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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

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.

The other shoe has finally dropped for some now-former members of the Sask Party government. I think many of us have been extremely frustrated by the under-performing and over-spending members of the Wall cabinet who blissfully went along spending our money and making Saskatchewan's economic woes lengthen by the day.

Premier Wall's much-anticipated cabinet shuffle happened last week and names like Boyd, McMorris and Heppner are gone. There were also a few minor players who weren't invited back for good reason. There were a few others like Harpauer and Tell that should have been gone but probably hung on because of Wall's need for some gender balance. Thank goodness he had some newly-elected bright and articulate female MLAs to put into cabinet and hopefully correct some of the glaring mistakes made by others.

To those of us that fought long and hard against the waste of taxpayer's money on both the Global Transportation Hub and the south Regina bypass, the removal of the three main spenders of our money is a small victory and gives us the opportunity to say I told you so. These three Ministers - more than any others - pushed that agenda against all those who pointed out the many flaws of this huge expensive plan which does nothing for Saskatchewan in the long term.

We all know how important it is to chose the right words when communicating a problem to other people. Often times in the English language, a new word comes along and defines something that has been a problem but couldn't be explained easily. This spring you have heard a lot of people and especially Brad Wall talking about "transformational change". The word transformational, in the minds of most people, is talking about a fundamental shift or a total reconstruct of whatever item is being referred to.

During the last provincial election campaign, the PC Party talked about and campaigned on just such a thing in our health care system. We made a very strong argument that the health region structure imposed upon Saskatchewan's health care by an NDP government over 20 years ago has not worked out. We have a large bureaucratic, unaccountable and expensive system of health care delivery which we cannot afford and which does not provide the necessary services. We said it should go and Saskatchewan health care should be returned to a system where health dollars are accounted for in the Legislative Assembly and there is a system of accountability flowing from that change through all levels of health care delivery.

There are two items that I wish to comment on this morning. Both of these items show that our Sask Party government is drifting along on major policy issues that need long-term vision.

A little over a week ago I drove up to Craik, Saskatchewan to meet with a group of people from that area about rural health care and where is it going to go in the near future and long term. As you are all aware in the last election campaign, the PC Party campaigned vigorously on the removal of the health regions and putting accountability and responsibility for health care delivery back into the Legislative Assembly.

Here we are in the first week of August - which is normally our hottest and driest part of the year - and we are having almost daily and nightly thunderstorms. Last night, we had a real loud display of Mother Nature's power along with another 9/10" of an inch of rain. All the folks trying to combine lentils and peas in this area do not need more moisture at this time. This story seems to be repeating itself all across Saskatchewan with devastating consequences for both urban and rural residents. Let's hope this lets up for a few weeks and get some of this crop harvested in good condition to meet our export commitments.

Speaking about weathering storms and living up to your commitments, it seems we are going to have a new Deputy Premier sometime today because the last one obviously didn't practice what he preached. Don McMorris, Minister in charge of SLGA and the campaign against impaired driving in Saskatchewan, was charged with impaired driving Friday night. He has subsequently resigned from Cabinet and has withdrawn from the Sask Party caucus for the time being.

One of the great joys we have in life in the Swenson household is growing our own garden. We had the first new potatoes this week which went into a big pot of beef stew. Those potatoes were joined by garden peas, carrots, onions and beans. It doesn’t get any better. I’m amazed how few people these days grow their own gardens. In a province like Saskatchewan where we have lots of available land – even in our urban areas – I think it is something that should be encouraged by our educational system, by government agencies and by community groups as a way for people to grow nutritious food and reconnect as families.

Speaking of reconnecting – the release this past week of more budget deficit numbers by the Sask Party government – shows how unconnected to reality these people are. If you remember just a few short months ago during the recent provincial election campaign, the PC Party predicted that the provincial deficit in 2015/16 would be much higher that what the government was telling us and would be fueled by the south Regina bypass.

It looks like we may finally get some summer weather. I have been trying to cut and bale some hay since the 20th of June with very little success. Last week, we had a 3" rain over a 3 day period which really made a mess of what hay I had cut. I think a lot of people are in the same boat - no pun intended. Our thoughts go out to the people in the Estevan, Arborfield, Carrot River and now Swift Current areas who have seen summer flooding because of massive downpours. This province needs 2 weeks of hot, dry weather.

Normally Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations would release their annual reports during the spring session of the Legislative Assembly. This allowed the Members of the House and the general public to scrutinize how well our Crowns are doing and whether we, the shareholders, were getting good value for our tax dollars.

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