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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

This past week brought about a number of shocks to our system.  Old Man Winter arrived much earlier than usual and with a real mean streak.  When the thermometer gets down to around -20 celsius, the wind is blowing and you've got snow drifts up around your knees, it really makes you think about what the next five or six months might be like.  Saskatchewan has been really spoiled the last few winters and you and I and my cows have forgotten what winter can be really like when it starts as early as Halloween night.  Let's hope for some sunny and warm days ahead before we know it's here to stay.

Another big announcement this week was from our monopoly electricity provider, SaskPower.  SaskPower has decided that they probably won't go ahead with any more carbon capture systems at Saskatchewan's coal-fired power plants as they are too expensive.  Surprise, surprise!  Another one of Brad Wall's legacy projects which has cost the taxpayers of this province dearly will be nothing more than a grand experiment which you and I will pay for on our electrical bills for the foreseeable future.  Whether it will take the next 30 years to pay for it like the Regina bypass, it's hard to say.  It may simply be mothballed as SaskPower moves on to a new vision. 

It was one of the things that the PC Party at its AGM this past weekend talked about.  If you remember during the last election, the PC Party campaigned on using waste heat in our province to do multiple things.  One of those things was to use flair gas which currently simply pollutes our atmosphere to generate electricity and to provide heat to grow food.    

I am pleased that SaskPower has just begun receiving electricity from a flair gas generation project in the Kerrobert area.  Southeast Saskatchewan could easily supply enough flair gas for some type of electrical generation.  Coal gasification has been talked about for a very long time.  We must find ways to use our resources in a smarter and ecologically friendly manner in order to maintain valuable jobs and income in southeast Saskatchewan.  We need to do it in a more cost-effective manner than the CO2 capture thing at Boundary Dam which it appears SaskPower is already writing off after $1.4 billion of expenditure.

It was great to get together with candidates and their supporters from the 2016 election and look at the impact the PC Party made in that election campaign.  The GTH waste and mismanagement cannot be hidden under the carpet of Sask Party secrecy any longer.  The Regina bypass expenditures will be questioned long into the future.  Health spending accountability is becoming a reality with the disappearance of the regions and the true debt of the province of Saskatchewan has been revealed to the taxpayers because the PC Party would not let it go unrevealed in the past provincial election. 

If anyone thinks that smaller third parties can't make a difference, just look at the record of the PC Party in 2016 and the very capable 18 candidates who stood for election.  This will probably be my last AGM as Leader of the Party and I couldn't be more proud of the people I have served with and the fight that we have carried on, on behalf of the people of this province to bring accountability back to the government and some long-term vision for the future of our province.

I will not be doing this commentary for the next four weeks as I take a little break from politics and farming.  President Grant Schmidt and others will be filling in with reports and ideas.  I hope you take the opportunity to check out some of new ideas and thoughts that he and others will bring to this space.  See you in December.

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


This last week was a big one in Saskatchewan politics.  The opening of the Saskatchewan Legislature occurred last Wednesday and Executive Director Dale Burnay and myself took the opportunity to attend along with hundreds of other Saskatchewan citizens.  All of those folks were not crammed into the Legislative Assembly Chamber as 90% of the people attending were out on the west lawn protesting against the actions of their government. 

In our democratic society, if you don't like the actions of your elected government you have the ability to conduct a peaceful protest.  In some societies, that is a very regular occurrence as we are reminded on a nightly basis watching our newscast.   In Saskatchewan, it has been a rare event except for the last year.

The Sask Party government's badly managed budget process over the last year has brought about many public displays of displeasure.  The one at the Legislative Assembly last Wednesday was just a continuation of frustration with the Sask Party government. 

In an attempt to placate some of this anger, the Premier announced the day before the opening that he was going to repeal Bill 40 - the legislation that allowed the Sask Party government to sell 49% of any crown corporation and make us believe that it wasn't a step in privatizing the crowns.  Mr. Wall claims that he has heard the people of Saskatchewan loud and clear and was backing down on this subject.

All this after a year of telling the people of Saskatchewan that it was not about a cash grab by a broke government but somehow it was an opportunity to grow Saskatchewan.  Nobody bought it.  In fact, the entire budget except for the PST increase has now been either rescinded or pledged to be by the people campaigning for Mr. Wall's job.  It really makes you wonder why he and his government even went through the budget process after the last election because it has become a meaningless exercise which unfortunately impacts the long-term stability of the province and all of us hard working taxpayers.   

The Throne speech presented last Wednesday did talk about a bunch of things like the legalization of cannabis in the coming year which are important to the province of Saskatchewan because they have long-term ramifications.  Unfortunately Mr. Wall is skipping town and won't be around for the heavy lifting on most of the items mentioned in the Throne speech.  We have no idea how his successor will handle the new files or the messed up budget process.  We can only hope that he/she has better hearing than the Premier.

One thing we know for sure is that there will be a $103 million Halloween treat for the consortium building the Regina bypass on October 31 and the trick will be for how the rest of us will pay for it over the next 30 years.  There was no mention of that or how we will pay for it with ongoing deficit budgets which are now a reality for the rest of this Sask Party government's term in office.  The PC Party in the coming days, months and years will attempt to be part of the solution with good policy and ideas and hopefully our government will start to listen or I'm sure the protests will get larger and louder.

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning

Commentary.  Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. 


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

Since my last commentary, my home community of Moose Jaw set a record of being the windiest place on the entire planet earth last Tuesday night with wind gusts up to 131 km.  This is the same wind storm which wrecked havoc across southern Saskatchewan, pushed massive wildfires on the west side of the province and claimed at least 1 life.  We must never underestimate the forces of nature and be prepared at all times to be vigilant in our own operations and be prepared to help our neighbour.  My condolences to families that were affected by these tragedies. 

On our farm our damage was limited to a few broken trees one of which was my favourite climbing tree as a child, the same tree which my two sons enjoyed climbing on and I was hoping that some of my grandchildren would be doing the same thing on the same tree.  It split right in two so we will have to find a new climbing tree for the new generations of Swensons.

A quick reminder to all viewers of this commentary that the PC Party's AGM will be held in Saskatoon on Saturday, November 4th at the Cosmos Civic Centre.  To register or for more information, please give Dale a call at the PC office.

This coming Wednesday, October 25th, I will be attending the opening session of the Saskatchewan's Legislature of the fall sitting.  It will be very interesting to see how the Sask Party government is managing the province's finances given that they have reversed many of the major cuts brought down in the spring budget and that the five people running for Mr. Wall's job have all promised to do away with the rest.

The Sask Party was totally untruthful with the public in the last general election about the state of the province's finances and it appears they have no plan in place of how to clean up the mess which they have created.  It totally baffles me how four of the individuals who sat around the cabinet table while the last budget was being prepared can now try to deny that they had any part in the government's decision making process.  The fifth individual was the head of Saskatchewan's entire public service and as such, would have been the person bringing the recommendations forward to the cabinet from all the various departments and how they would trim their budgets.  She of course says "I wasn't elected so you can't blame me". 

All of this should make for some interesting discussions around the current cabinet table and it should also make for some interesting answers in question period.  Of course that will only happen if the NDP opposition get off their collective backsides and start performing the role of an aggressive and stronger opposition which they have neglected to do in the past.

The PC Party presented a number of strong alternative policies in the last general election on how to get Saskatchewan out of its current malaise and start planning for the future.  On Wednesday, we will get some indication of Mr. Wall's swan song to the people of Saskatchewan and his cherished legacy.

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning

Commentary.  Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. 


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

I wish to comment on three areas this morning that are certainly of importance to Saskatchewan. 

My first comment is on the use of non-government email servers by the Sask Party government.  If you remember in the last session of the Legislature, the issue came up of the Premier using an email server hosted at the Sask Party office to do government business on.  He promised he wouldn't do it anymore.  He still does.  It has now been revealed that other Cabinet Ministers have been doing this for years and even instructed members of the civil service in their departments to also do so.  They evidentially did this so that sensitive government information could not be accessed by Freedom of Information requests. 

Last Friday, the PC Party called for the resignation of Finance Minister Donna Harpauer who has consistently been doing this all the way back to 2009.  In the release, the PC Party stated "In Saskatchewan, Freedom of Information laws are in place to ensure that the public has access to all government-related documents.  In an open and free society, transparency in government is a cornerstone of democracy."  The PC Party in government would follow this policy to the letter.  Brad Wall's Minister should resign.

The second item I wish to comment on is the distinct possibility of the federal government backing down on some of the proposed tax changes they had earlier proposed.  I wish to congratulate all of the people and groups who made their displeasure known to the Federal government and Federal MPs in order to have this proposed legislation re-evaluated.  It's obvious from comments in the media that there has been a tremendous amount of pressure brought by Federal Liberal backbench MPs who have been really putting the pressure on Finance Minister Morneau and that the Minister is now making public statements of not wanting to hurt agriculture and small business.  Let's hope that when the changes are brought down this week, that a more common-sense approach as proposed by the PC Party of Saskatchewan a few weeks ago are adopted by the Trudeau Liberals.

My final comment is on the NAFTA re-negotiation process which has been underway for a couple of months.  It appears that the Trump administration in the United States wants to turn the clock back by 40 years with their "America First" trade policies.  I remember those days well as a young person starting out in farming and watching the devastation those policies had on international commodity prices and the bullying of various US commodity groups which used their clout at election time in the US.

It's one reason that PC governments in both Saskatchewan and Canada negotiated so hard  to come up with the NAFTA deal in the first place.  Hopefully the Canadian government and all provincial governments in Canada who have developed strong relationships with US Governors, Members of Congress and the United States Senate can use those relationships to help block some of the totally backward negotiating stances of the Trump administration.

Canada in my view must be prepared to walk away from a negotiation that removes all dispute resolution mechanisms from a new agreement.  We cannot have our trading relationship at the mercy of the US court systems.  Fair trade means exactly that.  I do not want to be the pawn in US congressional elections which happen every two years as my farm was before 1988. 

The North American economy is a very integrated one which has brought prosperity and a higher standard of living to most of our citizens.  Why would we ever think of going back to the old ways?

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning Commentary.  Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. 

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

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I'm sure everyone did their best to decimate the turkey population while being joined by family, friends and good times.  We are very fortunate in Saskatchewan and Canada because we get to do this on an annual basis and have the turkey population at affordable levels and a country safe enough for us to gather together and enjoy giving thanks for what we have.  Canadians of every religious background and ethnic persuasion love partaking of this annual event.  We have much to celebrate as a society. 

Many of us in western Canada were not celebrating this past week with the decision by Trans Canada Corp to not proceed with the Energy East pipeline.  They cited rising costs associated with the new levels of compliance the federal Liberal government has now imposed on pipeline construction in Canada.

There are all sorts of pros and cons to the arguments about pipelines.  We Canadians will have to sort these things out as we strive to get our oil and gas to export positions.  We are an energy rich country and should take advantage of that in some form so that the standard of living for all Canadians remains one of the best in the world.  Our health care, our education and our social service systems are world class and also very expensive to maintain.

What I liked about the Energy East initiative was that it had the ability to guarantee Canadians energy self-sufficiency no matter what hiccup was happening around the world.  The employment to construct the portions that needed fresh builds would have been done by Canadians and the existing pipe in the ground which has been under used for natural gas would have been easy to transform into oil delivery to eastern Canadian refiners.      

Would they have made a lot of money refining western Canadian oil as opposed to Middle Eastern oil?  I doubt it.  But the next time there is a major political blow up or conflict in the middle east, we would not be held hostage.  The same goes for Nigeria or Angola or Venezuela.  There are enough religious fanatics of all stripes in the Middle East with the ability to manufacture, steal or borrow the materials necessary to create a Hiroshima-type bomb.  Just imagine what would happen to oil supplies with one of those archaic-type bombs going off around the Persian Gulf.  Need I say more?  Canada's economy and our well being does not need a major oil shock.  Sometimes there is a price to be paid for that type of security.    

I know there are many in western Canada who believe the Trump administration will okay the rest of Keystone XL.  I put out a release last week reminding Saskatchewanians that could be a two-edge sword.  President Trump is threatening all sorts of dire consequences to the NAFTA trade agreement but I think would love Keystone XL pipeline because it guarantees large volumes of discounted Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries for decades.  If that pipe is twinned, we could see refined products being shoved back into Canada at a cost our own refiners can't compete with. 

We must be careful in western Canada what we wish for and what kind of trade agreement we need in place to make sure that Canada's energy wealth continues to build our country.  Remember - for every American President that is a free trader - there is one that is an economic nationalist and every time the American elephant rolls over, all lesser creatures should be aware of how heavy that elephant is. 

The PC Party many years ago helped build two heavy oil upgraders in Saskatchewan because it spoke to our energy strengths.  I would hate to see that foresight thrown away some day with short-sighted policy decisions in four year election cycles. 

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning

Commentary.  Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. 


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

I, like many of you, woke up this morning to the tragic events in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The United States has now set a new casualty record for a mass shooting.  50 people are dead and over 400 people are wounded because some nut case decided to get even with the world for whatever reasons were running through his troubled mind.  This guy sprayed bullets on a crowd of 20,000 people for over 5 minutes.  The news report said he had 10 guns in his hotel room.  Is American society so unmoved by gun violence that they don't notice a 64 year old man hauling 10 weapons up to his hotel room in a resort community like Las Vegas?  How many more disaffected Americans will want to copy-cat this remorseless killer and be able to do so because of virtually unlimited access to all types of weapons including fully automatic firearms?  It will be interesting to see what President Trump tweets about this one.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all those killed or wounded.

Canada is not immune to violence as we witnessed in Edmonton after the football game on Friday night.  We have an individual using a vehicle as a weapon and getting out to finish the job on a policeman with a knife.  The reports of an ISIS flag on the front seat of the vehicle is terribly disturbing and we Canadians must be even more vigilant as long as that sickness continues to haunt the world.  ISIS may soon be defeated militarily in the Middle East but the hatred that it preaches will be with us for a long time to come.

Some of you will be aware of the breaking story that was released by the Toronto Star, the National Observer and Global News yesterday about sour gas leaks and their consequences for people in Saskatchewan.  I reread the story posted by the National Observer again this morning before writing this commentary in order to clearly understand what has been going on in Saskatchewan over the last half a dozen years in certain areas.  I was horrified at what I read.

This period of time coincides with the tremendous growth in the oil and gas sector in the Bakken formation of south eastern Saskatchewan.  This story also confirms, unfortunately, the presence of Bill Boyd and his special advisor and now Deputy Minister of the Economy, Laurie Pushor in this deadly sequence of events which are finally unfolding for the public to read. 

If the allegations in this unfolding story are true about the government's failure to notify citizens of numerous encounters with deadly H2S gases and one death occurring from it, then Brad Wall must be held accountable for the action or lack-there-of of his Ministers.  We all know that the Premier and his Sask Party government are huge promoters of the oil and gas industry and the impact that it has on our economy.  We also know that the oil and gas sector have been huge benefactors of the Sask Party financially.

As a former Minister of Energy and Mines, I can fully appreciate the development of our oil and gas resources and the benefits that they can provide to the citizens of this province who are the owners of the resource.  The government that I represented put a lot of time and effort into the development of horizontal drilling in our province because it was another way to unlock the riches of heavy oil and tight oil formations.  But I also understand that the government has to be the regulator and the honest broker on behalf of the citizens who co-exist with this industry.  Personal safety is always paramount.

Saskatchewan does not have third party regulators who are at arm's-length from government like Alberta and BC and so we must be even more vigilant when issues like sour gas and its safe production become a reality.  The technology is there to safely handle this resource but the money must be spent to do it in a proper manner.  This unfolding report indicates that our government has been negligent and more concerned with the Premier's political agenda than the safety of our citizens.

The PC Party has put out a release this morning calling on the Sask Party government to release all documents related to this matter and to tell the public how many serious encounters have occurred between our citizens and sour gas and where are the areas in our province where our citizens must be totally vigilant in order to ensure their own safety.

Once again, Brad Wall is stepping away from a mess created by his former Minister Bill Boyd and perhaps other Sask Party Energy Ministers before and after. 

I encourage all of you to watch for the second part of this unfolding tragic story.     

Your feedback is always welcome on anything you read in the Monday Morning

Commentary.  Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. 


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

This morning I will be commenting on two areas affecting Saskatchewan where I think there is a total lack of common sense.

I am sure many of you have seen the news items over the last week about the concerns of the people in Balgonie, Saskatchewan and their issues with the south Regina bypass.  I know from following some of the social media comments on this issue that many people outside of Balgonie and area believe the people there are simply whiners and complainers and should just keep quiet about their access situation with the TransCanada Highway.

The Balgonie intersection with No 1 Highway was one of those places that had become dangerous with increased traffic flows in recent years.  The requirements for an overpass because of issues like public safety were certainly warranted.  What the people of Balgonie have done is once again expose the Sask Party government's reliance on P3s as a way to move forward on public infrastructure.

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