Sask. Party needs wake-up call from rural voters

I am becoming increasingly buoyed by the reality of some members of the “ruling class” are starting to read my column with increasing regularity – at least, if the phone calls I’ve recently received respecting my rebuttal (Daily Herald, April 30, 2022) to Mr. Joe Hargrave’s contention that the Chamber of Commerce luncheon with the premier and Minister of Finance was preordained to be negative in tone (Daily Herald, April 27, 2022).
I will admit that there weren’t “yet” any endorsements for the NDP (the party for which I am supposed to be some puppet writer being fed story lines, observations and commentary) in those calls. Still, when a realtor calls to thank me for bringing up the lack of housing stock in the city, and the grief that issue caused when Weyerhaeuser acted like it was riding the white horse of economic salvation into the city, I don’t know what to say.
Mr. Hargrave may have seen it his duty to protect the government by writing his April 27th editorial column. Seriously, though, did our P.A. Carleton MLA not foresee that the Saskatchewan Party trying to turn this luncheon into a “Don’t worry, be happy” campaign event and NOT risk bringing out the boo-birds, cynics and individuals hurting from the government’s uninspiring attempts to manage a Covid pandemic?
Were anyone else other than Premier Scott Moe headlining this event with the Minister of Finance, I can see where the luncheon could have had its positive message appreciated – except for the fact that, irrespective of place or circumstance, Moe insists upon pouring gasoline on fires already out of control.
I have long held the belief that the Saskatchewan Party has NO one on the premier’s staff who either advises “caution” when answering certain queries, or simply “taking away the keys” by cutting off question periods when they wander into sensitive areas. Even “that deaf, dumb and blind man” popularized by The Who could have foreseen that someone within the audience at that luncheon would bring up the topic of climate change. Still, the Premier claims that “a lot of folks come to me and say, ‘Hey, you guys have the highest carbon emissions per capita’, I don’t care.”
To say that this is a slap in the face of rural producers having to reduce herd size or sell land so as to provide any opportunity to get a crop into the ground due to last summer’s serious drought conditions is an understatement. When you’re sitting on the sidelines watching the price of fuel rise as a result of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, it’s not hard to think about the approximately $0.11 per litre of fuel that we’re paying that goes to the carbon tax levy.
Four years ago, the Saskatchewan government, along with Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario pretended that there were far more pressing issues to be concerned about than climate change to worry about. Now, even as we are currently being subjected to the influence of the Ukraine conflict affecting fuel prices in general, the Premier now wants us to again believe that the Saskatchewan Party’s asinine argument from the last election maintaining that it was the carbon tax alone that had rural producers struggling to make ends meet is pure Science Fiction.
I am particularly depressed by the incantations of spokespersons from the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan constantly getting sucked into this sinkhole. Ian Boxall, who is the current president of APAS, recently was quoted in a Canadian Press article (“Pinched Saskatchewan farmers decry carbon tax hike”, April 2, 2022) that farmers are tired of hearing that such costs can be defrayed by tax breaks, and that even before this hike, the average producer was paying approximately $10,000 more in supplementary fuel costs, mostly due to other suppliers inflating the cost of goods, especially transportation, by inserting supplementary line costs highlighting this item as the “reason” for their own inflationary increases in the pricing of goods and services.
Urban voters are seeing the same thing occur with the price increases of food, particularly bread and cereal products, so that Mr. Boxall’s observation has considerable merit. However, when it comes to examining a budgetary response to how climate change can impact a producer’s revenue stream, considering the size of today’s agricultural enterprises, that $10,000 is less than half of one percent of operating costs for the producer.
Many farmers having had to absorb a $10,000 “hit” in crop failure loss from as little as 20 acres (about 8 hectares) yield depreciation, or just over $300,000 per section. When you add to this herd culling costs over selling 20% or more of your inventory so that you can stay in business this year, the carbon tax rates right up there with a mosquito bite on the carcass of a bull elephant. Add to this the fact that SGI rate increases for crop loss – an item that can be controlled by our government – are higher costs to producers, but I don’t see the government caring all that much about farm “costs”.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that APAS spokespersons have been conned. In November of 2018, I wrote an article wherein that organization maintained that a $50 per metric tonne would add $2/acre to nitrogen fertilizer costs. Fertilizer Canada officials were dumbfounded, noting that were the federal government to implement a carbon offset program rewarding farmers for employing the 4R nutrient stewardship program, that move alone would reduce Saskatchewan’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 2 metric tonnes per year.
Instead of having his observations misrepresented by Saskatchewan Party politicians, Mr. Boxall could do a lot more for this province’s population, rural and urban, by simply insisting that the government cease its stupidity in attempting to sell climate change as “no big deal”. I know ridings in rural Saskatchewan where, if he were to take such an approach, the local NDP Executive might consider asking him to run as a party candidate in the next election.
Such a move might put APAS’s “neutrality” to a test, but when you have a current government touting nonsense and science fiction as party policy, we need that type of wake-up call from rural Saskatchewan voters.