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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

During this long holiday season, I would be remiss if I did not wish those who follow the Julian calendar a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Many Saskatchewan citizens still celebrate from the 6th of January until the 13th and we want to wish them well as they visit with family and friends and honour their traditions.

And speaking of traditions, this is the beginning of Crop Production Week in Saskatoon. This is the week that Saskatchewan’s agricultural community gets together for annual meetings, seminars, information sessions and one of the largest trade shows in western Canada to further our agricultural industry. This tradition was started by the University of Saskatchewan many years ago and that tradition has grown into a world-class event celebrating agricultural achievement.

Happy New Year to everyone! Joanne and I hope that all of you had a great holiday season with the opportunity to share fellowship with family and friends and enjoyed the nice weather we were blessed with. Yesterday we were also blessed with another grandson who decided to be born even though the outside temperatures wanted to keep most people indoors. We are thankful that Mom and baby are doing well along with a proud Dad and big brother.

On the political front, 2015 is going to be a year of challenges, new opportunities and I think it will challenge our Sask Party government like they haven’t been challenged over the previous 7 years. Because of falling oil prices and 2 crops in a row that are facing major transportation issues, there is going to be a lot of money that will not be available to Saskatchewan families or to the government.

DECEMBER 22, 2014

It’s hard to believe that another year has just about come and gone. They say the older you get, the quicker time passes and it certainly seems that way. 2014 had many challenges because of weather and the fact that everything seemed to be behind its proper time frames.

In talking to people across Saskatchewan, it didn’t seem to matter what your occupation was you felt challenged to get everything done in life. People even commented to me that their holiday time seemed to be rushed and there just wasn’t any time to relax. Hopefully 2015 will be a little less hectic although on the political front with the federal and provincial elections happening in the next 12-16 months, I doubt if there will be much spare time around the Swenson household.

I would like to thank all of you that read this commentary for giving me the privilege of commenting on various aspects of our society and life and getting feedback on these comments from yourselves. It is something I take very seriously and try to be a responsible citizen while exercising my political rights. Events around the world tell us that these privileges and the right to speak our minds are something that is very precious because many in the world do not have that opportunity.

I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday times with your family, friends and communities. As always, take care out there because winter officially started yesterday and we all know that Saskatchewan roads in the winter time can be very challenging. I look forward to the many topics of interest that will arise in 2015 and being able to comment on those topics as the Leader of the PC Party of Saskatchewan.

Once again, all the best from Joanne and myself to you and your families. We would also like to wish you a Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you in 2015!

Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our website at pcsask.ca.

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

DECEMBER 15, 2014

For all of you that read the Regina Leader Post and those that don’t, please check out one of Bruce Johnstone’s articles in Saturday’s paper which indicates that Saskatchewan’s Ag Minister is getting cold feet on the CPP land deal. As yet, he won’t commit to any possible changes to legislation before 2016 but at least now the Sask Party government realizes there is a problem with the sweetheart deal between their political friends at the old Assiniboia Land Company and CPPIB.

We are at a crossroads in this province on the type of agriculture that we want to see in the future. The PC Party of Saskatchewan is firmly on the side of family farms and ranches and against the takeover of large swaths of our agricultural land by pension funds and other institutional investors. We will continue talking to people one-on-one, attending meetings and promoting our views through an expanded advertising campaign. I remind everyone that by giving a tax deductible donation to the PC Party of Saskatchewan, you can help sponsor more tv and radio ads that drive our point home.

Speaking of attending meetings, I was invited by a group of dedicated farmers and ranchers to a meeting in Raymore Sunday afternoon. Over 60 people who have been affected by the excess moisture in an area from the Qu’Appelle Valley to the Quill Lakes got together to express their concerns with crop insurance and the issues around extreme flooding of crop and pasture land. There were a number of speakers including APAS, SARM and representatives of both federal and provincial political parties. A lot of very good questions were asked and it is very evident from listening to the crowd yesterday that people are afraid of losing their livelihood and their farms because of this ongoing situation. I also had the opportunity to address the crowd.

As I pointed out in last week’s commentary, our crop insurance system is not responding to this new paradigm and increasingly seems to be a large bureaucratic structure more interested in perpetuating itself than changing to meet the new pressures of agriculture. Agriculture today has very large sums of money spent on input costs that must be met with sufficient cash flow. All producers want is the ability to ensure themselves for those costs. This can be done by different ways of marketing your crop by using the latest technology available and by being able to purchase the proper kind of insurance. This is no different than any other business except that weather which is an uncontrollable event plays such a large part in the equation.

There were no Sask Party MLAs in attendance or people from the Crop Insurance Corporation. I find that to be truly appalling that people who are paid $100,000 a year to fix problems would not be turning out to meetings to try and learn how to solve the problems that years of flooding have caused. Talk about a sense of entitlement.

My final comment for today is about the situation in health care and the recent assault charges against employees of the Santa Maria Nursing Home in Regina for abusing one of the seniors housed there. The particulars of this case will come out in court and I don’t wish to comment on that situation except to say that the fact that we have a situation like this occurring at all is an indictment against our entire system. You have heard me in this commentary many times say that our current medical system is failing people in this province because of the buck passing between the Ministry of Health and the health regions where no one wants to take responsibility for what is going on.

Our Health Minister increasingly looks like a deer caught in the headlights who doesn’t have a clue what is happening in his area of responsibility and continues to say “I’m sorry for what’s happened but I can’t do anything about it”. What in the world is the point of having all of these bureaucrats in health regions who are supposed to be monitoring the welfare of people such as the ones housed in Santa Maria? This is not the first complaint but actually the third in the last couple of weeks from one institution.

If more training is what the issue is, than there should be someone responsible to ensure that it is done and if it’s not, someone should go down the road. If a patient is not being bathed or is laying for so long that large bed sores are openly in evidence, then someone should be going down the road.

Would the Minister of Health want his Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa treated like this? I would surely hope not.

The Minister of Health cannot personally inspect every institution in Saskatchewan nor should we expect him or her to do so. What we do expect is that the Minister of Health will hire the appropriate people to ensure that compliance of regulations and the wellbeing of our senior’s population is looked after according to the best standards our society can provide. And if that compliance is not followed through, than take the appropriate steps to make sure that it does. The duty of every elected politician is to make this province a better place than when they started their term of office and they have a four year opportunity to make that happen. That is the only thing that any elected official should think about. Mr. Wall’s government needs to get off of its high horse and start paying attention to the senior’s population of this province. And if that means sending the Health Minister down the road, then so be it.

Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our website at pcsask.ca.

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

Once in a while, it is good to be able to step back and not think about all the issues that are around you, your family and your immediate work environment. I crawled off of the combine on November 19th at 7:00 PM and was very fortunate to have the opportunity to get away for a short holiday the next day.

To say that harvest 2014 was challenging would be an understatement. I know from talking to people this past week, that there are many areas in Saskatchewan where harvest has not been completed because fields and roads were cut off because of excessive moisture. Some of that crop may be harvested after the ground is well frozen and producers can make their way across frozen sloughs and streams after the ice will support heavy equipment. This will depend on how much snow falls in the meantime.

As Saskatchewan learned last winter after we had grown one of the largest crops in our history, there was a tremendous lack of cash flow because the crop could not be moved to market. Our transportation system let us down in a big way. That affected farm families with cash flow problems and on the bigger picture, it resonated all across the province both rural and urban for all of the people that supply goods and services to the agricultural industry.

With Saskatchewan facing a dramatic fall in the price of oil, the losses in the ag sector will really come home to roost for everyone including the provincial government. Maintaining the ability to cash flow and pay the people and companies that back up the ag sector is crucial to a province like Saskatchewan. One of the areas that I think the Sask Party government is really negligent on is moving the crop insurance system from what is basically a drought-related insurance system to one that is more cognizant of the need to cover the cost of doing business for agriculture.

In the United States, farmers can buy crop insurance that basically covers the cost of their production. Crop yield is not such a big factor as it is here. What has become very evident in Saskatchewan after many years of back-to-back flooding where often a farmer’s most productive land is flooded year after year, our system which is yield based is not compensating for all of the crop inputs that are often put into this most productive land which is now covered in water.

It is not hard these days between seed, fertilizer and chemical to spend between $150 and $250 per acre. Much of that money simply disappeared in the rains of June or July or August or September and there will be no crop insurance coverage because it wasn’t harvestable or is still sitting out there surrounded by water.

Our provincial government’s attitude of both the politicians and the bureaucrats in charge seems to be that “bigger is better” and the big farmers will simply look after themselves or they will rent from one of the land investment companies that have been rapidly buying up Saskatchewan’s farmland. That doesn’t necessarily work all that well either with the recent bankruptcy of Broadacre and Wigmore Farms which were running a 69,000 acre mega-farm spread across Saskatchewan. The list of creditors which includes rural RM’s and many small suppliers of goods and services stretches for 3 pages and will have lots of hurt for many people in Saskatchewan.

Both federal and provincial governments need to turn their attention now to developing crop insurance programs which allow producers to pay premiums that will allow them to cover their cost of production. That type of insurance will get you by if the railroads decide not to haul our products. That type of insurance will get you by if Canada gets in a trade dispute with its trading partners. And that type of insurance would allow farmers to pay the people in their communities that provide the goods and services that make agriculture tick in this province. This would also be a benefit to provincial and federal governments because it should eliminate the call for adhoc payments and make sure that the agriculture community continues to kick money into the provincial economy when things go wrong.

My guess is the Sask Party government who will be in a bind to balance the budget come next spring will simply hope that it quits raining and the problem will go away. This government does not seem to be able to think outside the box or won’t take on the bad advice that they are getting from their bureaucrats because they are “friends of friends” and they appointed them in the first place to their well-paid positions.

I hope over the coming winter as producers get together, talk about their personal situations and talk with the people who supply them that they will decide that enough is enough and demand change. If not, they should think about hiring someone different in the next provincial election that will give them the insurance tools they need so that they can purchase the coverage they need in order to cover their business costs. We do this in other forms of insurance all the time. Saskatchewan needs to be the leader in this regard as we have half of the farmland in Canada.

Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our website at pcsask.ca.

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

Once again, Monday Morning Commentary is now Tuesday Morning Commentary because of the long weekend. It was by no means a holiday on the Swenson farm – just another usual working weekend. Haying wrapped up at 11:05 Sunday evening and with this hot weather, it looks like harvesting peas will begin sometime in the next two weeks with canola swathing right behind.

Because of the weather in the US Midwest, one of the severest droughts they have ever experienced and other crop problems around the world, Saskatchewan looks like it could have one of the most profitable harvests in recent memory. Unfortunately in agriculture, someone else’s loss often turns into another person’s gain. We in Saskatchewan certainly know what it is like when we wear the other shoe.

I hope everyone’s summer is going well. On the Swenson farm, it seems we have never caught up from the delays caused by all of the moisture in May and June. Haying is behind by 2 weeks and I am sure there will be other things popping up because harvest is right around the corner so as the saying goes….the work never ends.

This past week it really came home to me about how our medical system treats us all like a commodity. My right knee has been swelling, retaining fluid and causing a lot of discomfort and pain. I have been getting by with braces, topical salves and over-the-counter pain medication and had paid 2 visits to my family doctor. I finally got put onto a waiting list for a specialist and much to my chagrin, found out that I was at the end of a 5 month waiting list. Unfortunately, last week the knee was so painful and inflamed that I decided to go to the emergency room at the Moose Jaw Union Hospital and sit until someone did something. Both the waiting room and the emergency room were overflowing to the point that they were lining people up in the hallways. I joined thousands of other Saskatchewan people who have had the same experience in similar situations.

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