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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

This week's commentary by PC Party President Grant Schmidt

I am using the Leader’s Monday time slot to take care of P.C. Party Business.

There will be a by-election in Saskatoon Meewasin before June. We guess Brad Wall will call a by-election on January 31st, 2017 for the end of February.

Why will Wall call so soon? To get his lost seat out of the way before the ugly March, April, May or June budget. We know from last year’s election Wall has mismanaged the boom so bad he is having a hard time counting up his deficit.

Last week, I joined thousands of others paying a visit to the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon. The day I was there, the place was packed which is a very good sign after a very disappointing 2016 harvest for many producers. For a politician, it is a great place to meet people, say hello to old friends and acquaintances and get a sense of where agriculture will go in 2017. And of course the farmer in me is drawn to the shiny new equipment and products that are available. You also marvel at the price tag on most of this stuff and wonder how the input costs of agriculture will remain sustainable. My hat goes off to the people that organize this show on a yearly basis. They really do a tremendous job of putting it together in a format people can appreciate.

Sustainability is a word that can mean many things but it is something that is more often mentioned around the production and availability of food across the world today. You have heard me mention in this commentary many times that I believe Canada and Saskatchewan need to start putting in place the right environments to secure fruits and vegetables on a year-round basis from our own production.

You all have seen and read indicators recently that talk about the rapid escalation of price in these particular food products. That is happening for a number of reasons. Lack of water in certain growing regions, increased transportation costs and the fact that populations in North America are growing. It takes more food to provide a healthy diet for our population.

I'm sure all of you remember the television and radio ads the PC Party ran in the last election campaign where we called for the elimination of the health regions and bringing accountability back to the Legislature for health care spending. Low and behold last week, the Sask Party government took a big step in that direction. The advisory committee which they set up way back last spring finally reported to the Health Minister and the government. Their conclusion was that the health regions should be eliminated and replaced with one health region for the entire province with a CEO and Board of Directors. The Athabasca Health Region which is almost all First Nations with a heavy proportion of Federal funding will remain.

In my view, this is a huge step in the right direction but as is always the case, the devil will be in the details. Minister Reiter did not seem to have a clue at the news conference when this was announced about how this process would unfold. When the PC Party called for the elimination of the health regions over a four-year period of time, we did not envision replacing fourteen bureaucracies with another single one. We envisioned the Department of Health once again assuming responsibility for the delivery of health care and health care professionals taking responsibility for how they spend taxpayer's money.

I hope everyone had a great holiday week with family and friends and for those of you who still believe in Santa Claus, I hope you found what you wanted under the tree. In light of the new drinking and driving regulations in Saskatchewan, I hope your New Year's celebrations were in moderation.

Joanne and I certainly had ours in moderation and we both were in bed by 10:00 PM as she worked all day and I had a wonderful day pheasant hunting in southwest Saskatchewan following my dog for many miles and not coming home with any birds to speak of. It's hard to believe another year has gone by.

January has come in like a lion this morning but that is not unusual to Saskatchewan and I am sure we will get used to it. What I can't get used to is the hypocrisy of our Sask Party government. We now have the Premier publicly musing about all sorts of tough things he is going to implement in order to right Saskatchewan's fiscal ship while he forgets about all of the choices the Sask Party government has made over the last 8 years.

It's good to see this two-week long cold snap come to an end. I was out four days ago putting up electric wire around my grazing corn and haven't been able to do any since because of the intense cold. There is always a lot of cleanup work to do on Saskatchewan farms right up until Christmas and this cold weather has certainly been putting a damper on those activities.

Speaking of putting a damper on things, the comments by the Federal Finance Minister who says the federal government will not maintain the level of health care transfers to the provinces raises some very interesting questions. We have known in Saskatchewan for some time that there must be change in the way that our health care is delivered. The PC Party campaigned vigorously in the last election campaign on eliminating the hugely-expensive health region structure.

Every time I end up in the United States after a Presidential election, I'm always amazed at their drawn-out transition process before a new President is sworn in - in January of the following year. There is the daily speculation about who will serve in the new cabinet and the media is full of daily coverage of the various personalities who are visiting the Trump Tower in New York City. The fact that the in-coming President is a personality like Donald Trump makes the whole process seem like a three-ring circus.

This time, however, there is the added speculation of how the Russian government of Putin may have interfered in the American election by hacking into the various computer systems of the major political parties. It makes our Canadian parliamentary system extremely structured and boring to the average citizen. I am sure the American people will muddle their way through the process and life will go on for the average citizen. We Canadians will have to watch with interest and also be prepared for change because when the American elephant rolls over, Canadians have the unfortunate experience of having to get out of the way or get squashed by our largest trading partner.

It was nice to take a break from both Saskatchewan’s weather and its political environment. The problem is that neither has gotten any better. Saskatchewan is going to go through several months of winter, and the Wall government refuses to own up to their mistakes.

It is absolutely unconscionable that the Legislative Assembly has been shut down without providing the answers that taxpayers need on the GTH Land scandal. I fully understand the necessity of shutting down the Legislative Assembly for a couple of days to honour the passing of MLA Roger Parent and allow members the opportunity to attend his funeral. But to not have any more question periods or the ability to call witnesses to the Public Accounts Committee until the spring session for the Legislature opens is totally unacceptable.

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