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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Once again, the horror of a mass shooting in the United States has been front and centre in the news this past weekend. It appears that up to 50 individuals are dead and over 50 more were wounded by a lone gunman who walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida with an assault rifle. The fact that the shooter was Muslim and professing his admiration for Muslim extremist groups does not bode well for that sector of North American society.

There are two parts of this that I wish to comment on this morning. This should not get diverted by the age-old American argument of the right to bear arms. No one in civil society today needs an assault rifle. For a ten year period of time, these things were banned in US society and that should be back on. I am as avid an outdoorsman and hunter as anyone and probably own more firearms than one person really needs to. I can guarantee you there is not and never will be such a weapon in my gun cabinet because there simply is no need for that type of weapon by any individual in a society with the rule of law. We have that rule of law in North America.

In the last week, there has been a lot of water flowing under the proverbial political bridge. Last week, a half dozen PC Party candidates and staff took in the provincial budget which was supposed to be a transformational one for Saskatchewan. In the weeks leading up to the budget, the Sask Party government and particularly its Premier, had been leading people to believe that they were going to quit driving Saskatchewan into debt and were finally going to curb their spending habits on foolish projects. Talk about a let down!

Many of you would have noticed the news event from last week where people from the Preeceville area showed up at the Legislature to protest the downgrading of their medical facility. This is happening because of the ongoing doctor shortage in that community and the inability of that health region to recruit and retain doctors.

This is a story that will repeat itself across much of Saskatchewan in the months and years to come. It speaks to the wrong-headed approach of medical professional recruitment carried out under the health region system. I was reminded of this by a recent letter to the editor submitted by Dr. Lewis Draper, a former long-serving physician from rural Saskatchewan, who also served in the Legislature for the riding of Assiniboia-Gravelbourg.

This past week, the Sask Party government announced that they are doing an evaluation of SaskTel. This sudden interest in the value of SaskTel is supposedly brought about by the recent sale of MTS (Manitoba's telco) to Bell Canada.

This would leave SaskTel as the only provincially-run telecom company in Canada. The government would like us to believe that this may make SaskTel uncompetitive down the road. It will be interesting to see if this evaluation is made public in all of its facets and if all parts of SaskTel are on the potential sale block.

Recently, Joanne and I had the opportunity to travel to Medicine Hat for a family function. When any of us are in Medicine Hat, we always attempt to find the time to visit one of the greenhouse operations that are very visible around that community. We stopped at one of the smaller ones on the Sunday morning before heading home. On display for the public were four kinds of tomatoes, various colours of peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. This was all available in early May and was a very welcome to addition to our dinner table after a winter of imported products.

I would say that the greenhouse industry has been one of the bright spots for Medicine Hat in the midst of a very dramatic downturn in the oil and gas industry. We could be doing the same thing in Saskatchewan using the proposal that the PC Party put forward before the last election campaign. I believe Saskatchewan consumers would support the initiative for all of the right reasons and Saskatchewan would have a new industry, new opportunities to generate electricity and certainly a new base for employment.

It's hard to believe that a modern Canadian city of over 90,000 people could be totally devastated by a forest fire. You would think with all of our technology and the resources that we could bring to bear as a society would prevent something like that from happening. When you live in the middle of a tinder-dry forest and the right conditions line up, it doesn't matter how big or how modern you are, Mother Nature can still have her way with you. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those people, their families and their way of living which has been dramatically changed for months and years to come in the Fort McMurray area.

A lot of people have various symbols and signs that indicate to them when spring has finally arrived. They look for these things on a yearly basis. If you are from rural Saskatchewan, one of those signs is the first outfit you see in a field actually seeding. As Joanne and I were driving to Regina yesterday for a family supper, I couldn't help but noticing the air drills busy putting the crop in and each one creating its own cloud of dust. It's very early and already people are commenting on the lack of moisture but one thing is for sure....we have never lost a crop in April. My Grandfather had a saying "seed in the dust and your bins will bust"..."seed in the rain and you seed in vain". I guess we will see how 2016 turns out.

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