legacy projects for the Premier and concentrate on simply putting affordable roofs over Saskatchewan families.

I am looking forward to the upcoming Federal budget on Tuesday and the Provincial budget on Wednesday to see where Saskatchewan’s people are going to fit in to the priorities of their elected representatives and whether our money will be well spent. I hope all of you take the time to watch and listen and I look forward to your feedback on both of these items. Due to previous commitments, Monday Morning Commentary will not be available next week.

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

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