Friday April 18, 2014

No time to be a Scrooge with political praise


Visited by three ghosts a few Christmas eves ago, I have become a changed man during this festive season.

So on the eve of Christmas, I have made a point of writing a column that offers nothing but good cheer for the good deeds our politicians have done.

Let us start this Christmas tradition with Premier Brad Wall, who deserves credit for his exuberant leadership and his tough stances on Keystone XL, abolishing the Senate and PotashCorp’s dividends in the face of its layoffs.

Also, credit Wall for the government’s investment in independent living for intellectually disabled, but let us recognize the good work of Social Services June Draude on this issue and all other issues involving the less fortunate.

Let us also credit Wall’s counterpart, Opposition leader Cam Broten, for his reasonable positions since wining the NDP leadership in March. Particularly impressive has been his contribution to improved standards for those in nursing homes.

Season’s greetings should go to Finance Minister Ken Krawetz for an effective job of keeping costs of government departments to a minimum and — at least on a summary financial basis — balancing the province’s book. On that topic, let us hear it for NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon who did an effective job of keeping the government honest on the issue of the two sets of books.

Actually, several Saskatchewan Party government ministers deserve credit on the spending front, but no one more so than Health Minister Dustin Duncan. Duncan has held the line in the costly health department while finding more money for more doctors, nurses and to build a few more rural hospitals and nursing homes.

Let us also credit Duncan for listening to Broten and the NDP in reviewing and recommending changes to the running of the province’s nursing homes.

Labour Minister Don Morgan deserves credit for listening to labour so that we have more reasonable changes on labour laws. He also introduced laws that will provide better protection for workers through an asbestos registry and through improved safety standards for those working at night. But let us not forget NDP labour critic David Forbes, who successfully pushed the government on all of these issues.

While the resource sector has sputtered a bit, we are still creating jobs. So let us hear it for Economy Minister Bill Boyd who helped create the atmosphere.

And while Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart probably can not take credit for the biggest crop in Saskatchewan history, he deserves credit for his no-nonsense support of the agriculture sector — even if that has occasionally meant taking on other provinces and federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

Under Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Minister Donna Harpauer’s guidance, we are finally seeing an end to some antiquated liquor laws and, in the cities, the introduction of private liquor stores.

Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter nimbly worked his way through some tricky issues related to the private-public partnership referendum in Regina and dustups between the bigger cities and surrounding municipalities. Through all this, municipalities continue to receive more money from their share of the PST than they have in the past.

Highways Minister Don McMorris oversaw a good year of highway improvement and repair and has kept STC afloat with only modest adjustments to routes.

Meanwhile, former education ministers Russ Marchuk, current minister Morgan and Advance Education Minister Rob Norris have managed to sort through critical disputes with the running of the universities and difficulties with standardized testing and the school year.

At a time when enrolment has been increasing at the K-12 level, universities and skill-training institutions, this has not been easy.

To all who have contributed to making Saskatchewan a better place this year, we wish you the merriest of Christmases.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.



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