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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Last week I talked about the recent revelations brought forward by the CBC i-Team on the GTH land scandal. Most people I talked to in Saskatchewan over the last week are outraged by this huge expenditure of taxpayers' dollars which only benefitted a few friends of the Sask Party government.

Last Wednesday, I started my day off by hand-delivering a letter to the RCMP asking them to investigate the identity of the individual who phoned the then GTH Minister Bill Boyd offering the land belonging to an Order of Nuns and the McNally family to the government. I also asked them to investigate some of the cabinet documents which have been made public but seemed out of whack with cabinet procedures. I did this because I believe that the investigation done by the Provincial Auditor was too narrow in scope and had no ability to identify all the players in this evolving scandal. Her audit was not a forensic audit.

As hard as the Wall government tries to sweep the GTH land deal under the carpet, it simply won't stay hidden.

Yesterday the CBC i-Team revealed more damning evidence about the mismanagement of taxpayer's money surrounding 204 acres on the west side of Regina. The entire article can be viewed at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/gth-land-deal-bill-boyd-never-heard-of-1.3800855.

At the very beginning of the revelations about the GTH land deal, the PC Party called for a judicial inquiry so that all matters - financial and personal - could be looked at. Long experience told me that going to the Provincial Auditor, for instance, would not get the information necessary to determine who and why this piece of land was so concerning to then-Minister Bill Boyd and the Sask Party cabinet.

Last week I mentioned that we were getting our first taste of winter. Well it seems the first taste turned into the second taste and the third taste. We have had over 4 inches of moisture on our farm in the last two weeks. It's going to take a lot of sunshine and some heat to dry the ground out enough for people to start harvesting again. It may be, in some places, that the ground will have to freeze before combines and swathers and grain hauling can begin again.

Some of you will think it extremely odd that my next comments will be about drought. We do know, however, that in our global economy that adverse weather in other parts of the world can dramatically affect what happens here. Last week, there was a group of climatologists and scientists who got together and released a report on the drought in the southwest United States. Some of these people believe that states like California, Arizona and Nevada could be in a 100-year drought cycle. There is historical evidence to show that this has occurred in the past.

It looks like we just might be getting our first taste of winter later today and into tomorrow. We had our fair share of wind and rain yesterday and through the night so it has definitely put a halt to my fence building project for a couple of days. There is still quite a bit of crop out in this area and a heavy snow fall would be very bad for it so hopefully it will melt as fast as it falls.

In a little over a month from now on November 5th, the PC Party will be holding its annual general meeting and policy discussion at Temple Gardens Mineral Spa in Moose Jaw. I would personally like to invite all the readers of this commentary to think about dropping by for the day. The registration cost is a modest $40.00 which includes your buffet lunch. Please give Stu a call at the PC office to register and get all the details (306-693-7572).

Like many of you later tonight, I will be tuning into my television at 7:00 PM to watch the first Presidential debate of the US election campaign. The media types are speculating there may be a world-wide audience of 100 million people. Unfortunately people will be drawn to this spectacle for a lot of reasons other than how the United States is going to get out of the mess that it is in.

It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that this is the best two individuals they can find out of 330 million people to run the country. It is important for a country like Canada which shares over 4,000 miles of border, huge trading relationships and in fact many family relationships to watch this process unfold with keen interest.

Speaking of watching with keen interest, another one of the PC Party's policy proposals is making more sense each and every day. We are now having almost weekly reports of serious crimes being perpetrated on innocent civilians across rural Saskatchewan. We are seeing the inability of the RCMP to provide adequate policing and in fact, have serious revelations of understaffing and morale issues in our national police force.

One of the things that truly amazed me when I was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Energy and Mines was that I had the authority to shut down any pipeline in the province if it was determined there were issues of public safety. Obviously it's a power that no Minister of the Crown would take lightly because of the impact it would have on that particular pipeline's suppliers and customers. It would also have ramifications on international trade because so many of our pipelines cross the 49th parallel into the United States.

The recent Husky Oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River and the Sask Party government's refusal to open up their investigation to the public is a real dereliction of responsibility. Because of the number of pipelines which cross streams, rivers and lakes many of which contribute to the potable water supply of tens of thousands of our citizens, it is important that we get this right.

Last weekend, we celebrated Labour Day and the tremendous contribution working men and women make to the province of Saskatchewan. This province has been built on the hard work and ingenuity of its people. Most people I talk to really only want the opportunity to have a good secure job in a safe work environment and they will get out of bed in the morning and contribute to our society.

It is very disconcerting to see the numbers released last Friday which show that Saskatchewan lost 4,000 jobs in the month of August compared to last year. In fact, we have more people unemployed in August than any time in the last 30 years. Employment declined in 9 of our 15 industry groups and some commentators are speculating that we will see the first year of negative job growth since 2001. So much for the Wall government's reliance on resource extraction as their only policy for job creation.

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