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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

P.C. President’s Commentary

Our leader, Rick Swenson is away on two weeks of earned vacation. My first Monday morning commentary of the year will be a President’s report.

At our Annual General Meeting in early November, Rick announced he would step down as Leader when we elect a new leader. Rick will continue to act as interim leader until we get the Party already to elect a new leader.

Rick has taken us to credibility and an alternative to the two rich and powerful parties of the left and far right.

One of the responsibilities that I had as an MLA was the position of Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. It is the only committee in the Legislature chaired by a member of the opposition. The governing party always has the majority on the committee. It was a tremendous learning experience and taught me a lot about government. I wished I had the experience before becoming a Cabinet Minister.

It can be a fine balancing act to get the answers necessary to protect the taxpayer of the province and at the same time, allow the government of the day to proceed with its agenda. The Provincial Auditor is part and parcel of the committee and is the greatest resource available to the committee.

My situation was very similar to what we have today. There was a very large NDP government of over 50 members and a PC opposition of 10 members. The balance is basically the same today between the Sask Party and the NDP opposition.

This past weekend, it was good to sit down with old friends and make some new acquaintances at the PC Party Annual General Meeting. It was my opportunity to give a Leader's report on the past election campaign and the issues that now face Saskatchewan. We also had a very informative policy discussion which included presenters from the oil and gas industry and the solar energy industry.

Both of our presenters are on the leading edge of environmental stewardship and how to make a dollar while being environmentally responsible. They were great additions to the PC Party's discussions in dealing with the carbon emission issues and fair taxation for Saskatchewan citizens. We also talked about the deficiencies in the current policing structures in Saskatchewan and the lack of job opportunities and new industries.

It was truly a pleasure for me because of the platform the PC Party ran on in the last election and how many of the issues that are front and centre with the public like health care, the GTH and the Regina bypass are very topical today. In fact so topical that they dominate Question Period every day in the Saskatchewan Legislature. If the Sask Party Finance Minister every finds his courage to report the true state of Saskatchewan's finances to the people of this province, we will also find out that the predictions made by the PC Party in the last election campaign are coming true about Saskatchewan's deficit.

This week, the PC Party is preparing for our first AGM since the spring election. As I think about the agenda and the things that the Party needs to achieve over the next four years, I was reflecting upon this commentary and all of the issues that have been commented on in the past.

It's hard to believe that the first one of these I attempted to do was in March of 2010 and there is a lot of water under the proverbial bridge since then. Saskatchewan has changed a lot but unfortunately, many things have not changed at all or very little.

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.

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