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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Several times in this commentary since the last provincial election, I unfortunately have said "I told you so" when referring to the performance of our Sask Party government.  This morning I'm having another one of those "I told you so" moments. 

In the 2016 general election, the PC candidate in Kindersley riding, Terry Smith, during an all-candidate debate challenged Bill Boyd to do the right thing.  He said, "Mr. Boyd, why don't you just resign now and save the taxpayers the cost of a by election because you are going to be gone in a short time anyway".   Mr. Boyd, of course, told the audience that the PC candidate was all wet and he would be around to serve the people of Kindersley for the next four years if elected.

After being in politics in Saskatchewan for nearly 40 years, I've often thought that it's very similar to weather in our province.  You think you've got it figured out so you can go ahead and plan things in your life and business and your family time and Mother Nature throws you a curve ball and brings up an unexpected weather event that changes everything.

Last week, we had such an event in our political world.  Most everyone involved in Saskatchewan politics felt that after winning his third general election, Brad Wall would find some other endeavour to keep life interesting.  No one expected though that this event would happen slightly over a year after the last election campaign.

We in Saskatchewan are now into a totally new political dynamic.  Everyone of our registered political parties here is either in a leadership renewal, just finished one or will just be starting one.  The dynamic in the next provincial election three years from now will be totally different as far as personalities go.  Many of the issues will be the same.  The challenges will be huge.  Pulling Saskatchewan out of its current economic conundrum will take vision, courage and a deep understanding of what makes Saskatchewan's population tick.

Brad Wall was a tremendous communicator.  He had spent most of his adult life in politics and had a good sense of issues management.  His inner circle of advisors, most of whom came from the same political background, stuck with him through thick and thin.  It was a recipe for political success.  A booming Saskatchewan economy probably made it fun at the beginning of his political life as Premier of our province. 

Anyone that makes the sacrifices to family, to your own personal agenda and enjoyment that you have to make when you enter into public life, I believe, should be commended for strengthening our democracy.  Brad Wall and his family gave up a lot of personal life to contribute to Saskatchewan's ongoing success as a province.  As I said in our news release the day that he resigned, the PC Party thanks him for his contribution and wishes him well in life after politics.

Finally we received some rain on the Swenson farm!  I know it was probably a pain for some of the folks who were camping over the August long weekend but we received an inch of rain out of four different storms over the last 6 days.  I don't know how much good it will do at this stage of crop development but just knowing it can rain is a great psychological lift.  The grass around the yard has already greened up a bit so hopefully we will see the same in our pastures in the next few days.

Last Thursday I journeyed up to Saskatoon to be part of and speak at the PC Party's nomination in the riding of Saskatoon Fairview.  Past Arm River candidate Ray Carrick joined me for the trip so as we travelled we got to talk a lot about rural health care as Ray is the Party's health critic.  More on that later.

I'm very pleased to welcome Dave Prokopchuk as the PC candidate in Fairview and know that he is going to work very hard at putting together a team to represent us in the upcoming by election.  We had 38 folks out at this uncontested nomination meeting which tells me that the PC Party's message is finally starting to get out, that we can be fiscally responsible and socially progressive without running the province into debt like the Sask Party has done.

 

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.

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

It grieves me to say "I told you so" but with the release of the province's public accounts last Friday, it clearly shows that the numbers don't lie. Saskatchewan's deficit for 2016-2017 is $1.22 billion and the provincial debt has climbed to $10 billion. One week before the last provincial election, PC Party President Grant Schmidt and I stood on the steps of the Legislature and told the gathered reporters that Saskatchewan's debt would be $1.2 billion.

Grant and I were able to come to that figure simply by looking at all of the deals the Sask Party was doing and their reckless expenditures of taxpayers' money. The Sask Party's spokesperson, Kathy Young, was quick to refute that figure and said that the PC Party's numbers were all wrong and that Saskatchewan's deficit would be as forecast. I think Ms Young and the entire Sask Party government owe the PC Party and the taxpayers of Saskatchewan a huge apology.

Every once in a while a public policy issue comes along and seems to take on a life of its own. The policy issue I'm referring to is the proposed carbon tax. The problem with an initiative like this is the fact that most of us don't have the necessary knowledge base to make rational decisions and secondly, this is an issue that is open to political grand standing.

Various forms of carbon taxes have been the reality in several Canadian provinces for a number of years now. They were instituted in order to start addressing the effects of climate change and changing the way that our society uses various forms of energy. So it is a big area of public policy. Not everyone agrees with climate change in the first place and whether you come from a consuming province or a producing province also can affect your views on this issue. We have all witnessed the war of words between the Premier of Saskatchewan and the Federal Liberal government who has decided that all provinces will have some form of carbon tax by 2018.

My hat goes off to the APAS organization for sponsoring a conference in Saskatoon last week on this topic in conjunction with their semi-annual meeting. They brought in speakers from across Canada and put together a very in depth presentations by people who have studied all aspects of the carbon issue. The conference was very well attended with a wide spectrum of Saskatchewan's population attending. The APAS organization is to be commended for a first-class effort at helping us understand where we all fit in this very complex issue.

We have to feel for our fellow Canadians living in central British Columbia as wildfires rage through that part of beautiful BC. Hot dry weather along with the ravages of the bark pine beetle which has left millions of dead trees in BC's forest have created the perfect storm for people living in that area. One only has to wonder if the heat keeps up in Saskatchewan if we will not face some of the same challenges soon.

It's been a long time since I've seen hay crops dry down so quickly. I'm baling heavy alfalfa swaths in less than 48 hours. Many producers in Saskatchewan are going to be faced with a feed shortage this winter if they did not conserve hay stocks from the previous wet years. You can certainly see the damages that are occurring to many other crops that cannot take day-after-day above 30 degrees celsius with no rain. Let's keep our fingers crossed that there is a change in the weather for a whole lot of reasons.

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