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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend.  Other than some rain and a big wind Sunday afternoon and evening, the weather cooperated and I'm sure many of you got together with family and friends and decimated the turkey population.  Thanksgiving is a great time of the year with all of our brilliant fall colors, the winding down of harvest and the ability for families to still enjoy a lot of outdoor activities.

Last week, the Sask Party government finally announced the results of their online consultation on farmland ownership.  There was great news for farm families in it.  75% of respondents said "NO" to Canadian pension plans investing in Saskatchewan farmland and 87% said "NO" to foreign investors.  I would think the Brad Wall government will now have to listen to the arguments put forward by the PC Party of Saskatchewan on behalf of Saskatchewan farm families starting back in January of 2013.

For a long time it was a very lonely battle to fight.  Most of the mainstream media either ignored it or discounted the ability of the PC Party to drive this issue.  As more and more people became aware of the consequences of the Premier and his inner circle allowing their business friends to make gobs of money on Saskatchewan farmland, people woke up to the consequences of this move.

Two weeks today the longest federal election campaign in living memory will finally come to an end. You can tell we are getting there because the ad cycle on television has been ramped up by every party that can afford to do so. Money still talks in politics.

I hope Canadians take the opportunity to turn out in droves and vote. The ability to select the people who govern you is still a rare commodity in much of the world. Personally, I believe voting should be mandatory like the Australian system. This may be a little too draconian for some Canadians who are pretty laid back and complacent about our democracy but if that's what it takes to pay more attention to the people who are spending our money.....so be it.

There were rumours floating around that the Premier was going to announce whether there would be a fall session at his Moose Jaw meeting so I decided to hold this commentary back for a day. Sure enough, he popped out of the Sask Party caucus meeting just like the groundhog does on Groundhog Day and announced that we would be having the fall session starting on October 13th. He obviously didn't see his shadow yesterday.

There was some speculation that the Premier would try to avoid a fall session because of all of the bad news in the economy. There was even some who suggested he would break his word and call a fall election. Obviously the Sask Party government and Mr. Wall have some issues that they need to clean up before the April election rather than have to answer for their agenda to voters.

It appears our Sask Party government hasn't totally lost its ability to listen to voters and taxpayers. The nonsensical idea of building a huge dike around the southwest corner of the Quill Lakes and running salty water into Long Lake has been shelved. This goofy solution which was the cheapest of the ones provided by the government was only being pushed to get the government through the next election.

Now it's time for our Sask Party government to compensate the landowners that are being affected by this deluge of water and start putting in place long-term solutions for controlling the level on the Quill Lakes. Hopefully this will include the possibility of using this water in the potash industry as part of a longer term solution.

The Saskatchewan government released its first quarter financial statement last week and to no one's surprise, Saskatchewan is running nearly a $300 million deficit. If you add in the $700 million that was borrowed in last spring's budget for infrastructure, Saskatchewan has a $1 billion deficit.

The big question seems to be....is borrowed money for infrastructure public debt or isn't it? We have heard all of the federal parties commenting on this issue over the last few weeks because of Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party plan of running a deficit until 2019 so that money can be directed toward repairing, renewing and upgrading public infrastructure.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour the new regional hospital being constructed on the northern edge of Moose Jaw. Senior health region staff have been conducting tours for various levels of municipal government who contributed to this hospital and I believe are now offering this tour to interested citizens.

The one that I was on was very in-depth as the officials pointed out the differences between this facility and the old hospital. As some of you would be aware, this is the first health facility in Saskatchewan that has been designed with the so-called "lean" principles as its focus. My first impression that I got when I walked in was one of wide open spaces with a very bright and welcoming atmosphere. There has been an excellent use of natural light throughout the facility that should make people using this building appreciate Saskatchewan's sunny demeanour.

I had an interesting road trip last week that once again has convinced me that our provincial government is more interested in winning elections than good government. Last Thursday, I drove up and toured the Quill Lake region and attended the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority open house in Wynyard.

The rise in the Quill Lakes over the last number of years is truly an overwhelming force of Mother Nature at work. These lakes have come up over 20 feet which is an absolutely incredible amount of water to stand on the shore and behold. I took the opportunity to drive up the thin ribbon of road which is still passable between Wynyard and Quill Lakes to see the thousands of acres of drowned trees, farmland and pastures and yes, even yard sites that haven't experienced that much water in recent history.

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