Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It has truly been a learning experience for me writing this blog. For the best part I have enjoyed your comments and ideas, although I don't always agree with them. I want to thank each of you for participating.

I have my family arriving for the Christmas holiday and my focus over the next few days will be on my family. I do wish each of you a Merry Christmas and the enjoyment of friends and family during this holiday season.

We will catch up after Christmas. Have a great one!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Premiere Premier

Mandryk's SP column today poses the question of premier of the decade - Calvert or Wall. I think it is a little early in Wall's career to make that judgment, unless the criterion is simply electability.

I personally feel that Wall is a better ambassador for Saskatchewan than was Calvert. In that respect Wall reminds me of Romanow. He gives the province more credibility outside the provincial boundaries and inspires provincial pride. However, Wall's ability to govern has not yet been fully tested.

On the other hand, Calvert has a track record that leaves me feeling he wasn't good or bad. A plodder.

Your thoughts?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stop the train before the wreck

We mandate that all children must be educated. I do not understand why schools spend the money they spend on marketing a mandated service. If you are Catholic you are legislated to pay your taxes to the Catholic school division and may send your children to a Catholic school. If you are non-Catholic you must pay your taxes to the public school division and they must accept all students. It is, or was, a simple concept.

In an age when dollars are short all way round, why do school divisions compete for students? Education is about one generation preparing a future generation to sustain society. Yet we have school divisions competing for students and using our tax dollars for that purpose. And then they ask for more money for education. Although it may appear that the money spent is a small fraction of the over all budget (SP 12/19/09) what else could the public system spend $215,000.00 dollars on or the Catholic system $87,000.00?

We now have created the options of public schools, Catholic schools, francophone schools, associate schools, private schools and home schools. Each want what the other has and exhibit an entitlement to tax dollars to finance their wants.

All the public-at-large wants is an educated community. Who is engineering this train and where is it going? Put education back on track!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ain't nobody happy . . .

In Mandryk's SP column today he said its usually a sign of a good decision when nobody is happy. I'm happy. I think the government made a lucid decision . The benefit of development did not out weigh the cost at this point in time. The inane comments on this issue was the response from opposition who chastised the government for wasting several months and spending money on the process to arrive at a non-decision and the Chamber of Commerce who claims government didn't base its decision on good economics.

If we get to the point were we are freezing to death in the dark, the opponents to the decision can then shout their "I told you so" words of wisdom.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Green Acres

Today's rental situation in Saskatoon reminds me of the late 1970s. At that time our rent almost doubled in a short period of time and absolutely nothing else was available in our price range. It is why we bit the bullet and bought a house, although we struggled coming up with a down payment and cut every luxury out of our monthly budget in order to make the mortgage payment. Ironically today our monthly property tax payment exceeds our initial mortgage payment.

For years the province and cities used the lure of cheap housing and land costs to attract business to our locale. The high cost of living in neighouring provinces brought ex pats back home. We are what we wanted to be.

Social housing will address the issues of the marginalized. My heart goes to young middle and lower middle class families who are caught in the abyss. In today's SP one such person commented on looking for residence outside of the city. I think they will find that anything within reasonable driving distance to the city will not be much of a bargain.

Perhaps rural Saskatchewan will now use the lure the province and cities previously used - cheaper housing and land costs. In today's technological world many people can work out of their home. It might be nice to see some growth outside of the two major cities.

The grass might not just look greener, it may be greener on green acres.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Political Virtuosos

Thank God the provincial auditor can't be fired. It would seem that no matter who is governing simple math concepts elude the governing body. Put the liabilities on the debt side and the revenue on the credit side. If government owns the Crown and takes revenue from the Crown, it stands to reason that it also own the debt of the corporation. How many times does the auditor have to repeat himself before the message sinks in? The simple definition of revenue is money coming in, not saved money. The rule of thumb for we mere mortals, when we use our savings to pay unexpected expenses we do not include that money as revenue on our tax returns. How hard is this to grasp?

I wish all of the MLAs would sit down with the auditor, design a realistic budget process without pointing fingers as to who created or inherited whatever and give us a true picture of our provincial economic situation. Thereafter every government should be required to follow the process.

I shutter to think what we would discover if the auditor did a report on the city's books. The current process of audited statements never comments on the financial practice of city management. Do we rob Peter to pay Paul?

Ah, what the hell . . let's just keep fiddling . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Apples, oranges, no lemons

It might seem a little too close to home for me to comment on, but the graduation rates published by the Ministry of Learning (SP Dec. 12/09), comparing the Public/Catholic schools, left, wrongfully, the impression that Catholic schools trumped Public Schools in terms of academic success. It left a sour taste.

The Saskatoon Public School system has comprehensive schools that offer practical/trade courses which often appeal to the less academically inclined student and which the Catholic system does not offer.

The Saskatoon Public system has programming and child are facilities to assist the return of teen parents to complete their secondary education. In many instances the teen parent cannot take a full class loan each year and has to extend the time frame for matriculation.

The Saskatoon Public system has a substantial number of immigrant students learning English as they work through the curriculum. As well, it has a growing number of aboriginal students that spend part of the school year on reserve and then in an urban school and are in greater need of school time and resources just to keep up.

The Saskatoon Public system has programming to accommodate every kind of student - and this may be the only criticism I have of the system in terms of student services. The smorg may be too large for the system to operate effectively.

And public systems can turn no one away unlike other schools and/or divisions. There is no "one size fits all" program. By its very nature it cannot be homogeneous as might be a private or Catholic school. It cannot cater to the majority. It will however, with support from families and communities, return to society a well-rounded future generation.

This is not an anti-Catholic bash. The Catholic system does a good job and I applaud their work. I simply think the Ministry is at times comparing apples to oranges. There are no lemons.

This little piggy . . .

I enjoy the Farmer's Market. I don't mind paying the extra for local product. What I do mind is the unrealistic people associated with the market. One group would be the vendors who want the space at their convenience and little cost. The others being the purchasers who want their own version of Granville Island or The Forks, both of which are public markets, not farmer's markets. And both these markets have the necessary population density to thrive.

After public consultation, the city spent considerable money renovating the building, creating the public square and negotiating an agreement with the Farmer's Market. The deal was to have the place open five days a week and viable. If vendors of the market think its a tough slug to do that then they should speak to small business downtown who struggle year round and work 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Small business pays ever escalating property tax, increasing light/water rates, provides its own sidewalk clearing and pays for a business license in order to operate. Most can't afford many employees so work the long hours on their own or with family. Most of these same small business people live in the city and pay tax on their homes as well. On the other hand, most of the people at the market do not live in the city and pay city taxes.

About a month ago I received a notice of a market being held at The Refinery on Wednesdays. I haven't been there - hate the parking issues around Broadway. However, over the summer I did try the growing number of produce markets available in mall parking lots.

The city should level the playing field and every market vendor should pay a fee for their stall regardless of where they set up. Market vendors should learn from small business. And my tax dollars should not be used to subsidize cottage businesses.

I will will now await the squeal!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fear of the unknown

I'm a little torn on whether or not Saskatchewan should get the nod for an isotope producing nuclear research reactor. It seems a natural progression since we introduced cobalt 60 for cancer treatment and have the Syncroton. I like the idea of being a science city. My hesitation is my conditioned fear of all things nuclear.

I not sure if my uncertainty stems from a fear that our decisions makers are wearing rose-colored glasses or that we'll all take on a rosy glow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deep thoughts or shallow minds

Former Chief Meechance is going to jail for eight months for thwarting the democratic process by buying votes for hard, cold cash according to the SP report. I think the process needs that protection and the message needs to be sent to politicians and/or candidates that we expect honesty from them.

At the same time I have to toy with the idea that politicians/parties "mislead" the electorate all the time in order to get our votes. We seem to be bought with our own money in every election. I guess the difference is that they use our money to by our vote whereas Meechance used his own.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mathematically Challenged?

I'm late posting this morning as it took me a while to come out of shock after reading the Star Phoenix article on Council's record capital spending. We have six councillors that have committed to no tax increase beyond the rate of inflation, that being the majority vote. We have the provincial government freezing spending and examining its priorities and commitments. We have a capital budget that suggests a 10 to 12 percent tax increase. Somehow none of this adds up.

Councillor Paulsen states she expects the provincial government to keep their promise and she is not going to stockpile money to give the province an opportunity to find a way out. I expect this means council spends, creates debt and if the government doesn't cough up then it is the fault of the government, not council, and thus council is entitled to jack up property tax. This rationale is so old and lame. Its as smart as the provincial government establishing a budget based on commodity revenues.

The items in this budget that will find favour with the public have the least financial impact. Adding $425,000 to repair of back lanes, although a pittance, is a start. Extra money for front street repair would have been appreciated as well. Doubling the community garden development fund to a whopping sum of $3,000 seems the best investment. For $3,000 you enable the community to enhance and maintain city owned property. Its a steal. The city can't even cut weeds on the boulevards for that amount of money.

As for $5o,ooo for rebranding Gordie Howe Bowl, if you have to spend money to find ways to convince people how to use a facility maybe you don't need the expanded facility. Although I support a community pool for Mayfair maybe things are going over the top and you don't need lane pools, spray toys, waterslides, etc. Lets keep in mind that after the capital expenditure comes the operating and maintenance cots of these facilities.

I for one would invest in buying each councillor an abacus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Tiger by the tail . .

I think Tiger Woods is one of those rare athletics - the best in his sport to date. If you are a golfer it is a pleasure to watch him play. I am very interested in every aspect of his game.

I am not remotely interested in his matrimonial harmony, or lack thereof. I care not how many dalliances he is alleged to have had, their names or amounts paid for silence - if in fact any of this is true. If a public figure's personal/family life does not impede his/her ability to do their work, or they do not use their family as props for personal advancement, then it should not be up for public consumption.

Put the Tiger back on the tee.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I see the train a comin'

Who can we believe? I have heard for decades that the baby boomers are the wealthiest generation that ever was or will be. Yet during Jack Layton's recent visit to the NDP homeland he states that we have a demographic train coming and we don't have the tools in place to deal with it. Thus we, the general taxpayer, should invest 700 million into the Canada Pension Plan.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but unlike Old Age Security pension that every Canadian receives, Canada Pension is the plan that employers and employees contribute to and your pension receipt is based on your contribution. I might understand if he wanted to bump up OAS for poorer seniors, but the demographic train coming is hauling, for the best part, affluent passengers.

I think I could be convinced that many of today's senior women need additional assistance, since many would not have worked outside of the home and be eligible for CPP, but CPP is not the correct funding source to fix this problem.

Jack needs to check the destination of the train before booking a ticket.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not the perfect Xmas gift

I agree with the law that people should not be allowed to profit from their crimes. When parolee Colin Thatcher decided to write his denial, my first thoughts were who cares. Another book to collect dust on the shelf of the unread. Then Sask Justice decided to become its promoter. This book is getting prime time media attention, not because of its literary value or content, but because of the action of Sask Justice.

I can't believe that outside of Moose Jaw, or Saskatchewan, that anyone would be interested in this book. After publishing costs, how much profit would there be? Would any thinking person actually pay a dime to read the ramblings of Thatcher? I hoped not. However I expect the book sales will now increase as a result of the actions of Sask Justice. Perhaps we should have waited to see if there was any profit to pursue before chasing after it.

Real authors would kill for this kind of attention to their publications. Hmmm . . .maybe . . .

As books are hot commodities during the Xmas season, treat your friends and families kindly and bypass this one.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Big Brothers

I have this growing uneasiness about government intervention on lifestyle choices, yet I don't necessarily disagree with it.

Banning the use of cell phones while driving is one. I think it is dangerous for a driver to call or text while driving and puts others at risk. The dangerous part is distraction from concentration necessary to vehicle operation, so allowing for hands free use of cell phones defeats the purpose.

Banning smoking in a private vehicle with kids in the car is the right thing to do. One would think every person would know that and not do it. Apparently not, so government will legislate it.

Restriction on tobacco sales sort of falls into line with alcohol. You have to be of a certain age to purchase booze and then only from the government operated store, with few exceptions. At a time when debate is ongoing as to whether or not private liquor sales should be allowed, we take another legal substance and put more restriction on it. If it is a given that both alcohol and tobacco are unhealthy lifestyle choices, why not just ban sales of these products.

Increasing our conduct, when deemed by government to be bad for us, is being legislated. It seems if we as individuals are judged by government or lobby groups to be making poor choices, then big brother will take away our right to choose.

Given that obesity is a growing health concern across the province/country, perhaps government will save us from ourselves and legislate diets.

I am left in a quandary. I don't disapprove of legislation that protects people, particularly youth, but I am getting an uneasy feeling about the intrusion of government.

I already have three great brothers and don't really want government to join my family tree.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The pot and the kettle

"There is only one taxpayer." Who do you think said this? Canadian Taxpayers Association? A business group? A right wing fanatic? Wrong! It was NDP deputy leader Deb Higgins. I wish she had understood that that when her party was in government and down loaded everything onto municipal governments and property tax payers. As dear ole granny liked to say, this is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Although the Gantefoer was way off the mark on the potash revenue and guilty of over optimism on potash sales, so were legions of others who held on to potash stock. Old Premier Wall is now damned if he does and damned if he doesn't on this budget. When he puts a hold on spending until this mess is reviewed and the budget renewed he is charged with breach of promise. If he continues with the spending and we are in a deficit, he is charged with mismanagement. I think the apt expression here is 'hoisted on one's own petard.'

For those of us in the peanut gallery it is simply hypocrisy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Mendel Chair Art Knight should have his name on a ballot in an election. He's a natural. His response to the Mayor's question on who approached whom "The gallery came to the realization that this wasn't going to work at the current location." was the ultimate finesse in political debate. When you have two councillors sitting on your board, a council that has been reluctant from day one to finance an expansion and publicly saying it wants a public arts centre on River Landing, it is only surprising that it took so long to come to the realization.

Initially I had heard that the federal/provincial governments were going to fund the whole thing and the concern would be operating costs. At the time of the federal/provincial announcement it stated each senior level was going to put in $13 million, less than half of the original $55 million. At that time the Mayor said the balance would be fund raised - he forgot to mention the fundraising would be the mil rate. After committing $13 million for a new building, I was surprised the province left another $4 million on the table - that being the money for an expansion that was not to be.

In the end, the city is putting in about $20 million bucks. To date, there is no private development to support the public component. We have six councillors that have committed to no mil rate increase beyond rate of inflation. Where is that money tree?

On the horizon is the MVA, which is totally funded by the city and province for operating costs, salivating at the thought of moving into the old Mendel site - and it will be looking for capital funding to renovate the existing building and increased operating costs.

And to come full circle, Mr. Knight may know the names of his chess pieces, but he obviously does not know how the game is played. Checkmate!