Tag Archives: Brad Wall

Some quick hits

  • So yeah, the infection in my leg is taking over my body again.  The specialist was hoping we had it killed but it came back in under 48 hours and started to move through my body.  Am back on antibiotics but right now my throat, ear, eyes, leg, and many joints hurt.  Also the fever is something else.  It was a year ago that I dragged myself into St. Paul’s Hospital and the doctor simply said after doing blood work, “this infection is killing you”.  A year later, it still seems able to do that.  Yes it still sucks.
  • Why do dogs sense that you have a fever and decide at that moment above all else, they need to hold you.  I love Marley but I am sick, the last thing I want is to wake up to a dog sleeping nose to nose with me and touching me.  She has twice tried to cover me up today as well.  Also, where is that service when I am cold and she is taking my covers?
  • I keep hearing that Bev Dubois is running for mayor.   This could be the greatest thing over for the Charlie Clark campaign even if Atch does drop out.
  • I watch Ken Burn’s The Roosevelt’s the other day.  The entire documentary series may be his best yet.  If you haven’t seen it, it is on Netflix. 
  • I’m missing something but I don’t understand Black Lives Matter protesting and disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade.   I am totally okay with protesting but I don’t know what disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade accomplishes when they are clearly not the ones that Black Lives Matter has an issue with.   Also, how does a festival that is about inclusiveness has a history of “anti-blackness”.    Then they wanted to kick out the Toronto Police floats who BLM sees as racist, even if their new chief is black.  At the end of the day, I don’t understand activists.
  • Kudos to John Tory, Kathleen Wynne, Naheed Nenshi, Justin Trudeau and all of the other politicians who took stands and participated or lead Pride parades in their cities.  You will notice that I left Atch’s name off that list.  His refusal to march in the parade like almost every other liberal and conservative politician in Canada boggles my mind.

Some thoughts on the Saskatchewan Election

Murray Mandryk hits on the NDP campaign here.  My thoughts on his thoughts are here. 

  1. Brad Wall ran the classic front runner incumbent campaign.  It was the same campaign the federal NDP ran last fall and the BC NDP ran in British Columbia.  The difference was that he was the front runner and the incumbent.
  2. I thought the Saskatchewan Party platform was visionless and not worth a second mandate but the NDP didn’t do anything to discredit it or point out that with the economy struggling, some of it’s major planks were not going to happen.  When your major plank is helping people sell more puffed wheat cake and fixing more highways and that is really it, it’s a visionless campaign.
  3. With both parties running candidates with DWIs, neither campaign had any moral high ground.  It’s the first campaign with what is written on Facebook was considered worse than driving while impaired.  Saskatchewan values?
  4. Plus, we all know the next budget will have the Saskatchewan Party saying a) we don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem and b) massive cuts to education, health, social services.  It’s going to be bad for all of us.  I am not saying that it is the wrong path but they do have a revenue and a spending problem and the spending is going to have to stop.
  5. How poor are the candidates for the NDP that it never occurred to them do delete their Facebook accounts when they decided to run or the nomination.  Also, the lack of simple vetting was ridiculous and speaks poorly about Frank Quennel’s leadership of the NDP.  It was a fixed election date, not a snap election.  That cut the knees out from Cam Broten in the first week of the campaign.  They never recovered. 
  6. I really don’t care what NDP candidates in rural Saskatchewan say to me during the campaign about the leader but it does speak to the lack of discipline they have and the state of the party in rural Saskatchewan.  This goes back to the Romanow years and isn’t getting better.  The NDP are very unpopular in rural ridings and nothing we saw in this campaign will change that.   For years the Saskatchewan Party was looking for an urban break through.  Remember Elwin Hermanson’s last campaign?  He lived in Saskatoon and Regina and didn’t see the promised breakthrough.    My point is that I think the NDP have massive problems in rural Saskatchewan an it is going to take them at least one more election before that changes.
  7. For those of you out there who are going to write off the NDP after this election, may I show you about a hundred articles saying the same thing after Stephane Dion and then Michael Ignatieff lost.  Also the Liberals were in third place going into this last provincial election.  Same thing for Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives when he won in Ontario the first time. 
  8. Speaking of the Liberals, I think it was a huge mistake for Darrin Lameroux to avoid Twitter and social media during the entire campaign.  It’s free media and it was the only medium the Liberals could use that would give them a provincial voice.  Instead he decided to meet people face to face.  Huge mistake.  It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.
  9. No campaign took advantage of one of the best political blogs out there and that was Tammy Robert’s musings.  I don’t know what Tammy’s stats are like but it was well read by many politicos and journalists in the province.  Howard Dean got huge play out of posting on Larry Lessig’s blog for a week.  Part of me thinks that it would have been advantageous for Darrin Lameroux or Cam Broten to do some guest posts and interact with commenters during the writ for a day.
  10. Personally I don’t think the NDP should turf Cam Broten.  Dalton McGuinty went through this. Rachel Notley went through this.  Stephen Harper went through this.  Tossing the leader won’t ail what is wrong for the NDP.   Plus a lot is going to change in four years.

Murray Mandryk’s thoughts of the 2016 election

Murray Mandryk has a must read column on the 2016 election.  I agree with most almost all of it but I have a few thoughts on it.

  1. Mandryk has brought up the two homeless guys being sent to B.C. before and the NDP’s inability to do anything about it.  Maybe I have just sucked at it but I have been told by people on both sides of the political spectrum that people don’t care about social issues like homelessness unless it directly impacts them.   It’s why for example that most people on the east side of Saskatoon our outside of Circle Drive don’t care about what is happening in the core neighborhoods.
  2. I have talked to people still inside the NDP who have long felt that Wall’s personal popularity made it impossible to attack him and no come out worse.  People really like Brad Wall and personally connect to him.
  3. Governments are elected, they are defeated and voters don’t think the Saskatchewan Party has done enough to deserve being defeated.  Do I agree with the Saskatchewan Party all of the time?  Not even close.  I have some serious issues with a lot of what they have done.  Emma Graney has reported on them remarkably well and Murray Mandryk has done an excellent job of giving some context to the bigger issues but are they big enough to make the switch?  According to polls, they have not.  People are happy with the direction the government is taking and do feel they are better off than eight years ago.
  4. Back to point #1.  Lean and senior’s care may have gotten the NDP media attention but it didn’t resonate with voters.  Now I spend hours each month waiting for scheduled appointments and have seen the utter chaos and carnage that is ambulatory care at St. Paul’s Hospital.  It is brutal in every way shape and form.  Yet it doesn’t impact enough of people to cause them to vote differently.
  5. For years the focus in Saskatchewan was the economy an even as it cratered, the NDP focus was on health care and education.  I have never understood this unless you accept that the NDP didn’t have the talent in which to attack it credibly (which is part of what Mandryk is getting at).
  6. Speaking of a lack of talent, there is no excuse for any part to get hammered on social media like the NDP have been by the Saskatchewan Party and not do a better job of returning fire.  This is why you have a war room.   The amount of Saskatchewan Party statements left unchallenged was significant and that can never happen in even a losing campaign.  This is now three campaigns where the NDP have been significantly out maneuvered during the writ.
  7. I think the NDP made a strategic mistake in not running harder in 2016.  I have always felt and been told that the goal was 2020.  I don’t know if the NDP are going to lose seats (we’ve been through this before, I am horrible at predicting races) but from what I was told the best case scenario was 20 seats.  Personally I think they will get to 14 but I wouldn’t make a bet on that.
  8. Finally, I predicted this would be a status quo election back in my January column.  It has pretty much played out as I thought.  The lack of star candidates showed that the NDP did not believe this was a party in waiting.

Will Broten be back as leader.  I have watched every single NDP leadership campaign (well all parties leadership conventions) since Ed Broadbent stepped down and they always baffle me.  Understanding the partisan NDP mind is a skill I have never developed but it does make for great television.

What happened to character in politics?

I don’t know if I am going to write about this for my column in The StarPhoenix.  Probably because it depresses me so much and partly because Murray Mandryk does a way better job of writing about provincial politics than I do but here is my take on the five Saskatchewan candidates who have driving while impaired convictions.

I was in Grade 11 when my first friend was killed by an impaired driver.  He was impaired and killed himself and one other person while driving home from Prince Albert one long weekend.  It was the same thing, they had too much to drink, thought they could handle it and pulled out to pass when they should not have.  It was all over before they knew what happened.  It’s been over 20 years and I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it.

The story is similar with a few other friends over the years.  Sometimes they were intoxicated and hurt someone else.  Other times they were coming home from work and were hit hard themselves.  End result was that their lives were over or spent months or years recovering from the accident.  

It’s not a unique story, Saskatchewan leads the nation in people who drive drunk something that I can’t understand.  People say they have no options but there are always options.  Sleeping in your car and locking the keys in the trunk, calling a friend, using a cab, walking home are all options.  I have been woken up more then once by sheepish friends who have said, “I am downtown and had too much to drink…”  Each time I have always gotten out of bed and gone and helped them out without regret because loosing someone to drunk driving is an experience that none of us should have to deal with.   Many of you have done the same thing because we all know the risk to our friends, family and strangers from someone getting into a vehicle and driving intoxicated.

So when Cam Broten and Brad Wall both allowed candidates who had not only one conviction but multiple convictions to be candidates for their party like nothing was out of the ordinary, I was incredibly disappointed.  These candidates decided that it was okay to drink too much, get into a vehicle and endanger innocent lives because they were too cheap to call a taxi, too prideful to make a phone call, or too selfish to stay at home and not go out and get drunk.  The same actions which disqualify many people from the same “high paying jobs” and quite a few menial jobs that both parties love to talk about is appropriate for candidates to become MLAs?

This is the government that spent much of the last four years legislating red light cameras, baby seats, and how fast we drive in highways zones but both parties have no problems with candidates who have repeated driving while impaired convictions.  In a province where this kind of behavior is already too prevalent and given tactful approval in many circles as “part of growing up”, what message to both Broten and Wall send?

I know backbench MLAs serve really no purpose other than to clap and bang on their tables on command but shouldn’t we expect more from our MLAs and potential cabinet other than the ability to knock on doors and pose for photos with their party leader.  Shouldn’t a clean criminal record be part of the job qualifications?

At this point in the campaign, I’d rather spoil my ballot or not vote than cast it.  I have voted in every election and referendum since I have been 18 and I have never considered not voting before.

Young People Staying

Good ad by the Saskatchewan Party although it doesn’t do well on the whole accuracy meter. 

Young people are still leaving Saskatchewan but it is immigration that is keeping the provinces population up.  Also, the government in power during the time  that Wall is speaking of, was not a NDP government, it was the Grant Devine administration in which Brad Wall worked for as a staffer and later chief of staff.   As far as people leaving the province during that time, the population in Saskatchewan actually grew by 40,000 people.

Political ads never let the facts get in the way of a good ad.

This and that…

  1. The antibiotics are beating back the infection in my right leg.  A week ago the infection had encircled the leg and covered about 80% of the lower leg.  Now the circle is broken and it is about 20% of the leg.  Remarkably if the dog brushes up on it, a kid hits it, or if anything falls on it, it still falls on the painful part of the leg.
  2. A lot of you have asked what the doctors are doing about it.  The don’t really know why it the infection keeps reoccuring.  About 10 times now I have been declared cured and within days of having absolutely no trace of it for weeks, it comes back when I come off the antibiotics.  Each time it comes back with more force, faster, and harsher and I get way sicker in the process.   In all of the opinions I have gotten, the doctors keep telling me that this isn’t supposed to happen. 
  3. I still feel like death.  There is a feeling that the infection has done long term damage to my body, especially the last time.  Mentally I feel better.  The fever takes a weird mental toll on you in that it is exhausting to be either freezing and trying to get warm or burning up and trying to break the fever and stay hydrated.   It’s all I was thinking of for several days.  Despite staying in bed, I was exhausted and not sleeping.  I was too tired to even read anything.
  4. I try not to get angry or frustrated over it but I had some choice words for a doctor who was reminding me that my core fitness needed improvement.  Umm, i have been told to stay off my feet for 14 months now, I barely go out and of course my fitness is going to suck. 
  5. I was going to take this week off my StarPhoenix column to recover as I had nothing left in the tank but I read a great Sports Illustrated column on this years NCAA football season and how he had predicted how Ohio State would be an offensive juggernaut.  It made me think back to all of the predictions that made so much sense in the pre-season of any sport and how few played out that way.  I had some fun predictions for 2016 provincially, municipally and for the Riders.  Prediction columns are fun, where else can I talk about Eric Olauson and Bill Belichick in the same space?
  6. A lot of you know that I have a passion for word processors.  With a new Acer E-11 Netbook for Christmas, I am trying out a few right now.  I just installed Corel Office which is a slimmed down version of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and whatever they use for presentations and I am trying a full blown version of WordPerfect X7.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
  7. Speaking of word processors, with my beloved Windowns Live Writer being discontinued by Microsoft, there is a new open source version called Open Live Writer.  Microsoft has allowed some of their code to be open source (this is a big deal) and it is being developed and upgraded by a team of developers.  The biggest difference is that Open Live Writer is compatible once again with Blogger.
  8. I wish someone would tell Jeb Bush that it is time to pull the plug on his campaign.  It’s over Jeb.
  9. The lack of star NDP candidates for the upcoming provincial election tells me that the NDP knows that it isn’t going to win.  Two relative unknowns in Saskatoon Fairview and Saskatoon Meewasin also tell me the same thing.  Cam Broten may be Premier in 2020 but it seems like the goal is 20 seats (and be a government in waiting in 2016).
  10. Speaking of Saskatoon Meewasin, has there ever been a MLA with a lower profile then Roger Parent.  No website and he even uses a @gmail.com email address on his bilboard ads.   I can’t even find him in Google News (you search for “Roger Parent” and “Saskatoon”, he isn’t there).  He is like the Saskatchewan Liberal Party of the Saskatchewan Party caucus.  I would say this about a New Democrat, Liberal, or Saskatchewan Party MLA but if you are going to do so little work in being a MLA, you don’t deserve to even win a nomination or be elected.
  11. I saw Darren Hill beaking of at Rona Ambrose about this one Twitter but I agree with Rona Ambrose and that is the Liberal Party should have a referendum on changing the way we vote.  Moving from First Past the Post may be the right thing (although I disagree with it) but it is a big of enough change to our democracy that we should have a say in it. 
  12. A couple of things about Brad Wall.  More and more his government reminds me of the Grant Devine regime with it’s dependance on mega-projects to spur the economy.  The stadium in Regina, the Children’s Hospital (which we don’t need nor do we have the population to support) and the carbon capture project.  Huge projects that are costing a recently struggling economy a lot of money.  I might be okay with this but I don’t see a plan from the Saskatchewan Party on how to deal with low commodity prices other than complaining ot the feds (like Grant Devine).  Now with no budget on the horizon before the provincial election and a struggling economy, it gives me an uncomfortable feeling that things are worse than we are being told.  Of course in the end, Brad Wall might not be here much longer and may have his focus on the federal Conservativ leadership race.
  13. I am suprised by the Cleveland Browns inability to acknowledge and get help for Jonny Manziel being an alcoholic and having a drinking problem.    There is a difference between being a party goer and what Manziel is doing.  I am also suprised by Manziel not being able to control his friends cell phone’s.  You don’t think Tom Brady’s friends have cell phones?  Yet you don’t see those kind of videos appearing of him.  In fact with Tom Brady’s Facebook, he has done an amazing job of controlling what people see of him.
  14. This is one of the most damning things I have ever heard someone say of a coach.  Despite that it is what destroyed Josh McDaniels, Bobby Petrino (multiple times) and how many other countless coaches.  Football is a people business and while we talk of the genius of coaches like Belichick with x and o’s, it is their ability to manage and lead men that makes them so impressive.  Not just players but assistant coaches, support staff, and even the guys who take care of the field and bring them all together.  Chip thought it was X and O’s.  He was wrong.
  15. When did Facebook rants become news?  Ryan Meili ran twice for the leadership of the NDP, lost both times and would never run for his party again.  When he runs provincially or federally under someone else’s leadership, I’ll take this more seriously but for now I don’t see this as big news.  I agree that Broten is taking the party to the centre, it’s worked well for the NDP in the past under Romanow and Calvert but it has been a disasterous move for the party federally and provincially elsewhere other than Alberta.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Saskatchewan lessons from Alberta’s Election

After watching the carnage from the PC Party crashing and burning last night, everyone in Saskatchewan seemed to have opinions on what the Alberta election meant for Saskatchewan.

For those on the right, they predicted a wave of people from Alberta moving from the business hating Alberta to the business friendly Saskatchewan.  They seem to expect that when Notley does the unthinkable and raise oil royalties, Alberta companies will flee for Saskatchewan (despite the fact that Peter Lougheed did the exact same thing decades ago.  They ignore the fact that the oil is in Alberta and therefore so are the jobs.  Also as Ontario proved during the Rae years, business will just stay put and vote in a new government before they move to another province.  Roots are important to people, they just don’t get up and leave.   So let’s cool down and ignore those idiots who have actually prediction an influx of a million people to Saskatchewan over the next couple of years and relax.   No one chooses a province based on partisan politics.  It is based on jobs and work.

Those on the left see this as another evidence of an orange wave.  I don’t think it was a move to the NDP as much as it was a total rejection of the PC Party of Alberta.  There will be some vote analysis done but I would suspect Alberta was a really frustrated electorate.  If Notley governs well, then great but if she doesn’t, then she will be done.   Also keep in mind that Alberta is a very progressive big government province.  It is just paid for by oil royalties.  It has lead the way in some of the most innovative housing, homeless, poverty reduction and education strategies in North America and do you know what, no one has cared.  In fact the Wildrose Party has pushed for more of those kind of programs, especially with seniors care.

I was musing online the other night that if I was in Alberta, I may vote for the Wildrose Party because even I don’t think Alberta’s big government social contract works in the long run.  They may be social conservatives in Alberta but they love to spend money. 

For all of the talk of the Klein cuts, let’s put that in context, the neo-Conservative NDP under Roy Romanow made even deeper cuts to fight our deficit.  Alberta may be the biggest spending government not lead by Bob Rae in history.

The big lesson from last night is that elections matter and polls this early out don’t.  That doesn’t mean that Brad Wall will lose and Cam Broten (or whoever the Liberal leader is will win) but it does mean that we have no idea what will happen a year out.  What looked like a political masterstroke to the chattering class five months ago didn’t survive last night.  Now it is the PC Party of Alberta who could be the weaker party in a merger with the Wildrose Party and the Liberal Party may not exist by next election in Alberta.

I heard a bunch of ridiculous talk that Brad Wall is still unbeatable but at different points so was Jim Prentice or Paul Martin.   I remember vote predictions saying that Martin would win over 200 seats and could challenge Brian Mulroney for the largest majority ever.  How did that turn out? Back in 1994, the Liberals lead by Linda Haverstock were well ahead in the polls in Saskatchewan.

In Alberta, Notley was at 10% not that long ago.  There was a feeling that the NDP would be reduced in seat count and only hold their base in Edmonton.

Last weekend I was out with some politicos.  We made some arguments that Brad Wall could win some more seats from the NDP or just as likely the NDP could gain a couple of seats in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert and end up with like 17 – 19 seats.  That is a fearless prediction folks, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party will either win some more seats or lose some more seats in the next election.  Take that prediction to the bank! (of course now that I have said that, things will remain the exact same)

In the end, the average voter doesn’t read this blog, doesn’t follow you and I on Twitter, doesn’t read Murray Mandryk or Andrew Coyne and is focused on getting by in their life and job.  They have things like hockey games to get their kids to and they worry about the noise their car is making far more than whatever stunt has just been played in the legislature.  Politicos may live and die on what is happening (and for that we have Andrew Coyne, Kady O’Malley, and Murray Mandryk) but the rest of the world doesn’t.

Before you scoff at me, in the last city election there were candidates out every night door knocking from now until the election.  All of them, winner or loser told me at one point in that cycle that it didn’t really make any difference this far out from the election, people weren’t engaged.

They pay attention when the writ is dropped and the lawn signs come up.  Right now the vast majority of people are going, “What happened in Alberta and how did the NDP win there? I thought that Prentice guy seemed all right.”  That is the end of it.  I actually read one detailed vote analysis in the United States that showed a surprising amount of people (enough to turn electoral votes) voted on how much rain they got that year and the year before.  If you are a politician and you just read that last part, you need a hug right now.

So the lessons to take from the Alberta vote.  Elections matter.  You never know what can happen and probably never say, “look in the mirror” to someone that you need their vote in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to take away from it.

A new attack ad from your Saskatchewan NDP

Hey there is a new ad by the Saskatchewan New Democrats out.   I’ll leave my comments at this.  As an attack ad, it tries to do too much.  It should have been two ads.   The discussion as to where the money went, can be left for another day.

Disclaimer: I generally hate all political ads. I liked the Daisy ad but that’s it.  I like long policy discussions with nuance.  I don’t think that has ever happened in a political ad so I am always disappointed in them.

A fresh start

So I heard Derek Powazek talking on Twitter about having a fresh start on Twitter.  Someone posted a YouTube video with code on how to unfollow everyone.  After a couple of days of considering it, I decided to try it and saw me unfollow almost 1100 people.

So as soon as I did that, I decided to go look for interesting people to follow.  Of course there was some family and friends but I decided to find local people to follow and started to click “follow”.  It was a lot of fun and some people that I was aware of and enjoyed their tweets and never followed were added to the list.

That took me to about 300 followers and then I looked at who I should be following.  It was all Alberta names!  Apparently many of us in Saskatoon keep an idea on what is going on in Calgary and Edmonton.

I added a few national voices to my followers, photographers, and photography sites and I found myself back at about 900 followers.  I also realized that Saskatoon now has a lot of journalists covering city hall.  You can blame Dave Hutton for that.

I also followed some MLAs from both sides of the floor.  My advice for them is to be more like Brad Wall, Cam Broten, Trent Weatherspoon, or Dustin Duncan.  It’s okay to act more like humans and less like robots folks!

The people I left behind were the spin doctors, NFL pundits, and a lot of American political voices.  They can be fun to follow but don’t contribute much to my life.

If I unfollowed you and haven’t followed you back, don’t take it personally.  It will take some time to track down everyone I left behind and I’ll get to you soon.

What would Brad Wall do?

Murray Mandryk writes about what Brad Wall would have said about lean if he was the Leader of the Opposition

Suppose it was an NDP government that came to the Legislative Assembly with a $40-million, fouryear bill for an American efficiency expert applying principles used in the Japanese auto industry to health care and virtually every other aspect of provincial government. What would Brad Wall have said were it the NDP shelling out millions upon millions to Seattle’s John Black and Associates – $1 million of it just to secure Black’s services before he did any actual work?

Does anyone remember Wall and his Saskatchewan Party mocking the $37 million blown by the NDP on Spudco for useless storage sheds? Might Opposition leader Brad Wall have used terms like “snakeoil” or at least “a boondoggle”? Might the taxpayers’ and small business associations have screamed bloody murder about NDP waste?

How would then-Opposition Leader Brad Wall have reacted to the utter hubris we heard from current Premier Brad Wall in the legislature Thursday when he suggested that the NDP can’t criticize a made-in-Saskatchewan solution because it didn’t come up with the solution? Do you think that Opposition leader Brad Wall might have reminded Premier Brad Wall that this is the province that invented public health care? That Lean has not been proven to work on a provincewide scale? Or that many of the Lean “savings” the government talks about like hiring 900 nurses a) were done before Lean; b) are not part of the Lean initiative or even something Lean is exploring, and; (c) may not be savings at all?

Might Opposition leader Brad Wall have noted we pay health-care CEOs $400,000 a year and deputy ministers $300,000 a year with some expectation they should find these health saving efficiencies? Might that Brad Wall have noted there are cheaper consultants in this world?

Would Opposition leader Brad Wall have wondered why we have paid John Black $3.6 million in airfare in the last two years alone? Might that Brad Wall wonder about whether it was really necessary to fly in Japanese senseis at a cost of $3,500 a day each for their five-day lectures to health leaders (in addition to those $2,000 flights)?

Might he have further wondered if there is a better, more costefficient method of training 900 Saskatchewan health-care workers than flying them to Seattle to partake in what is now called the “world’s biggest health-quality experiment”?

And do you think the ever-flippant Brad Wall might have just had a little fun with what some describe as Lean’s required “cult-like” buy-in?

 

Tough Year Ahead for Wall?

Trouble ahead for Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party?

In early December, the government issue a list of economic highlights for 2013: population growth, up 100,000 in six years; economic growth of 3.6 per cent, second-highest in Canada; unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent, lowest in Canada; employment up 17,000, “an all-time record;” and record crop production of 34.2 million tonnes (later increased to 38.4 million tonnes).

But recent economic forecasts have been more subdued. suggesting that the province’s economy may be due for a slowdown next year. Earlier this month, RBC downgraded Saskatchewan’s forecasted economic growth from 2.7 per cent to 2.1 per cent in 2014, which put us squarely in the middle of the pack among the provinces.

Part of that downgrade is just a return to a normal crop from the record harvest in 2013. But part of it is plummeting potash prices, plunging production and reduced capital spending.

Similarly, two commodity price reports this week pointed to weakness, not just in potash, but uranium, oil and agricultural commodities, like wheat and canola.

Oil prices are falling, thanks to widening differentials between western Canadian heavy oil and benchmark West Texas Intermediate, which are now pushing $40 US a barrel. Even Canadian light crude prices are $20 US a barrel lower than comparable U.S. crudes due to growing supplies of light oil production from North Dakota’s Bakken play and a chronic shortage of pipeline capacity.

Potash prices have fallen below $300 US per tonne, thanks to the collapse of the BPC cartel, while uranium prices are at a “low ebb” at $34.50 US per pound due to the fallout from the Fukushima tsunami in 2012 and the subsequent idling of 50 Japanese nuclear reactors.

Even agricultural commodity prices have been under pressure lately due to the “monster-sized crops” in the U.S. and Canada and are sitting nearly 12 per cent below levels one year ago.

Analysts forecast commodity prices “bottoming’’ in 2014 before returning to the “bull’’ market in 2015 and beyond.

The point is, Wall is right to be cautious about the province’s economic fortunes in 2014, despite the record performances posted in 2013. But that’s not Wall’s only problem.

He knows that the province’s fiscal position is far more tenuous than the rosy picture painted by Finance Minister Ken Krawetz in his midterm financial statement, which shows the province sitting on a $22.8-million surplus in the general revenue fund. This is the same general revenue fund that the provincial auditor’s report said was nearly $600 million in the hole at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, instead of the $58 million surplus reported by the finance ministry.

The same provincial auditor issued an “adverse’’ opinion on the province’s books, saying the financial statements do not provide a fair and accurate accounting of the province’s fiscal position.

So Wall finds himself between a rock and hard place, largely of his own making. Happy New Year will have a whole new meaning for the premier in 2014.

Don’t count the Premier down quite yet.  He enjoys considerable trust from the people of Saskatchewan and as Alan Blakeney once said, “It’s easier to govern duing adversity than prosperity.”  That being said, winning a third election is much tougher than winning the second.

Throughout history, dire poverty has been a basic condition of the mass of mankind

We can eradicate it by 2030 according to the Economist

IN SEPTEMBER 2000 the heads of 147 governments pledged that they would halve the proportion of people on the Earth living in the direst poverty by 2015, using the poverty rate in 1990 as a baseline. It was the first of a litany of worthy aims enshrined in the United Nations “millennium development goals” (MDGs). Many of these aims—such as cutting maternal mortality by three quarters and child mortality by two thirds—have not been met. But the goal of halving poverty has been. Indeed, it was achieved five years early.

In 1990, 43% of the population of developing countries lived in extreme poverty (then defined as subsisting on $1 a day); the absolute number was 1.9 billion people. By 2000 the proportion was down to a third. By 2010 it was 21% (or 1.2 billion; the poverty line was then $1.25, the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines in 2005 prices, adjusted for differences in purchasing power). The global poverty rate had been cut in half in 20 years.

That raised an obvious question. If extreme poverty could be halved in the past two decades, why should the other half not be got rid of in the next two? If 21% was possible in 2010, why not 1% in 2030?

Why not indeed? In April at a press conference during the spring meeting of the international financial institutions in Washington, DC, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, scrawled the figure “2030” on a sheet of paper, held it up and announced, “This is it. This is the global target to end poverty.” He was echoing Barack Obama who, in February, promised that “the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades.”

This week, that target takes its first step towards formal endorsement as an aim of policy round the world. The leaders of Britain, Indonesia and Liberia are due to recommend to the UN a list of post-2015 MDGs. It will be headed by a promise to end extreme poverty by 2030.

There is a lot of debate about what exactly counts as poverty and how best to measure it. But by any measure, the eradication of $1.25-a-day poverty would be an astonishing achievement. Throughout history, dire poverty has been a basic condition of the mass of mankind. Thomas Malthus, a British clergyman who founded the science of demography, wrote in 1798 that it was impossible for people to “feel no anxiety about providing the means of subsistence for themselves and [their] families” and that “no possible form of society could prevent the almost constant action of misery upon a great part of mankind.” For most countries, poverty was not even a problem; it was a plain, unchangeable fact.

You know what I would like to see?  Stephen Harper and the premiers making the same pledge to radically improve conditions on Canadian reserves.  It’s not any of their faults that it has gotten this bad but it would be interesting to work with First Nations leaders and come up with a baseline that by 2030 (or 2020) that all First Nations would be at.  

I can’t imagine how hard it would be to navigate the different groups but can it be any harder than cutting extreme poverty around the world in half?

Cam Broten wins the NDP leadership

Joe Couture reports

Cam Broten – who won the leadership of the provincial NDP on Saturday by just 44 votes – told reporters after his victory that he knows the party has “a lot of work to do in earning the trust of Saskatchewan people.

“It was a close race,” the second-term Saskatoon Massey Place MLA, who is 34 years old, admitted to the media at TCU Place, where the leadership convention was held – although, he in the next breath mentioned former Manitoba premier Gary Doer and his win of the leadership of his province’s NDP by just 21 votes in 1988.

“But we know we have a lot of work to do as a party and as a caucus,” Broten continued. “All the candidates have done such a tremendous job, their teams have done a tremendous job, and we need everyone involved to build the NDP once again and earn the trust of Saskatchewan people.”

On the second ballot at the convention, Broten received 4,164 of the total votes cast or just more than 50 per cent, narrowly beating out Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili, who was ahead on the first ballot, but received 4,120 votes on the second.

Meili described the results to reporters as “bloody close.

“Who would expect that I could actually get closer to winning this time than last time?” he said, referencing 2009’s leadership race, in which he finished second to Dwain Lingenfelter – who ultimately led the party to a crushing defeat in 2011.

“There was, I think, an appetite for the vision that I had, but obviously what Cam brought forward also appealed very much to the party members and ultimately, his team and his campaign was successful,” Meili continued, telling reporters he didn’t expect to try to challenge the close results.

The results of the first ballot, announced earlier in the afternoon, saw Meili in first with 39 per cent of the vote and Broten in second with 34 per cent – Trent Wotherspoon, who came in third with 24 per cent, withdrew from the race minutes later.

Broten made the right moves in the winning the leadership but he was wrong about one thing

Asked about the possibility of becoming the focus of negative publicity generated by his Saskatchewan Party opponents, Broten also sought to minimize concerns.

“Attack ads can be effective in the short-term, but in the long term, I think it turns people off politics,” he said, noting he plans to “stay in touch with what Saskatchewan people want and stay in tune with what their concerns and priorities are.”

I have heard from a couple of NDP MLAs that the biggest mistake they made was not to “define” Brad Wall when he was elected Saskatchewan Party leader.  If I was the Saskatchewan Party, I would not make that mistake in trying to “define” Broten.  Of course the interesting part is that he may be hard to define negatively.  He doesn’t claim a residence in Cavendish, PEI; he didn’t spend most of his life abroad claiming to be an American and unless I missed a big gaffe in the debates, there isn’t much there.  It will be interesting on what they do and if it will stick.

A vision for Canada

Speaking of Liberals, here is a video of Ignatieff that I really enjoyed back in the day.

Too bad that the vision in the video never was able to get into the public consciousness.  Whether that Ignatieff or the Liberal Party’s fault, we all know the results.  Speaking of political videos, let me remind you of this video by Brian Topp.

Of course the right can put out some spectacular videos as well.  This one comes from the Saskatchewan Party.

Column: SAID Expansion Offers Hope

My column in The StarPhoenix

The vast majority of the men who I see at the shelter where I work come and go as their situation in life changes.

Some decide that it will be their home, and become like family. The shelter is not an assisted living facility, but we do have longerterm rooms and provide a level of care that matches what these men need.

A combination of aging and deteriorating health means that eventually some have to move from our facility into a care home.

It’s a hard day for both them and the staff. Losing one’s independence is a traumatic thing to deal with, no matter where you are at in life.

The Saskatchewan government announced back in 2009 a program called the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability. The SAID program did three things: It moved people from the Saskatchewan Assistance Program, it streamlined the process of getting disability benefits and it paid out benefits on a green cheque.

A new cheque, but no new money. It didn’t feel like much progress was made. When it was first announced, I thought it was more about manipulating Social Services statistics than anything else.

When Premier Brad Wall on Oct. 17 made the SAID program the Saskatchewan Party’s largest election promise, I was surprised.

He expanded the program to include the estimated 7,000 persons with significant and ongoing disabilities who are living independently, from the current 3,000 people who are assessed as needing Level 2 care and living in residential care homes.

There is new money for both groups. For those who live in a care facility and have their needs met by the facility, there will be more money for personal needs.

For those who live independently, funding will eventually increase to a maximum of $350 a month if you are single, and $400 for couples.

The money does two things. For those living independently, it allows them to maintain their freedom and frees up beds and resources for those who need the help. It also gives them a measure of freedom and dignity that is hard to achieve at current Social Services rates.

But the program isn’t perfect. While there is $4 million for autism, even Wall admits there is more work to be done to realize his goal of making Saskatchewan the best place to live in Canada for people with disabilities. The funding is a good start, but the list of what needs to be done is long.

There are too few mental health group homes, it can be difficult to access services needed by those living independently, and there is the issue of concurrent disorders. To address them all will take time.

The process to create SAID started in 2006, and it’s been five years to the announcement date. While the timeline can be discouraging, the emergence of a strategy to tackle complex social issues is encouraging.

While expanding SAID is a good policy, it was a yawner as a campaign promise. As of Wednesday, a YouTube video of the announcement had a total of eight views. Even the NDP liked the announcement.

Dwain Lingenfelter told the Regina Leader-Post: "I think anything we can do to help families who have a member with disabilities is a good thing. We’ll want to look at it and compare the system we have in place to what has been announced and what we’re proposing."

Beyond an awkward reference to it by Wall during the leaders’ debate, the promise has been barely been mentioned since the announcement.

While the announcement may have been boring politics, Wall’s statement that he wants Saskatchewan to be the best place for people with disabilities gives some hope that his government is ready to tackle some of the social issues we face as a province head on, rather than just manage them. The promised $33.3 million in the fourth year of the program isn’t a lot of money, but it provides a significant upgrade in quality of life for more than 10,000 Saskatchewan residents with disabilities.

The policy will also provide a framework for the Wall government to deal with other social ills, whose symptoms are expressed in such things as higher food bank usage and an increasing number of homeless in our cities.

As SAID has shown, targeting spending at a defined problem can make a big difference in people’s lives without having to spend a lot of money. Let’s hope the government uses the same approach in tackling other social issues.

The list is long, but it looks like Wall will have another four years to work on it.

jordon@jordoncooper.com