Legislative Report (13 September 2004)
Legislative Report, 13 September 2004
Right from the start, this has been an odd year in Agriculture. Even with the late start and cooler summer, crops looked good until an early frost left many of us shaking our head not knowing where to turn.
Shaking our heads is exactly what happens when hearing the latest word from our Agriculture Minister. Late last week, the federal government announced a $488-million dollar agricultural aid program targeted at helping stabilize the livestock industry in the wake of BSE. At the time of the announcement, former NDP agriculture minister Clay Serby said he didnít think his government could find the $40 to $50 million Saskatchewan would need to ante up for the program. Two days after the federal announcement, current NDP agriculture minister Mark Wartman, said not only will the province not be able to pay its share of the aid package, but the province is now examining its legal options and may take the federal government to court to get out of paying its share.
Wartmanís proposal is ridiculous for a number of reasons. On one hand, the NDP government extols the importance of the cattle industry in Saskatchewan, yet when push comes to shove and the industry is in trouble, the province wonít step up to the plate. Then, instead of asking to renegotiate the funding formula, the NDP threatens legal action. So, the NDP isnít willing to support our producers whether itís under the CAIS program or this newly announced BSE aid package, but it would be willing to spend millions of dollars bickering in the courts for a decade about who should pay what.
Further, Wartmanís musings about suing the federal government couldnít have come at a worse time. The NDP is currently trying to get a better deal on equalization from Ottawa, as well as more money for health care. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. As Iíve traveled around the constituency over the last month, there has been very little good news from anyone in agriculture. We have all taken quite a hit and it does not help when we look to the government for understanding of the issues and challenges we face. The NDP just donít get it. I am looking forward to the session this fall. We will have an opportunity to educate them whatís actually going on in this province.
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