It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 weeks since my last commentary. There are many things that have changed in that time and unfortunately, the weather isn’t one of them. We received another 6 inches of heavy wet snow at the Swenson farm and it doesn’t look like it’s going to melt until this weekend.
On the political front, there certainly has been a lot of heat generated. So much so that it will take a few commentaries to get through it and I don’t want to try and overload my system all in one go.
As you are all aware, we are at the beginning of a Federal election campaign. This is a campaign that only the politicians in Ottawa and their handlers seem to have wanted because the vast majority of Canadians seem totally disinterested. The policies that have come out in the first week are certainly not grabbing the attention of anyone so unfortunately, we are going through an exercise that may give us the same result we had previously and have the same dysfunctional federal political system. The biggest issue that has come out of this campaign so far is whether the Green Leader, Elizabeth May, is going to be allowed to participate in the Leader’s Debate. I think the reaction from the voting public and the media on this one tells me that the vast majority of Canadians believe that she should be there. Not because they necessarily agree with her viewpoints but because we do need more debate on issues not just the pet projects of Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff.
This issue also spilled over into the provincial realm with our Sask Party Premier saying that there should only be a debate between himself and Mr. Lingenfelter. Mr. Wall’s natural arrogance has come through once again on this issue where he tries to limit the scope of the political debate in this province. You will remember last year when Mr. Wall and his party tried to get rid of the Acting Chief Electoral Officer and the other four parties who contest elections in this province - banded together and stopped his undemocratic wants. Mr. Wall in his further comments said that maybe there could be a secondary debate amongst the other parties – an idea which he knows won’t wash because the media would not cover it and he even neglected to mention the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan at all. Surprise, surprise! When the media questioned me on this issue, my response was that Mr. Wall’s worst nightmare would be to have Rick Swenson asking him about his interference with the Progressive Conservative Trust Fund in front of a province-wide tv audience and of course, many other issues which only PCs could make Mr. Wall extremely uncomfortable with. So the issue isn’t about letting the voters of Saskatchewan be exposed to as many ideas as possible or about how to govern our province in a proper manner, it’s all about Mr. Wall getting as much political advantage as possible.
This brings me to my final comments for today. The Saskatchewan budget was presented last week in fact one day after the Federal budget and was a document designed totally for winning elections and nothing to do with good management or good government for the province of Saskatchewan. The Sask Party government is receiving more resource revenue than any government in our history. They are spending well over $2 billion more than Mr. Calvert’s did in his last year. We certainly all appreciate any time that there are personal tax cuts, cuts to property taxes and any attempt to pay down provincial debt. The problem with this budget is all of these things were handed out in small amounts to pacify various blocks of voters but when one looks at them in their total as a part of the larger budget, they are insignificant. It was appalling to me that in a province with a chronic housing shortage – especially for low and middle-income people – that there was a paltry $1.7 million allocated. There are people with money building high-end homes in our suburbs that will spend that much on one dwelling. There was very little in the way of money set aside for spring flooding and only a verbal assurance that it would be available if needed. Why not budget the money up front and if it’s not used, redirect it later on. Many of the issues with rural health care were simply paid lip service. Once again the Moose Jaw Hospital was not included. The issues in Wakaw, Wawota and other centres to do with retaining their doctors and their health care facilities were not addressed. Major structural changes in our business taxes were ignored or considered too politically hot to handle. My take on resource revenue is that it has been understated and there will be hundreds of millions of dollars coming into the treasury of Saskatchewan from oil and potash. We will see the Sask Party government continue to spend like drunken sailors to buy political favour rather than planning for the future with some major structural initiatives. My friends, I am not talking about domed stadiums or other legacy projects for Mr. Wall and his party. I am talking about long-term job creation and building on the strengths of our resources. I look forward to discussing this budget with people all across this province and look forward to your comments.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.