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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Sometimes when I'm putting out Party policies or coming up with alternatives that I think will better serve taxpayers, you wonder if anyone in government is listening. It takes a lot of doing to turn around the ship of state when they are simply bulldozing ahead on ideology and their own agenda.

Last Thursday, I held an outdoor news conference in the middle of the construction work on the eastern portion of the south Regina bypass. One of the many landowners in that area who is being driven out of his home and have his life totally disrupted was kind enough to offer his property. His home will be bulldozed later this week. He has not agreed to the financial settlement offered by the government.

This past week, the PC Party unveiled the first of its major policy platforms for the upcoming election. I think we kind of took everyone by surprise. When you think about it, however, our policy on waste heat utilization in Saskatchewan just makes sense.

We are all well aware of the rising cost of putting food on the table on a daily basis. Our weekly trips to the grocery store have shown a fairly dramatic cost increase to things like fresh fruit and vegetables. Last week I saw a report on TV that showed that some vegetables have more than doubled in price in the last 12 months. There are many reasons for this but the two primary ones are the drop in the value of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar and the drought which has been gripping California and the US southwest for many years now. The supplies of irrigation water in this region have fallen dramatically and in fact may never recover to former levels. This is the area where most of our fresh vegetables and some fruits originate from.

I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend. I wouldn't normally be putting this out until tomorrow because of the holiday but I am off to Lintlaw, Saskatchewan for the Kelvington-Wadena PC nomination later today. Lintlaw is about a four and a half hour drive for me so hopefully the wind and the snow hold off long enough to enjoy the drive.

One of the things that I most enjoy about election campaigns is getting the chance to drive around Saskatchewan and really get a feeling for what is going on out there. I try to take as many different roads as possible including getting off of the pavement and cutting across country on some of our grid road system. I think more of Mr. Wall's cabinet should be doing the same thing.

Many of the public are well aware that I and the PC Party have been very critical of the Sask Party government's south Regina bypass project. This project has gone from a $400 million dollar expenditure to now being about $2 billion with further costs to come. This project has been out-sourced to a French company with a guaranteed $680 million profit built into it.

You also know that the PC Party has proposed an alternative northern bypass route which would save taxpayers an estimated $1 billion and do a better job. We have run extensive radio and television advertising campaigns to point this out.

What a gorgeous weekend for the last week of January! I actually took a few hours off after church yesterday and went ice fishing on Buffalo Pound Lake with an old fishing buddy. The surface of the lake this time of the year looks like a good sized town with all of the ice fishing shacks and vehicles that appear before you as you come over the crest of the hill as you are going down to the lake. Obviously, other people had the same idea and for all of you that keep track of these things, we caught our limit of yellow perch and one walleye and told lots of stories about fishing trips past.

The new Federal Liberal government released its new rules on pipeline development in Canada this past week. The various Ministers involved with the unrolling of this new set of rules said they have clarified the process by which pipelines can be built in Canada. I hope they are right but my first glance at the new regulations says we have two new unknowns.

Tragically Saskatchewan has joined the other communities in North America and around the world who have experienced a school shooting. Nothing hits harder to a community than the knowledge that when they send their children off to the place where "safety and learning" have always gone together, that is no longer the case. This speaks volumes about the high esteem that we hold our teaching community in and safety they have provided for generations. For Saskatchewan to now join the horror story is almost beyond our comprehension. I know from my days as Minister of Indian and Metis Affairs in Saskatchewan that the community of La Loche has had more than its fair share of social challenges and those challenges grew some more last Friday.

On behalf of the PC Party of Saskatchewan, our thoughts go out to the parents and the entire community. If given the honour of electing members to the Saskatchewan Legislature, I can give them my assurance that our Party will look for ways to help this community move forward in a progressive and safe way.

As I mentioned last week, I headed up to the Crop Production Show on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, I took in several of the AGMs of the various crop associations. On Tuesday, I spent most of the day at Crop Production looking at displays, talking to various people in the booths and of course, just visiting.

Two things really stood out in my two days there. One was the almost total absence of people in the political business and two, was the rising concern over the falling Canadian dollar and what that was going to mean for Saskatchewan's economy. That is not to say there is not still lots of optimism in all facets of the agricultural community. People were there in the thousands to learn and adapt and that is always a good sign.

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