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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

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.

As I mentioned in my commentary last week, I headed up to the SUMA convention in Saskatoon. I had wanted to take in the whole event but was only able to be there for the Tuesday night banquet, the Wednesday morning ministerial sessions and of course, the bear pit session with the provincial Cabinet.

I must say that I was really impressed with the way that the SUMA organization and its delegates conducted themselves. It has been many years since I attended a SUMA convention and I was very impressed with the changes that have taken place in the intervening years. It was obvious from the organizational qualities that I observed that SUMA’s Board of Directors and their staff have developed a very professional approach to business. Every event that I attended was well organized and it was obvious that a lot of advance work with both the physical aspects of the convention and the issues that SUMA has to deal with were well developed for delegates.

Sometimes they say that tough times bring out the true character in people. I watched Alberta Premier Jim Prentice being interviewed by Peter Mansbridge the other night and I was truly impressed in the way that Premier Prentice answered questions surrounding the looming budget deficit in Alberta, some controversial legislation that he ordered pulled from the Legislature and the initiative to cut the salary of the Premier and Cabinet Ministers by 5% in the face of the fiscal crisis unfolding in Alberta.

Mr. Prentice was very statesman like, showed a great deal of humility when talking about past mistakes and I believe he was extremely genuine in his response as to how Albertans would deal with the situation as a group of people with divergent wants and needs.

As I mentioned in last week’s commentary about staying tuned for more developments on the CPPIB land sale, last Thursday the PC Party put out a news release calling on the government to bring forth the necessary regulatory changes to prohibit the sale of Saskatchewan farmland to CPPIB or any other pension fund.

We also called for the disbursement of CPPIB’s land holdings over a three year period of time. The Farm Land Security Board has ordered disbursements of land holdings in the past and I do not feel that a three year period of time would have any influence on land prices - up or down - with this farmland being put back on the market. We shall see if the government of Saskatchewan has the courage to do what the vast majority of producers are demanding.

Politics is not unlike any other endeavour that humans undertake. Every once in a while, you need a little positive reinforcement to get you up in the morning and keep doing what you are doing. That has particularly been the case for the PC Party of Saskatchewan over the last 8 or 9 years. Rebuilding a party from the ground up is not an easy undertaking.

It was really satisfying, therefore, to walk around the Crop Production and CropSphere venues last Monday and Tuesday in Saskatoon and have dozens of individuals walk up and congratulate me on the stand that the PC Party of Saskatchewan has taken on the purchase of Saskatchewan farmland by the Canada Pension Plan. The other thing that was very satisfying was this was agricultural producers from one end of the province to the other not just those areas currently affected by CPPIB purchases or its predecessor – the Assiniboia Land Company. I can assure everyone that the fight will continue and we will be making further announcements very shortly.

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.

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