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Thursday, July 22, 2010 

Yet Again $tephen Harper Pulls The Rug Out From Under Saskatchewan - Premier Wall Is Merely Harper's Puppet

Massive flooding in Saskatchewan this spring and summer has delayed work on numerous municipal infrastructure projects that are receiving Federal dollars. As a result a large number of projects will not be completed when the March 31, 2011 cutoff for Federal money occurs.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said that he is confident Ottawa would consider extending the deadline for completion of the work due to natural disaster events that the province has had no control over.

Today we find out that Ottawa is not going to grant Saskatchewan any leeway. Brad Trost, a Saskatchewan Conservative MP, has now indicated that there will be no extensions. Once again, the people of Saskatchewan need to open their eyes to the fact that Brad Wall has absolutely NO influence with Harper.

Add this to Wall's abandonment of the court challenge to ensure that Saskatchewan receives its fair share of equalization, and you have clear proof that the current Saskatchewan Party government is nothing but an ineffective puppet regime.

"Saskatchewan will not get the extra time to use federal stimulus dollars that the province and its municipalities say is needed because of this summer's extreme wet weather, Conservative MP Brad Trost said Wednesday.

Saskatchewan Party Municipal Affairs Minister Darryl Hickie confirmed the province -- along with Alberta and Manitoba -- has asked the Conservative government to push back its March 31, 2011, deadline for the completion of stimulus projects because heavy rains on the Prairies have caused major construction delays.

Failing to meet the deadline would mean federal dollars wouldn't flow, leaving municipalities either to abandon projects or be forced to foot the bill on their own.

Hickie said Premier Brad Wall had raised the province's concerns with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and he had discussed it with Transport Minister John Baird at a meeting of provincial ministers in Ottawa last week.

He said he was told the idea would be taken under consideration given the severity of the weather conditions this summer.

But Trost, the MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt, said pushing back the deadline would be a "massive headache" and "there's really been no consideration given.

"I think people are just, you know, wishful thinking. There is an absolutely really good reason why we have to be firm about the March deadline because as soon as the deadlines start to drag on, people begin to substitute other things and there begins to be other excuses. If we allow for one, believe me, every municipality from one end to the other will have a reason why their deadline should be extended," he said in an interview.

"I understand where they're coming from, but the moment we extend the deadline they're going to be like kids with homework, all of a sudden they're out playing in the park rather than getting the homework done," added Trost, speaking after Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, the ranking Saskatchewan member of the Tory government, was unavailable for comment.

The money for infrastructure projects is designed to boost the economy and therefore must be spent within the appropriate time frame, he said. And there is still potentially ample opportunity for construction to occur in August and through the fall.

But Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison said he still holds out hope the federal government will extend the deadline to September 2011 to allow another construction season to finish the projects. The city is making an application for an extension through the province.

Of the 38 stimulus projects in Saskatoon, 14 projects totaling $21 million are in jeopardy of not being completed. The main projects at risk are the water main and road resurfacing projects along Eighth Street, which have been delayed upwards of eight weeks.

Since April, the city has received 43 days of recorded rain and 16 days with more than 10 millimetres. The total rainfall through spring and summer, at 431 mm, is almost triple the 104-year average of 154 mm.

"Once they see all the facts we're hoping they'll be far more understanding of the situation," Atchison said. "It's not that we're not trying to get it done."

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) said there are at least 33 projects in the province, valued at $36 million, that are at risk of not meeting the timeline because of the weather.

SUMA vice-president of towns Rolly Zimmer said he understands the dilemma of the federal government but said there should be some "sympathy" given the extremity of the situation.

"It's an environmental issue that's come upon these communities that it is making it very difficult to meet this deadline," he said. "Just logistically, when it's raining this hard, (construction companies) just can't do the work. They're just at a standstill."

-Global Lethbridge

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