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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

It certainly wasn't the warmest May long weekend but I think conditions allowed people to get out in their yards, go camping and start to enjoy the wonderful Saskatchewan landscape. In farm country, however, this is a time of seeding and long days. This is also attempting catch up on all the jobs that didn't get done last fall because of all the wet weather. It appears that we have gone through this long weekend with no major incidents in our provincial and regional parks which is great to hear and hopefully the message against drinking and driving will continue through the summer months so we can all enjoy travelling the roads of Saskatchewan.

The spring legislative session wrapped up this last Thursday and I'm sure most of the Sask Party government was glad to escape from what has been an ordeal of bad news, mixed messaging and poor implementation by most of the Ministers of the Sask Party government. I thought the addition of Ryan Meili might have given the NDP opposition a major boost in their ability to hold the government accountable. Unfortunately, question period in my view still lacked the pointed questioning necessary of the government in order that we taxpayers can get answers to some badly delivered Sask Party programs.

This past weekend, Joanne and I had the opportunity to travel to Medicine Hat for a family event. I believe I mentioned in this commentary exactly 1 year ago about having the experience of stopping at a greenhouse on Sunday morning and buying fresh vegetables. We did the same thing this Sunday morning after leaving my sister-in-law's house in the south end of Medicine Hat.

You simply drive into the greenhouse operation where they have a small attached structure no larger than your average garden shed. There is no attendant there to serve you. You simply select from the various types of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce. This particular one also had farm fresh eggs for purchase. Everything is pre-priced and pre-packaged. You simply drop your money into the box attached to the wall - all strictly on the honour system. I didn't notice a security camera but apparently there is one somewhere in the building.

There was a steady stream of shoppers stopping by and this is just one of many greenhouses in the area with the same set up. This begs the question ... why hasn't our government taken a serious look at the PC Party's proposal from the last election campaign to use waste heat sources across Saskatchewan to start a new industry growing our own fruits and vegetables? I believe the demand is there and that people would definitely support locally grown products. Talk about reducing our carbon footprint!

If there is one good thing about going through tougher economic times, it's an opportunity for all of us to look at how we spend our disposable income and also makes us pay more attention to what our various levels of government are doing with our tax dollars.

We have certainly seen some dramatic changes to government thinking in the last few months and in reality, they are only doing what many of us in society have had to do over the last few years. Most of us can't run large deficits like government does.

Last Thursday, I had a bit of a gap in calving so I took the opportunity to go down and take in Question Period at the Legislature. As a past member, I'm allowed to sit on the floor behind the opposition and watch the action unfold.

I like to do this periodically because you can tell a lot about what is going on in both the minds of the government and the opposition by the body language of the various players. I wanted to gage if the recent polling data was having an effect on the Sask Party government and whether the addition of Ryan Meili had made the NDP opposition more assertive and confident.

I also wanted to see how all of the public backlash against the Sask Party government's budget was playing out with how the various Ministers handled questions in the House. There is also some very contentious legislation before the Legislature with a Bill that takes away the ability of municipalities to sue the provincial government over the loss of grants in lieu and a Bill that will allow the government to sell up to 49% of certain Crown Corporations like SaskTel.

Last night I went to bed in a foul mood because the weather forecast was for snow overnight which is not good when you are calving cows and I had just finished reading the latest CBC revelations about the Global Transportation Hub. My mood was no better this morning. The first hour after daybreak was spent digging calves out of snow banks and putting out fresh bedding and feed. There is a newborn calf out there that may need some TLC in the barn after I finish writing this commentary. That's life in the cattle business!

The other part of my outrage this morning is directed at our Sask Party government and CP Rail for the outrageous deal they have foisted upon us at the Global Transportation Hub. It appears the Wall government gave CP Rail 300 fully-serviced acres of land at the GTH for FREE. I am talking all services, paved roads, parking lots and new highway access being built on our dime. All for a big fat ZERO! Meanwhile the City of Regina was paying 7.5 million dollars for the CP rail yard in downtown Regina at top dollar.

What is really inexcusable about this whole thing is that the media, the opposition and organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers' Association have been asking for the documents related to this transaction for months now. The government refuses to open up the books even though there are tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars involved in this deal.

As you have noticed, this commentary is a couple days later than normal. The logistics of working around the Easter egg hunt with the grandkids, attending several church services and calving a bunch of heifers for the first time in a long time meant that I, like most other people over the Easter long weekend, was taking a break from political thoughts. In fact, I sometimes think we dwell on this political stuff too much but unfortunately these days the decisions of politicians really do affect our lives in a lot of different ways.

Our newscasts are full of the ongoing discussions of the various city councils in this province as they have to redo their budgets, cut services and increase the tax bill for the average homeowner. We don't know yet what the outcome will be of those deliberations except there will be cuts and there will be tax increases.

I think you have all heard the phrase "one trick pony". It was obvious watching the Sask Party Cabinet Ministers' performances this last week handling the defence of an indefensible budget that without their principal cheerleader being present, our government is a "one trick pony".

Rather than stay-at-home and face the people of Saskatchewan over a budget which has made a lie out of everything Brad Wall campaigned on twelve months ago, our Premier has chosen to run off to Washington, DC and hobnob with some of his friends in the US Senate. Not surprising because we are paying a law firm from South Carolina about $400,000 a year to speak on our behalf in Washington. Our Premier might as well go down to Washington and get a few free meals at fancy private clubs from some US Congressmen and Senators rather than deal with the problems at home.

It's kind of interesting to note that at the same time that the US national coal museum has switched over to solar power in order to save on some of their heating and electrical bills, Mr. Wall continues promoting Saskatchewan's clean coal technology that we don't own. Meanwhile back at the ranch in Saskatchewan, Brad Wall's Ministers are busy dismantling a lot of the progress that previous governments have put in place over the last 50 years to make Saskatchewan a better place in which to live.

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