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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

I had an interesting road trip last week that once again has convinced me that our provincial government is more interested in winning elections than good government. Last Thursday, I drove up and toured the Quill Lake region and attended the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority open house in Wynyard.

The rise in the Quill Lakes over the last number of years is truly an overwhelming force of Mother Nature at work. These lakes have come up over 20 feet which is an absolutely incredible amount of water to stand on the shore and behold. I took the opportunity to drive up the thin ribbon of road which is still passable between Wynyard and Quill Lakes to see the thousands of acres of drowned trees, farmland and pastures and yes, even yard sites that haven't experienced that much water in recent history.

It's hard to believe that two weeks has flown by since my last commentary. I don't know about all of your lives but it seems that the older you get, the quicker time flies by.

It is very obvious from driving around the countryside that harvest is really picking up speed with many combines out in lentil, pea and canola fields. I'm sure that the cereals won't be far behind. The other thing that is very noticeable is that a lot of Saskatchewan has greened back up after the recent rainfall stopped months of drought in many areas. It's nice to see especially for livestock producers.

The other thing that I think we are all really noticing is the swarm of mosquitoes and other flying insects that were absent while we were in a drought situation and are now splattered all over the front of our vehicles or irritating the heck out of us as we sit out on the deck.

This past Thursday, the PC Party of Saskatchewan put out a news release commenting on the south Regina bypass project. It can be viewed on our website. The Sask Party government has admitted that the south Regina bypass project spending is escalating by the month. Since the spring budget, this project has gone from $1.2 billion to $1.88 billion and this does not include the cost of land acquisition from over 100 different people and entities.

This increase is the equivalent of a $600 bill for every person in the province of Saskatchewan. Or to put it in a different light, the cost has gone up by $136 million every month since the budget. This project is obviously out of control and the question must be asked.....can the province of Saskatchewan's taxpayers handle this Sask Party spending spree and are there cheaper alternatives available which could achieve the same results?

Unless you have been down in a coal mine for the last three days, most Canadians are aware of the fact that we are now in the midst of a federal election campaign. The silly attack ads have not begun yet and no one has been knocking on your door yet but our federal political parties - rest assured - have already committed to spending tens of millions of dollars either donated by Canadians or received from the taxpayer in general on this campaign.

One of our great freedoms is the right to free speech and the right to associate together as political parties and discuss our democratic future. I think most Canadians agreed with the concept of fixed election dates because they saw it as a way to strengthen our democracy and take away the ability of Prime Ministers to play jiggery-pokery with election timing. Canadians were sick and tired of being bought with their own tax dollars and having Prime Ministers call elections three years into a four year mandate or going the full five years when the political winds were blowing the wrong way.

As I mentioned in my last commentary two weeks ago, I had a number of events across Saskatchewan lined up to attend. Some of these events were by invitation to the Leader of the PC Party of Saskatchewan and others were of community interest and certainly everything had an element of politics. Many of the events that I attended talked about significant ramifications for the people of this province.

The transportation symposium in Saskatoon last Monday was a real eye opener for a lot of people who previously had not been paying a great deal of attention outside of agriculture. It was great to see the CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce presenting their opinion and recognizing the significant loss of economic wealth to the province of Saskatchewan caused by the transportation mess. It was very clear after the day was done that the three western provinces have lost over $6 billion in GDP over the last two years and that Saskatchewan has lost at least half of that. This money has disappeared primarily into the pockets of grain companies and railroads at the expense of farm families and the businesses and communities that support agriculture.

Last week I noticed an article announcing the appearance of country superstar Garth Brooks at a couple of fundraisers in Regina and Saskatoon. These events are sponsored by the fundraising organization for the Children's Hospital in Saskatoon. There are only 200 guests at each appearance and they will be paying $5,000.00 apiece for the privilege of getting up close and personal with Mr. Brooks.

I have absolutely no problem with the idea as long as no Crown Corporation employees are spending my utility bill money on the event or any of Mr. Wall's Sask Party political appointees attending on the taxpayers' ticket. I don't suppose the Hospital Foundation will publish the list of attendees or who purchases the tickets on behalf of the attendees but it would be totally inappropriate if any of the above attend unless the money comes out of their own personal back pocket.

The dry conditions across Saskatchewan have continued for another week. On top of this, we have seen dense smoke cover much of the province from the hundreds of forest fires burning across northern Saskatchewan. As of this morning, over 12,000 of our citizens have had to evacuate their homes and communities. It is a situation that this province has not experienced for many years and points to the necessity of a re-think of public policy around our vast wood resource.

In the southern part of the province, agriculture has evolved to the point where wide-spread fire is a rarity. There is good co-ordination of public resources between various levels of government and local communities. Things such as fire guards, fire extinguishers and rapid response by area residents means that our communities are seldom threatened. There are also good insurance programs put in place. It would be unthinkable to allow a prairie fire to burn unchecked for weeks at a time.

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