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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson


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.

It would appear from the newscasts and the live coverage of various events celebrating Canada's 150th birthday that it went very well all across the country. The weather cooperated in most parts of Canada and here in Saskatchewan, we certainly had a beautiful day.

I think Canadians have really come to understand that Canada is truly a very privileged place in which to live. I think for a long time we were envious of other peoples and I can remember growing up, people would say "I would like to live in this country or that country" after they grew up and received their education. One only has to look around at the various peoples who have immigrated to Canada and why they have come here to understand how fortunate we are.

This last week of June is always one of anticipation. This is the last week of school and kids no matter what their age, can't wait to begin summer holidays. Many families are booking their favourite camping spots and certainly Saskatchewan has lots of wonderful places to visit.

Last Saturday was our annual calf day when we get together as family and with the help of some friends, bring in the cows, sort the calves off and put them all through the chute. This year everything went very smoothly except for one little red brockle face calf that decided he didn't want to change from being a bull to becoming a steer! This calf took off into the bush in the coulee bottom and didn't reappear until he was hungry that evening. We will deal with him on another day.

A major policy proposal of the PC Party in the last election campaign was the elimination of the regional health authorities and the return of ministerial accountability and responsibility to health care. Along with that, we proposed the establishment of local quality care boards who would be elected by their peers at the same time as municipal councils were elected. We felt it was imperative that health spending be returned to the Legislative Assembly which should be the ultimate form of fiscal accountability in our province.

The Sask Party government during the election campaign basically made no comment on health care. The billion dollar deficit which the PC Party predicted came true and the Sask Party finally decided to act on health care reform. They announced the elimination of the regional health authorities but instead of ministerial accountability, they determined that a single health authority would be put in place to oversee the management and spending of health delivery in this province.

I think we were all willing to give them the benefit of the doubt both in tackling the huge budget deficits this government created by its bad choices and also because we all wanted to see patient-first care improved in this province. Finally after many months we get the announcement late last week about the new health authority.

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