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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

What a gorgeous weekend for the last week of January! I actually took a few hours off after church yesterday and went ice fishing on Buffalo Pound Lake with an old fishing buddy. The surface of the lake this time of the year looks like a good sized town with all of the ice fishing shacks and vehicles that appear before you as you come over the crest of the hill as you are going down to the lake. Obviously, other people had the same idea and for all of you that keep track of these things, we caught our limit of yellow perch and one walleye and told lots of stories about fishing trips past.

The new Federal Liberal government released its new rules on pipeline development in Canada this past week. The various Ministers involved with the unrolling of this new set of rules said they have clarified the process by which pipelines can be built in Canada. I hope they are right but my first glance at the new regulations says we have two new unknowns.

Tragically Saskatchewan has joined the other communities in North America and around the world who have experienced a school shooting. Nothing hits harder to a community than the knowledge that when they send their children off to the place where "safety and learning" have always gone together, that is no longer the case. This speaks volumes about the high esteem that we hold our teaching community in and safety they have provided for generations. For Saskatchewan to now join the horror story is almost beyond our comprehension. I know from my days as Minister of Indian and Metis Affairs in Saskatchewan that the community of La Loche has had more than its fair share of social challenges and those challenges grew some more last Friday.

On behalf of the PC Party of Saskatchewan, our thoughts go out to the parents and the entire community. If given the honour of electing members to the Saskatchewan Legislature, I can give them my assurance that our Party will look for ways to help this community move forward in a progressive and safe way.

As I mentioned last week, I headed up to the Crop Production Show on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, I took in several of the AGMs of the various crop associations. On Tuesday, I spent most of the day at Crop Production looking at displays, talking to various people in the booths and of course, just visiting.

Two things really stood out in my two days there. One was the almost total absence of people in the political business and two, was the rising concern over the falling Canadian dollar and what that was going to mean for Saskatchewan's economy. That is not to say there is not still lots of optimism in all facets of the agricultural community. People were there in the thousands to learn and adapt and that is always a good sign.

Believe it or not, the 2nd week of January is looked forward to by thousands of Saskatchewan people even though the days are short, the nights are long and the temperature is usually closer to -20 than it is to +20. This is because it is Crop Production Week in Saskatoon and people involved in all aspects of agriculture will be flocking to producer meetings, information seminars and viewing what's new in technology and applied sciences relating to agriculture.

This is a great tradition and my hat goes off to all the people who are involved in the production of this show because it is a world-class event. For a politician, it's a great place to be. It certainly is a great opportunity to meet people and see what is going on in their world. It is also an opportunity to get a sense of how a big portion of Saskatchewan's economy is going to fair in the coming year.

I hope Santa was good to everyone. He certainly was good to our house and the many houses that we had the opportunity to visit over the holiday season. We were treated with exceptional weather so travelling for family and friends over the holiday season was a joy instead of a trial.

Saskatchewan and Canada are truly blessed because of the abundance that we are able to share with each other. It is no wonder that people from all over the world wish to come to this country and enjoy our way of life. It also should inspire and dedicate all of us to make sure that all citizens of our great country share these opportunities. We know that this not the case for everyone so we must be ever vigilant to try and ensure that the opportunities for a productive work place, a good educational system and the fundamentals of health and well being are hallmarks of Canadian life.

I think most of you are aware of the huge public demonstrations and furor in rural Alberta against the NDP government's Occupational Health and Safety legislation for agricultural workers. This legislation was brought in, I think, because of some widely-publicized incidents where severe injury and death has occurred on farms in Alberta and elsewhere.

Legislation is not necessarily the cure all for problems in life. Education and public awareness can often do the same job. I would have thought an experienced politician like Premier Rachel Notley would have understood that this topic if not handled properly would make people over-react. The government's approach of passing the legislation and then amending it later is a recipe for disaster. Proposed legislation that people could have studied and commented upon and then brought to the Legislature a year later, might have found the necessary compromises. After all, the goal is to make sure that agricultural families and the people that work in the business are adequately protected with things like disability insurance and decent compensation for injuries sustained on the job.

As I mentioned in last week's commentary, I went to Canora last Monday for the nomination of Merv Malish, as the PC candidate in the Canora-Pelly constituency. Merv and I did an interview at the local newspaper and then we all headed out to Stenen, Saskatchewan for the nomination.

Before the meeting, Merv and his group took Grant Schmidt and me to the local eating establishment called "Rawhides". What a wonderful experience that was. Rawhides used to be the old four-room community school which has now been transformed into a tremendous dining spot and tourist attraction. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that I was in a resort somewhere in Montana. The original building has now been expanded to handle banquets, weddings and other social functions for northeast Saskatchewan. It has also become a mecca for snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

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