John McGettigan: Candidate for the Saskatchewan Party Nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota Constituency

So I heard that John McGettigan was running for the Saskatchewan Party nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota.  I then found this speech from a couple of years ago he gave at a Teacher’s Rally where he questioned the Brad Wall lead Saskatchewan Party governments intelligence, passion for education, and commitment to our children.

Now he wants to be a part of the same government he bashed from the front of the legislature.  It’s been a long time since I have been involved in partisan politics but I don’t think it works like that.

Of course it actually gets weirder with this odd campaign announcement on Facebook where he seems to think he is running to be a cabinet minister.

Why is John McGettigan running for the Saskatchewan Party?

So if he isn’t named to cabinet (and given the perks to the position) is he going to quit?  Who makes those kinds of declarations (or doesn’t at least take away his campaign managers computer) as they announce their nomination?

Statement from Darren Cannell

Okay, so the reason the Sask Party has “messed up” education is that they don’t have the information needed to fix it?  The bureaucrats, the meetings with the unions, the work with the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation, meetings with John McGettigan himself … that isn’t getting them the information they need?  So only McGettigan himself once elected and presumably named as Minister of Education will then share this information on how to fix education in this province.

It’s so weird.  It is like he is running to be education minister and that is it which even if you have no idea how the world works, you have to know our system doesn’t work like that.

In case you are wondering if that is all.  No.  There was this statement by his campaign manager.

Darren Cannell

Again, this man needs to have his computer taken away from him.  This may be the most disastrous start to any nomination campaign that I have ever seen.

Employees raising concerns about Regina nursing home

Part of a government’s job is looking out for the most vulnerable in society.

Three employees at a Regina nursing home that was at the centre of a recent controversy are speaking out today, describing Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home as a troubled place with bad food that has failed to make needed improvements.

At the Legislature Monday, the Saskatchewan New Democrats were again discussing conditions at Santa Maria, the home where Margaret Warholm lived until her transfer to hospital last fall and death three days later.

Three care home aides, who have requested that their names not be published out of fear they might be fired, disputed claims that Santa Maria staff have had some retraining and that things have changed for the better in the year since Warholm died.

They said there has been no change in policies or procedures since Warholm’s death.

They say short-staffing means residents get a bath roughly once every two weeks and sometimes have to wear soiled bandages for extended periods.

“We’ve always been overworked I feel,” Sue (not her real name) said. 

“Working short — probably in the last year — before that it was never, ever heard of,” Sue said. “We never, ever worked short. Lately it’s just an everyday occurrence.”

As a consequence, elderly residents don’t get cared for properly, she said.

Another worker, Anna (not her real name), said the quality of the food being served to residents is also a major concern.

“The food is like leftover food on a daily basis,” she said. “What they have for breakfast, they’re going to have it for lunch. And when they have something for lunch, the left over is for supper. Residents don’t eat that, there is lots of waste.”

The women also said the inability to spend time with each patient is an ongoing problem.

“We can’t even spend 10 minutes with the residents, like one-on-one,” Jenny (not her real name) said. “They need to do something, not just sitting in a chair all day or looking at the walls.”

The case of Warholm, 74, who died Oct. 6, 2013, was raised by the NDP in the legislature last week.

Her children believe she died prematurely at least in part because of the treatment she received in the home.

The NDP has produced a letter from 49 Santa Maria staff members expressing concerns.

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.

Where to give this Christmas

This morning I was listening to the radio when I heard the Lighthouse ask for donations of personal care items this Christmas.  I wasn’t surprised but disappointed.  When I was there a contract was finalized with the Ministry of Social Services that paid the Lighthouse very well to house people in its shelters at a going rate of $67.50 a night (that’s been the rate for the last couple of years).  Over a month, it is over $2400 a bed a month to house someone (which is why housing first programs are so important).  It is a constant rate across the province.  Unlike other shelters, the LH gets stable funding for those beds.

When the housing rates were increased, I was invited to the announcement and the government made it really clear that the increase of rates was designed to ensure that not only room and board are taken care of but also things like shampoo and hygiene products.  It was to provide a quality level of care.  It actually a higher rate than other agencies get to provide the same kind of services.  So why if an agency is getting around $2k a bed for room and board, can it not purchase shampoo, tampons, and soap?  Especially when there are extremely cheap institutional suppliers that sell this stuff for pennies a package (I know because I used to order it).  Even expensive things (like lockers, new beds, and linen) were a cost of doing business and orgs budgeted the money for it.

Even for long term clients, they are not being housed at a loss (going rate is $820 a month, some agencies like the LH get $910 a month from Social Services)  Not only that but with the leadership of Premier Wall and the Saskatchewan Party (see, I can give credit where credit is due), the SAID program is giving more money than ever before to ensure clients are comfortable and can have their needs meant.  It has been an increase of hundreds of dollars a month.  No NGOs are providing services at a loss to the provincial government.  So why do so many agencies use this season to ask for money for programs that are clearly fully funded by taxpayers.  So we pay our taxes to pay for it and then that money isn’t spent because people will donate as well.  It has never made any sense to me.  In the end, some non profits are using the cold, the season, and year end generosity to manipulate people into giving more and that sucks.

Even for people who Social Services would not fund (it happens), the cost of housing someone was so low that it never impacted the bottom line on the budget.  You were left with laundry costs, water for a shower, and breakfast (which was made anyways).  When I was at the Salvation Army, we stopped charging clients for things because they were so cheap to provide for free (like laundry soap) and improved client life.  There was always enough money.

A friend of mine was once the national treasurer of a national charitable organization.  He told Wendy and I over dinner that we should never give to his organization as it has millions of dollars in surplus every single year and yet it kept going out all over the country and getting more.  Those are facts that were never made public but instead the appeal for more or dire consequences would come would be repeated.  You know what, Canadians would “answer the call” and give thinking they are needed to keep essential services going.  In the end, the programs are totally funded by governments and often more than one level.

I was sitting down with another leader of a large non-profit who was talking about how they make their communications confusing about their finances confusing as accurate information may discourage donors.  In other words he didn’t want people to know who much government funding his organization received which helped his appeals for support to individuals and business.  I’m sorry but how is that manipulative at best and fraudulent at worst?

Dishonesty and fund raising go part and parcel.  Like I said shelters run a profit (or at least the ones I ran did) in excess of six figures per annum some years.  Yet what was featured in appeals for help?  Shelters.  I know people wanted to give but not a single dime of that money ever went to shelter services because it was never needed.  Non-profit fundraising is big business even in Saskatchewan.  A Regina shelter’s American fundraising firm wasn’t taking Saskatoon clients because their Regina client is fund raising here (with them taking a large portion of what is raised).  The firm is quite impressive and is using micro targeted mailing lists to target Saskatoon households and blocks.  Oddly enough while the parse up Saskatoon by the street according to income, they fail to understand that we are in Saskatoon and their client serves Regina. It’s not my money.

There are some programs that desperately need help but it’s hard to figure out which ones.  One agency I know of proudly states they get no government funding when in reality, about 90% of their revenue comes from the Ministry of Social Services.  I don’t know how they reconcile that but that is the line they give to donors and the media.  It makes no sense to me. 

My point is that you may want to look hard at who you donate to this season and ask some really hard questions about how that money is being spent and why they need money for it.  For some orgs, they may be working in an area where the governments don’t really care like food security (Friendship Inn and Saskatoon Food Bank).  Food programs almost never get government funding and are almost entirely dependent on donations.   That may be a good place to start.

Another thing to consider is why are some agencies asking for money for things when others are not?  If the government funding is there, why do some keep asking for donations to help the same group of clients that several other types of housing providers are not.  It’s awkward to ask those questions and my experience and seeing those financials is that answer is often unpleasant.  Tim Richter, the head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness talks of the homeless industrial complex and he is right.  I saw it up close for 8 years.  It can be really self-serving.

Personally my giving tends to be attached to areas where the government doesn’t like to participate in or does a really bad job of working in.  I also put my money where my mouth is and I give money directly to a couple of people who need the help.  I have written about the benefits of giving money directly to people before and it’s benefits and it is something that I believe in.

Those are my thoughts.  I am sorry if I hurt anyone by these thoughts.  I hate to say it but if I have, I may not have a lot of respect for what your org is doing anyways.

Saskatchewan Connected

I have to admit I was disappointed to see this announced.

A free wireless Internet service in Saskatchewan is being shut down six years after it was introduced.

SaskTel has announced that the “Saskatchewan! Connected” initiative is being terminated across the province due to lack of use.

The service was launched by the provincial government, providing a basic level of Internet service throughout the certain businesses districts and post-secondary campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, and Prince Albert.

At the time government ministers insisted it would “build on Saskatchewan’s reputation for innovation and being in the forefront of technology advancement.”

It was used by a lot of homeless men and women at The Lighthouse who had wifi capable cell phones but could not afford the extremely high data rates to stay connected to others.  Since The Lighthouse had the worst network I have ever seen, I found myself having to use Saskatchewan Connected on more than one occasion but found it was unusable after mid-morning which suggested to me that it was being used a lot.

It’s a short sighted decision by the Saskatchewan Party that hurts those without internet access tremendously.