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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

You have often heard me talking in this commentary about the bureaucratic and inefficient delivery of health care since Saskatchewan adopted the health region structure back in the 1990’s. I believe this structure is solely for the benefit of whatever type of politician happens to be in power in Regina and the mid and upper level bureaucrats that exist in our health system. This inequity is particularly felt in the delivery of rural health care.

This morning I will be travelling to Regina to support people from the Craik and Central Butte areas who will be protesting the ongoing lack of services in their communities at the Saskatchewan Legislature. As most of you are aware, the spring session of the Legislature begins this afternoon and these good folks want to make sure that all of the returning MLAs feel their displeasure with the way they are being treated by our health care system.

Because the provincial budget is coming up, I’ve been trying to get a first hand look or knowledge of some of the bigger ticket items that will probably be in the budget. Last week, I drove around for 2½ hours with one of the individuals that is very concerned with the current proposed route of the south Regina bypass.

I wanted to clearly understand what could be involved in the expenditure of $1.3 billion dollars of taxpayer’s money and is being touted by Mr. Wall and his Ministers as Saskatchewan’s largest construction project ever. It’s not possible to drive the entire route because much of it to the south of the city is basically swamp with all of the wet years we have experienced. There are acres and acres of ice, weeds and cattails and by the look of it, a huge drainage project before anyone could build a road through there. There is also a lot of infrastructure like power lines etc. that look like they have to be moved to accommodate this roadway.

FEBRUARY 17, 2015

I hope everyone enjoyed the Family Day long weekend. Unfortunately, the weather turned nasty on Saturday – giving most of the province a good dump of snow, high winds and a travel advisory. That’s nothing new for Saskatchewan in February.

This weekend was the opening of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw and Joanne and I were fortunate enough to take in games on Sunday and Monday. Last night, we saw a tremendous game between Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan’s Team Canada. Jones prevailed 8-7 in an extra end having to draw the 4 foot with her last rock. If you are a prairie person who grew up with curling as I did, it doesn’t get much better than that.

As I mentioned in my commentary last week, I headed up to the SUMA convention in Saskatoon. I had wanted to take in the whole event but was only able to be there for the Tuesday night banquet, the Wednesday morning ministerial sessions and of course, the bear pit session with the provincial Cabinet.

I must say that I was really impressed with the way that the SUMA organization and its delegates conducted themselves. It has been many years since I attended a SUMA convention and I was very impressed with the changes that have taken place in the intervening years. It was obvious from the organizational qualities that I observed that SUMA’s Board of Directors and their staff have developed a very professional approach to business. Every event that I attended was well organized and it was obvious that a lot of advance work with both the physical aspects of the convention and the issues that SUMA has to deal with were well developed for delegates.

Sometimes they say that tough times bring out the true character in people. I watched Alberta Premier Jim Prentice being interviewed by Peter Mansbridge the other night and I was truly impressed in the way that Premier Prentice answered questions surrounding the looming budget deficit in Alberta, some controversial legislation that he ordered pulled from the Legislature and the initiative to cut the salary of the Premier and Cabinet Ministers by 5% in the face of the fiscal crisis unfolding in Alberta.

Mr. Prentice was very statesman like, showed a great deal of humility when talking about past mistakes and I believe he was extremely genuine in his response as to how Albertans would deal with the situation as a group of people with divergent wants and needs.

As I mentioned in last week’s commentary about staying tuned for more developments on the CPPIB land sale, last Thursday the PC Party put out a news release calling on the government to bring forth the necessary regulatory changes to prohibit the sale of Saskatchewan farmland to CPPIB or any other pension fund.

We also called for the disbursement of CPPIB’s land holdings over a three year period of time. The Farm Land Security Board has ordered disbursements of land holdings in the past and I do not feel that a three year period of time would have any influence on land prices - up or down - with this farmland being put back on the market. We shall see if the government of Saskatchewan has the courage to do what the vast majority of producers are demanding.

Politics is not unlike any other endeavour that humans undertake. Every once in a while, you need a little positive reinforcement to get you up in the morning and keep doing what you are doing. That has particularly been the case for the PC Party of Saskatchewan over the last 8 or 9 years. Rebuilding a party from the ground up is not an easy undertaking.

It was really satisfying, therefore, to walk around the Crop Production and CropSphere venues last Monday and Tuesday in Saskatoon and have dozens of individuals walk up and congratulate me on the stand that the PC Party of Saskatchewan has taken on the purchase of Saskatchewan farmland by the Canada Pension Plan. The other thing that was very satisfying was this was agricultural producers from one end of the province to the other not just those areas currently affected by CPPIB purchases or its predecessor – the Assiniboia Land Company. I can assure everyone that the fight will continue and we will be making further announcements very shortly.

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