Tisdale - August 26, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire

After rumors of a provincial election and then three by-elections the premier has at last called the voters to reelect him on September 16. With the opposition being fractured and in some ways discredited, it would appear at the outset that the voters will complain a bit and then do what their premier wants. I have always tried to look for the good things to tell you in Ensign, but I regret, this to me, and I suspect to many of you, is bad news.

When we talk of politics, and we do a good deal, my father and I often begin with my outrageous comment about the government, or the premier and then my father points out, "But look at the alternatives." Of course he is right. The Liberal party in Saskatchewan has destroyed is credibility to the point that it can not be taken seriously. The Saskatchewan Party consists of many who were associated with the Devine government and the public sees that as a bunch of crooks and the courts have been in agreement with that. So, the thinking goes, that means we have to reelect the present government who has been in power for eight years.

Well folks I have some suggestions for you as a voter. This would be a good election to put democracy to the test. Go to your candidate and see what he or she has to offer. Pose the issues that affect you and then when election day comes vote for the best candidate. Don't get yourself involved in political strategies, just vote, one ballot at a time for the candidate who best suits your needs. To help you with this process we need to sort out what the real issues are in this election and that is the subject matter of this article.

To help us work through the issues let us use the government's Platform that came out with some of our newspapers this week. This might serve as an interesting guide to measure the government's performance and determine just what we want our MLAs to do for us.

If you have looked at Ensign at all over this past year, you will have seen and understood what I think is the Saskatchewan Way and somehow that seems drastically different then the Premier's view.

The premier advocates disregarding the charter of rights, major cutbacks in health care, education and making every issue an adversarial one, he calls that the rule of law, but he really means the rule of lawyers. The premier's attitude and policies toward rural Saskatchewan are that of total destruction, he says that is not the case, but his actions and inaction, tell what his true policies are. I don't think he has a clue about the Saskatchewan Way.

The Saskatchewan Way is that of people helping people, the first people in Canada to have universal Medicare, the people who turn out to help each other build communities, rebuild lives and work together to build coops, credit unions, and wheat pools. In Saskatchewan if some one is in trouble, we all are in trouble. The premier does not share that view.

The dramatic move to the right in political terms in the past two decades has put tremendous pressure on individuals and with corporations dominating economical development, we have seen international trade and trade agreements undermine our way of life. Wages have drastically fallen as our quality of life has declined measurably and people, both young and old, have resigned themselves to accepting "less" and being grateful for any job they can get. Everyone who can works and because of part time jobs becoming the norm, many people have more then one job just to make ends meet and pay their taxes.

The facts of life are simple, if we want more jobs in our province we need more development, we need to see how we can expand our province's production and with only half of it inhabited, it seems pretty simple as to how to get into development. Instead, our present government has concentrated not on development, but on the expenditure side of the ledger, by cutting back on what it spends. Good fiscal management is important, but so is expansion and development, if we are to provide work for the people who have and want to acquire skills. Instead, Saskatchewan folks are going elsewhere to find employment. Out of my three sons two work in Manitoba after having gone to college here in Saskatchewan.

During the premier's two terms he has dropped the sales tax by one cent and continues to collect taxes that are labelled for one thing and used for another. Huge amounts of taxes are collected from gasoline but only a fraction of that money is going back into maintaining the province's highway system. With this week's announcement by the premier that he is going to lower taxes on oil companies producing oil in Saskatchewan, it would appear that his first consideration is not for the tax payers of Saskatchewan, but for the companies.

Promises are easy to make and nothing can be done when they are broken. Saskatchewan has suffered a lot of cut backs and the single most important investment the tax payer can make is in education, while we see tuition have been doubled during the government's tenure and the cost of education shifting to land taxes, we should actively question our prospective MLAs about this one. The promise to pay for first year college is a start, but at the same time our teachers wages, at all levels, are falling behind the rest of the country, and there is actually a teacher shortage here because of it.

How can having 54 less hospitals in the province since he took office be better? How can longer waiting lists to the point of more then a year be better then when he took office? How can a nurses strike that is still not settled be better then when he took office? How can the waste and mismanagement associated with the regional health boards be better? During the premier's watch, health care in the province has declined by half and that is not better. Reelected, expect more of the same. Confrontation, shifting the blame and responsibility while making things worse deliberately.

The actions of this government are what we must judge, not conjecture about what some other government might have done, or that it is some other level of government's problem. The actions alone must be considered and the facts are scary. Since the premier took office are there more or less farmers in Saskatchewan? Are there more or fewer people living in every single prairie rural town? Are the roads better or worse then they were eight years ago? Are there more or fewer jobs in rural Saskatchewan? Are there more or fewer rail lines in Rural Saskatchewan? Are there more or fewer businesses of all kinds in rural Saskatchewan? Are there more or fewer hospitals in rural Saskatchewan? Are there more or fewer schools in rural Saskatchewan?

The NDP government's policy is not the platitudes that come from the politician's mouths, it is what they have done and during these eight years Saskatchewan's rural sector has been damn near destroyed. That is the policy of the present premier and his attitude is demonstrated by when he chose to call the election. The "real" policy of the government does not involve opportunities for rural Saskatchewan and if reelected there is no reason to expect to see that policy change.

There is no doubt that during the eight years of this government, six of them had balanced or surplus budgets, but is that really some thing to be proud of. It is expected that government live within its means, pay its bills and not go into debt. The fact that the earlier Devine government did not do this does not make Romanow's government anything more then what is expected. Anyone can balance the books by merely cutting spending. The Romanow government has achieved its fiscal responsibility by freezing wages of everyone who works for the government and imposed strike settlements, high taxes and major cuts to every programme that it administers. Not something of which to be proud.

The most crime statistically in the country is in Regina Saskatchewan and the city holding the second spot is Saskatoon. This statistical and human tragedy has been achieved while this premier has been in office. For him to not take credit for this serious destruction in the quality of life is a denial of his role in this society. There are more people in jail in Saskatchewan then have ever been imprisoned, there is more violence in our urban society and Indian reserves then anywhere else other then American ghetto cities and they have better methods of handling the problem. Our lawyer premier was personally involved in all of the amazing high profile criminal cases in the past two years and must accept some responsibility for the nature of these events. Yesterday he dismissed NDP bingo fundraising shenanigans as unfounded and said he would not comment on anything from the Internet in the future. During his premiership, the prosecution of crime has been political and the portion of the government involved is just as under funded as Social Services who have the responsibility of supporting people who might become involved in Crime.

Poverty is the enemy of the people and street prostitution is merely one of the visible signs of the desperation of children trying to find a means to survive. A single half way house in Saskatoon is so far all that has been done. While half of the population of Regina and Saskatoon are on social assistance and unemployed. How could the creator of the NDP platform have allowed it to be published with this shameful comment on its cover, "less crime" indeed.

I regret that I am not able to find some good things to say about our premier and his government but they say they are doing what they can for Saskatchewan people while at the same time they are acting in a manner that is favourable to big corporations and elitism. The two most glaring examples of this are the Workers Compensation Board and the no fault insurance programme. Both of these programmes are deliberately administered to screw the individual Saskatchewan person.

The workers compensation board is structured to cheat both workers and contributors alike. The act under which the programme is administered was established to prevent injured workers from suing their employers so the employers have willingly contributed money to the programme yet during the Romanow years this programme has been making close to one hundred million dollars profits because it is not paying out claims. An injured worker who disputes a ruling by the board can not expect his appeal to be dealt with in under a year few appeals are lost by the worker because almost all rulings by the board are geared to pay the least. This programme is by its action government policy.

The no fault insurance situation follows the pattern established by workers compensation and SGI is paying out less and less for injury and losses. This is deliberate government policy.

Perhaps the best example of the anti-people attitude of this government is the case of the widows of workers compensation pensions who lost their pensions when they remarried. Courts have ruled on this issue in two other provinces and held that the ending of the pension benefits is wrong. Instead of paying these people the money they are due the provincial government made them a take it or leave it $80,000 lump sum and when these desperate folks accepted the money the minister in charge said that since they took it must be fair. About thirty are still pressing forward with a law suit but it is disgusting that the government that represents me would treat people in such a bad manner, I am truly ashamed of the government's conduct.

So voters of Saskatchewan take these and the other issues you have to the people asking for your vote and consider their responses. If you don't get a positive response from at least one then consider section 80.