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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

As I sit by my kitchen window doing this commentary, there is still lots of snow falling. My fir trees are hanging down with heavy snow on the boughs and I’m hoping there are no calves born this morning. It’s hard to believe this is still going on but then again we do live in Saskatchewan and can expect anything. I hope all of you had a good Easter long weekend. We had the opportunity to host both sides of the family at the farm this past weekend. We were able to worship together on a number of occasions and of course, spoiled the grandchildren with lots of Easter treats and egg hunting.

This morning as I listened to the first newscast of the day, a couple of items jumped out that really makes you wonder about our government’s priorities. Saskatchewan is having its annual “worst roads” contest sponsored by CAA where members of the public can vote on the worst highways in the province. It appears there is a long list! The second news item that caught my attention and is certainly related to this first one is the fact that we are once again way behind in getting the necessary railcars to ship our grains, oilseeds and pulses to their world-wide markets.

Here we are with a few days still left in March and I am looking out the kitchen window and not seeing any snow on the ground. I know some parts of this province are not as fortunate but it truly has been a long time since we have had this early of a spring. As I drive around the countryside, it’s amazing to see how much water is lying around considering that we didn’t really have a lot of snow this past winter. This should set up some ideal conditions for growing 2015’s crop.

I am sure the Sask Party government is hoping for ideal conditions also because there is a good chance that a lot of their predictions on the price of oil, potash, etc. seem very optimistic to me and to a lot of people that watch worldwide commodity sales and volumes. Good old agriculture and manufacturing may be what keeps this province growing over the next year. When you see layoffs like the two that occurred last week – one of over 300 employees in Saskatoon and one of over 200 employees in Regina – you know that there are pressures building in our economy that government must be constantly monitoring. Figuring out ways to encourage our strongest sectors to add employment opportunities is a must. Once again, my constant harping continues on value-adding our commodities and the lack of direction in this area in the latest Sask Party government’s budget. When will this government learn that we simply can’t pump it out of the ground and dig it out of the ground as fast as possible and sell it in bulk form to meet our monetary and social objectives?

As I mentioned in last week’s commentary, I headed down to the provincial budget along with PC candidates and friends. The Sask Party’s set up job with the people of Saskatchewan worked very well on budget day.

As we all know the Premier ran around the province for 2 1/12 months speculating about which programs might be cut and which taxes might be raised because of falling oil revenue. He had everyone wondering if their ox was going to be gored or if it would be someone else’s. Of course this was all part of the grand plan to do none of the above and instead, borrow a billion and a half dollars so that Mr. Wall and the Sask Party would have a $700 million infrastructure election fund to play with and no one would complain because taxes weren’t raised.

Congratulations to Ray Orb on his acclamation to the President’s position of SARM. I think Ray will bring a totally different perspective to the role of President than the previous President did. Repairing rural infrastructure and doing it in a cost-effective and cost-shared basis with senior levels of government is an absolute priority. I think that Ray Orb can bring the focus necessary to get this job underway.

I also congratulate Mr. Orb for saying that he was not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s response on the rail transportation question which he posed at the recent SARM annual meeting. Politicians, both federal and provincial, should not be let off of the hook on this issue particularly with federal and provincial elections happening in the next 12 months.

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.

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