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April

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    MPlib
    HarperCon grain transport bill mostly allows the creation of new Regulations, but they are still secret. Draft Regulations should be tabled NOW! Will new Grain Regulations force some transparency+limits on arbitrary power of Grain Co's to discount the world grain price?
    Apr 01, 2014 12:08 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Today in Question Period, Justin Trudeau Liberals finally get HarperCons to admit they have indeed slashed Building Canada Fund by 87% Great advantage of MORE infrastructure funding NOW would be transforming value of low interest rates into long-term assets for growth.
    Apr 01, 2014 11:57 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

March

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    MPlib
    What's common link between HarperCon Bill C-52 which failed last year to "fix" grain transport + HarperCon Bill C-23 this year on election law? Answer: The HarperCon MP assigned to whip them through Parliament was/is Pierre Poilievre. Is that why they're both so messed up?
    Mar 31, 2014 2:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    HarperCons pretend they have an ongoing Building Canada infrastructure program while slashing its funding by 87% as of midnight tonight. Municipalities are saying most of this coming construction season is probably lost already because BCF program is too late, too small. HarperCons will give municipalities NO guarantee of what proportion of tiny BSF infrastructure budget is available to local governments. Between now+2019, HarperCons are withdrawing more than $5 billion from what used to be available for community infrastructure.
    Mar 31, 2014 12:04 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    MARCH 31st – NOT A GOOD DAY FOR CANADA So it’s the last day of March. Temperatures in Saskatchewan reached a brutal 51-below on the day this month began, so we’re all hoping it will go out more like a lamb. Time will tell. But apart from the weather, several other things don’t auger well on this March 31st. For one thing, this is the last day for five years upon which the federal “Building Canada” infrastructure program will be fully funded. A victim of totally unnecessary budget slashing, the Building Canada Fund will be chopped tonight at midnight by 87%. Its annual allocation will plummet from the current level of $1.6-billion to an insipid $210-million for the entire country. Woefully inadequate. The Harper Conservatives don’t plan to fully replenish this fund until 2019 – probably two elections away. That means billions of dollars in crucial and urgent municipal infrastructure projects will be postponed. Costs will escalate. And Canada will miss prime opportunities to transform today’s low interest rates into essential, long-term capital assets. So why would Mr. Harper cut municipal infrastructure funding? There’s no compelling fiscal reason. It’s all about his political vanity. He wants to claim a surplus next year, just in time for an election. The second regrettable thing about this March 31st is the termination of Canada’s federal-provincial-territorial Health Accord. It was negotiated a decade ago and fully financed in the Liberal Budget of 2004. But the Harper government hated it, and over the ensuing 10 years, they just let it whither. Totally disinterested, they even abandoned the intergovernmental work the Accord envisaged on homecare and pharmacare. Without a shred of consultation, Mr. Harper unilaterally dictated a new funding formula. For three more years, his government will maintain previous Liberal financial commitments and then gradually retreat. Health care, he says, is a provincial issue. The feds will provide some money – at a steadily declining rate compared to needs – but that’s it. According to him, there should be no federal role in trying to make medicare better, more contemporary, more innovative, or even consistent across the country. Fragmentation is thus his official policy, which will leave a great many Canadians vulnerable. A third reason to be wary of this March 31st is the process that begins today in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture. The committee starts examining Bill C-30, the latest Conservative attempt to fix the dysfunctional grain handling and transportation system which they designed and so badly botched over the past three years. This Conservative failure is costing farmers some $8-billion in demurrage charges, extra debt, lost or deferred sales, spoilage and deflated prices. Farm organizations, the Saskatchewan government and even some Harper backbenchers are saying Bill C-30 needs to be strengthened to ensure railways and grain companies actually provide the services that farmers pay for and have every right to expect. But will the Conservatives listen? Just a year ago (the last time a grain transportation law was before Parliament), farmers and other shippers made compelling arguments to improve the existing regime, but every single Conservative MP was whipped to vote them down. Predictably, the result was the further costly mess we’ve suffered this past year. And to top things off today, the Harper government is hiking postage rates by 35%. Happy March 31st!
    Mar 31, 2014 6:28 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Busy day at Regina's Campbell Collegiate - big volleyball tourney, plus Sask Elocution+Debate Society - showcasing Sask's great young people
    Mar 29, 2014 1:39 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Thanks to Gary Mason for this excellent article in the Globe+Mail about Bus Driver safety. http://t.co/bKRBed4y7S
    Mar 29, 2014 8:39 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Here are comments I made in Parliament today about Bill C-30, the emergency grain/rail legislation http://youtu.be/qtu3YT7jsaM
    Mar 28, 2014 10:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Check out this HarperCon MP attacking his own legislation. I've been making this point for more than a year. Will they listen? http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/03/27/conservative-mp-calls-for-amendments-to-emergency-grain-legislation/
    Mar 28, 2014 6:52 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Farm groups, a provincial government + even a HarperCon Parliamentary Secretary are telling Ritz + Raitt their grain transport law must be stronger
    Mar 28, 2014 6:10 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Justin Trudeau and I push Harper government in Question Period to listen carefully to farmers' advice about grain transport law http://youtu.be/M7BJQbL90ps
    Mar 27, 2014 12:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Justin Trudeau leads Question Period asking HarperCons to listen to the grain transport amendments farmers want
    Mar 27, 2014 11:37 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    HARPER GOVERNMENT ADMITS GRAIN CRISIS IS COSTING $8-BILLION In the new grain handling and transportation legislation unveiled yesterday by the Harper government (Bill C-30), there is nothing to provide immediate help to long-suffering prairie grain farmers. They are told just to keep on waiting … for spring, I suppose, or maybe summer. A crisis in moving grain has been festering for nearly six months now. By the government’s own estimates, this disaster is costing the prairie economy between $7.2 and $8.3-billion, and it will take another six months (at least) to clear the massive backlog. The snarled mess is the result of recent government decisions to eliminate all oversight and coordination from grain transportation logistics, insufficient transparency, the over-riding self-interests of railways and grain companies, deliberate reductions in capacity, woefully defective Conservative legislation on the rights of “captive” shippers, a big harvest in the fall of 2013, and a cold winter. As farmers get ready for spring seeding in 2014, the outrageous message coming from the grain handling and transportation sector is this: “Don’t grow another above-average crop because we don’t have the capacity, and won’t give the priority, to move it to market in a timely manner.” And the government doesn’t seem much inclined to help. On March 7th, with great ballyhoo, the Conservatives issued an Order to the railways to move a certain volume of grain over the next 90 days. But what they “ordered” was not much different from what the railways would have been doing anyway with the onset of better spring weather. Then the government promised tough new legislation “with real teeth”. But Bill C-30 does little more than authorize the possible creation of future Regulations. No one knows what future Regulations might say. And they can be changed by a stroke of the pen in the middle of the night. Specifically, there is nothing here that requires more grain to be shipped in the immediate future. The Brad Wall provincial government in Saskatchewan calls that “deficient” and “disappointing”. There is also nothing that provides a clear definition of what service levels the railways should be expected to provide, how performance will be measured and what damages will flow to farmers when services fail. There is no comprehensive system to monitor, measure, analyze and report publicly on all the outcomes flowing from grain marketing, handling and transportation. It’s a complex system. Transparency is critical. No one can manage what isn’t properly monitored and measured. There is no better coordination of grain system logistics. What we have now is a chaotic free-for-all without any assurance that limited and complex assets will be utilized in the most efficient manner to get the right grain picked-up and delivered to the right place at the right time. There is no overall “Costing Review” to track all the costs/revenues associated with moving grain, including efficiency gains and the manner in which those gains are shared (or not) among railways, grain companies and farmers. The last such review was 22 years ago. A fresh look at the numbers is overdue. One good point – we’ve been calling for an expansion in “interswitching” to simulate more competitive conditions between and among railways. And we welcome that improvement. But much more needs to be forthcoming to defend farmers and repair Canada’s unfortunate reputation as an unreliable supplier.
    Mar 27, 2014 10:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    On grain transport - HarperCons laboured mightily and came forth with a mouse. Everything left to future regulations, not yet written. More Interswitching is step forward, but still no comprehensive monitoring, no transparency, no coordination, no costing review. In grain transport crisis which the government admits is costing $8 billion, no provision is made for damages to be payable to farmers.
    Mar 26, 2014 2:57 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    While HarperCons scoffed when I warned that grain crisis could cost farmers $5 billion, their own internal estimate is $7.2-$8.3 billion!
    Mar 26, 2014 12:05 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Justin Trudeau nails HarperCons on slashing Building Canada Fund for Infrastructure (by 87%) + virtually all funding to fight Climate Change.
    Mar 26, 2014 11:39 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Now that Jean-Pierre Kingsley has trashed C-23, Harper's attempt to rig Canada's election law has no credible support from anyone.
    Mar 26, 2014 5:22 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    The illegal Nadon "appointment" to Supreme Court of Canada: strange that it took Mr Harper 3 days to say he would respect Constitution and the Supreme Court
    Mar 26, 2014 5:22 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Today I challenged Russian sanctions against Canadians who stand for freedom, democracy, human rights + the rule of law http://youtu.be/PQFR2E3rUN4 http://www.ralphgoodale.ca/speeches-1/remarks-point-privilge-challenging-russian-sanctions-canadians-stand-freedom-democracy-human-rights/?t=1352758542
    Mar 25, 2014 12:45 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Regina's Dr. Michael Jackson speaking in Ottawa at launch of his most recent book about the value of the Monarchy in Canadian governance
    Mar 24, 2014 1:14 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    I served Notice in Parliament today about a Question of Privilege based on Russian attempts to intimidate Canadian MPs + Speaker of the House
    Mar 24, 2014 12:51 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    TIME TO PUSH FOR MORE COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE, NOT LESS! Last Friday was the first full day of spring in Regina. A bit of the winter’s Arctic vortex returned. It was snowing with a nasty wind-chill. But lots of folks were warmed by a special celebration on March 21st – it was the 10th anniversary of the completion of Regina’s “Big Dig”. What’s that, you ask (if you’re not from Regina)? It was probably the most successful and most popular community infrastructure project in Saskatchewan’s history. In the 1880’s, the CPR put a little dam across Wascana Creek near the community then better known as “Pile of Bones”, NWT. The small reservoir that resulted was used for watering livestock, as well as servicing the railway’s steam locomotives. When Regina became the capital of the new Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, that watering hole was transformed into a more attractive pond spreading out in front of the new Legislative Building. It was improved again in the 1930’s, making work for some 2,000 jobless people during the Depression. Over the decades, Wascana Lake became the centerpiece for Regina’s Wascana Centre, which has evolved into the largest urban park in North America. An unusual aesthetic asset in the heart of a prairie city, the park and the lake have served the community extremely well – paying economic, social, cultural, sporting, recreational and environmental dividends. But it was also slowly eroding over those decades, filling-in and becoming more like an unpleasant prairie slough. So in 2003, the Government of Canada formed an urban renewal infrastructure partnership with the City of Regina and the Province of Saskatchewan to “re-dig” Wascana Lake. It had to be done in the dead of winter after the lake had been drained, so the bottom could be excavated while it was frozen solid. Some of the biggest equipment in the world was used to move 1.5-million cubic metres of soil – working around the clock from January to March, 2004. The cost was about $20-million. But that investment has already been recouped many times over in renewed community value. And the payback continues. That’s one of the great things about smart, innovative, forward-looking investments in public infrastructure. Properly done, the dividends are on-going for a very long time. And now is the time to accelerate projects like this. Timely federal contributions to vital local infrastructure developments across the country help drive economic growth and good employment, while building or re-building the essential underpinnings of greater future prosperity. Internal analyses within the federal Finance Department show there is no more cost-effective way to move the economy forward. The best economists worldwide point out that infrastructure investments are particularly wise now because they help convert the temporary advantage of low interest rates into long-term, highly valuable capital assets. The provinces all agree. Municipal governments agree. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce agrees. The only “partner” offside and going in the wrong direction is the Harper government in Ottawa. They have slashed the federal Building Canada Fund (BCF) by close to 90%, starting April 1st. Federal financing needed right now is being punted five years down the road, into a political never-never-land. The rules for accessing the little money that’s left are opaque and arbitrary. The sad truth is this – under this Harper regime, a Wascana “Big Dig” would never be undertaken.
    Mar 24, 2014 4:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Another big crowd for this year's "Spring Free from Racism" event in Regina. Congrats to Barb Dedi + her great organization committee!
    Mar 23, 2014 2:00 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Go Seahawks! Just one of the great items on auction tonight at Sask Science Centre Gala - Regina is proud of its NFL champ!
    Mar 22, 2014 8:11 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A friendly dinosaur greeting everyone at Sask Science Centre Gala tonight in Regina!
    Mar 22, 2014 8:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    News release: MUNICIPAL ACCESS TO FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE: FUNDING CHOPPED, STALLED & COMPLICATED REGINA, Sk – Wascana Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale says Canada’s new Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, could make a positive beginning in his new portfolio by restoring federal financial support for the “Building Canada Fund” (BCF) and by improving municipal access to that fund. “Since 2007, this is the program that municipalities across the country have relied on for important community infrastructure developments,” Goodale said. “With a budget of about $1.6-billion per year, the BCF has invested in a vast array of essential local capital projects. But in 10 days – on April 1st when a new fiscal year begins – the Building Canada Fund will be slashed by 87%. It will plummet to a token annual amount of just $210-million for the entire country.” (Editors note: Attached is a graph illustrating this Conservative budget cut, effective April 1st, 2014.) What the Harper government promised municipalities was a renewed, 10-year BCF, starting in 2014, but in reality the vast majority of BCF money has now been “back-end loaded” into the last-half of that time frame. The program will not recover to even this current year’s funding levels until 2019. Goodale noted that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall highlighted the urgent need for timely infrastructure investments in his provincial budget this past week. The Premier tweeted “growth requires increased funding for infrastructure.” But the feds are moving in the opposite direction. Goodale also noted that the administration of the BCF program remains murky just days before it’s supposed to begin. Organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) don’t have clear answers about what share of the small amount of available funding they can count on, or how exactly the application, approval and cash-flow process will be handled. With the spring construction season rapidly approaching, SUMA President Debra Button says she is worried about a big chunk of that season being lost. Municipalities are also concerned that local roads – a big need in many communities – are excluded from BCF funding, along with sports, arts and recreational facilities. There are new restrictions on the portion of any project that can be federally funded. Municipalities will be in competition with educational institutions for funding priorities. And the federal government will alone decide whether a P-3 funding model (public-private partnership) must be used regardless of local preferences. Goodale said, “What the Conservatives are trying to do here is make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. They want to pretend they’ve got an on-going infrastructure fund even though they’re not putting any serious money into it until some hypothetical date five years from now. And in the meantime, they’re dragging their feet on details and throwing up roadblocks to stall access.” “This is bad public policy at a time when Canada should be investing in the underpinnings of greater prosperity. The Finance department’s own analysis shows that infrastructure investments are the most cost-effective way for the federal government to strengthen jobs and growth. And making those investments now would help transform the advantage of currently low interest rates into long-term capital assets,” Goodale concluded. -30-
    Mar 21, 2014 10:16 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Provincial Budget Breakfast - Sask FinMin Kravetz calls for Federal govt to support crucial Infrastructure projects. Need feds on-board for growth.
    Mar 21, 2014 7:46 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    At provincial Budget Breakfast with FinMin Kravetz - confirms Sask govt has NOT followed Federal govt in hiking taxes on Credit Unions. Good!
    Mar 21, 2014 7:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Welcome to Spring - arriving in Regina this morning at 10:57. It's snowing a bit. Another Arctic High expected this weekend.
    Mar 20, 2014 9:57 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Big kudos Sandra Butel + Regina Folk Festival! Serena Ryder, Sam Roberts + much more lined up for #RFF14 in August. Can't wait.
    Mar 20, 2014 7:44 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    UofR Prez Timmons opens 2014 Canadian Inter-University Curling Championships at Regina's Callie Curling Club this week
    Mar 19, 2014 5:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Check this posting on iPolitics - a blog full of ideas about how to move more grain faster http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/03/17/grain-in-vain-whos-to-blame-for-the-rail-backlog/
    Mar 17, 2014 8:01 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Today, with the help of the Irish, the Green of Rider Nation goes global - Happy St Pat's!
    Mar 17, 2014 9:29 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    FARMERS DESERVE AN HONEST & LEVEL PLAYING-FIELD Fifteen hundred rural reeves and councillors from across Saskatchewan held their annual meeting in Regina last week. No topic was hotter than grain handling and transportation. Transport Minister Raitt and Agriculture Minister Ritz were in attendance. They could not sugarcoat the obvious – the grain logistics system designed and implemented over the last two years by the Harper government is a hopeless failure. Shipments are running months behind. From top to bottom, it’s an uncoordinated, non-transparent, chaotic mess. Costs and losses are totalling billions of dollars. The best the feds could forecast is another six months of hard slogging before last year’s backlog can be cleared. That means the much-publicized “order” that the government gave the railways on March 7th “to get to work on grain” is pretty much meaningless. They’re not being required to do anything more than what would have been “business-as-usual” in the spring in any event. The Conservatives also had to concede that their so-called “Fair Rail Freight Service Act” last year (Bill C-52) has been completely useless. It was supposed to give shippers some leverage to negotiate commercial “service level agreements” with the railways, but not a single agreement has been signed. Such failure was exactly what we predicted when Conservative MPs were whipped into blocking all amendments that would have put some teeth in that faulty legislation. Meanwhile last week, in New York City, the CEO of CP Rail (Hunter Harrison) was again giving prairie farmers the back of his hand. He claimed the disaster in grain transportation was only a “modest” problem. He said he was “irate” about being criticized for poor performance. Instead of hobnobbing with the rich-and-famous on Wall Street, it would have been interesting to see how CP’s boss would have fared at that municipal convention in Regina. But Harrison at least cleared up one key point in his New York remarks. He confirmed that some rail cargo has been getting preferential treatment this winter – e.g., “intermodal” traffic, where there are competitive forces at play. He says he’s “sensitive” to that. But for grain, there’s no sensitivity because there’s no competition and the railways will get to haul it all eventually anyway (with no financial consequences for being delinquent). The Harper Conservatives are once again promising to get tough with the railways in new legislation to be introduced in Parliament on March 24th. If they are serious, here are four things to look for: 1. The creation of a credible and completely independent monitoring agency to measure, analyze and report publicly on the performance of the western grain marketing, transportation and handling system. Transparency is essential. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. 2. A full “costing review” to track all costs and revenues associated with moving grain, the achievement of efficiency gains in the system, and how those gains are shared (or not) among railways, grain companies and farmers. The last such review was 22 years ago in 1992. 3. Amendments to the government’s defective Bill C-52 to provide a clear definition of what “service levels” the railways should be expected to deliver, how performance is to be measured, and what damages are payable to farmers when the railways fail. 4. A method of coordinating grain handling and transportation logistics. Right now, there’s no quarter-back calling the plays or directing traffic. It’s a free-for-all, with the railways’ duopoly and the grain companies’ oligopoly in charge. They look out for themselves quite nicely, but farmers are held captive with no competitive alternatives and no legal remedies to fight back.
    Mar 17, 2014 4:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Scottish pipeband entertains at multicultural celebrations at the Glencairn Community Centre in Regina
    Mar 16, 2014 1:38 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Glad to spend some time today enjoying the great talent at the Tavria Ukrainian Dance Festival in Regina
    Mar 15, 2014 1:47 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    People gather on steps of Sask Legislature in memorial to missing and murdered Aboriginal women—names called one-by-one
    Mar 14, 2014 12:21 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    With CC, Lorrie + Buzz at Z99's annual Radiothon, raising $$$ for Regina Hospitals Neonatal Care - don't forget to contribute today.
    Mar 14, 2014 11:44 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Dr. Gordon Barnhart, former Sask Lieut-Gov +former Clerk of Senate delivers UofR Stapleford lecture, about Senate Reform.
    Mar 13, 2014 7:14 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Now back in Regina - My sincere thanks to everyone who helped organize my visits to WhiteRock, Surrey, Calgary + Okotoks. My thanks too to all the great people who attended all the various events from beginning to end. You made it all worthwhile.
    Mar 13, 2014 1:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Thanks to Calgary Chamber of Commerce for excellent roundtable this morning about the economy, investment, growth + jobs!
    Mar 13, 2014 10:44 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    200+ Calgarians jam the Legion Hall for a Townhall / Meet+Greet, talking about how to make Canada's economy grow, more prosperous.
    Mar 13, 2014 6:02 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Take a look at this. CP Rail CEO confirms he doesn't care much about burdens his railway failures impose on farmers http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/cps-hunter-harrison-irate-over-ottawas-grain-moving-order/article17455456/?service=mobile&page=all
    Mar 13, 2014 6:01 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Met this morning in Surrey area with a passionate group known as Equitas - fighting for the legal rights of wounded soldiers. Equitas is quite right to say HarperCons are dead wrong in asserting the federal government owes no special duty to war veterans.
    Mar 12, 2014 2:22 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Good morning from White Rock, BC - great townhall last night about how to trigger more Canadian economic growth. Common agreement that an austerity plan won't work - need to invest in underpinnings of growth like Infrastructure + Post-Secondary Education.
    Mar 12, 2014 8:28 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    CP RAIL SAYS THERE'S NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT! Over the past several weeks, I've frequently called on the Harper government to take emergency action to ease this winter's massive backlog in grain transportation and to strengthen the system for the future so this problem is less likely to happen again. Premier Wall, his government, the entire Saskatchewan Legislature, every farm organization in western Canada, and virtually every shipper of every other commodity have all said much the same thing. The western grain handling and transportation system has failed to perform at an adequate level. Through its painful shortcomings, that system is effectively saying to farmers ... "don't you dare produce a better than average crop because we can't handle it and the consequences will all fall on your shoulders." Surely that's unacceptable. All the pressure seems to have hurt some feelings over at CP Rail. Last Friday, one of their corporate Vice-Presidents launched a nasty attack against me personally on the iPolitics news site. Fine. Withstanding such abuse goes with the territory. But let's look closely at his argument. He repeated for the umpteenth time the same old excuses that last year's crop was a big one and this winter's weather has been harsh. Those two things, according to CP Rail, absolve them of all responsibility. There was not a hint of contrition in the railway's argument. In their opinion, their performance has been blameless. (Not even Gerry Ritz believes that anymore.) The vice-president didn't mention the totally non-competitive nature of Canada's railway duopoly which holds virtually every shipper as captive, preventing any effective functioning of normal market principles. He failed to mention the recent federal "Rail Service Review", which was hand-picked by the Harper Conservatives to study rail service issues. Their report in 2011 found that the rail transportation playing-field was heavily tilted in favour of the railways, that railways were in a position to exercise undue market power, that shippers typically got the services they ordered from the railways only about 50% of the time, that shippers were largely without effective competitive alternatives and had no legal recourse when the system failed. The vice-president failed to mention that CP Rail has actually reduced its train crews, rolling stock and locomotive power. He failed to mention the company's ownership now in the hands of particularly aggressive investors who recently turfed CP Rail's previous management and installed new people dedicated to enhanced shareholder gains above all else. There was no indication of where "customer service" might actually fit into their scheme of things. He basically said the only solution for farmers is just "wait for spring". The vice-president did offer one useful insight however. In trying to shift blame onto those who load railcars at prairie delivery points or those who unload them at port locations, he depicted a system that's essentially a chaotic free-for-all without common-sense coordination, transparency or commercial accountability. And that's exactly how the Harper government designed it. Looking to the future, it seems clear that CP Rail will continue to oppose "service level agreements" that might implement clear, measurable and enforceable railway performance standards. I'll let farmers and other shippers judge whether that's good enough for them.
    Mar 10, 2014 11:59 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    This weekend: As Ukraine struggles for democracy, the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of "people's poet" Taras Shevchenko
    Mar 09, 2014 6:02 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    When I fight for better rail service for farmers, I'm always faced with two predictable opponents, the Harper govt + CP Rail. The HarperCons sat on their hands as a crisis grew for 5 costly months, while CP Rail claims its wrong to ask them to do better. And they both say: Don't even think of putting teeth in Rail Service laws that might actually create enforceable obligations.
    Mar 08, 2014 4:48 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Our excellent Paralympic Team is ready to begin competition. Best wishes for great success. All Canadians are pulling for you!
    Mar 07, 2014 3:09 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    HARPER CONSERVATIVES FEEBLE IN GRAIN CRISIS After months of fumbling indifference, the Harper government today tried to concoct the appearance of “concrete” action to alleviate the western grain transportation crisis. But what they announced was really quite pathetic. It will require the railways to do nothing more than business-as-usual. Since last year, we’ve been demanding strong federal action to get serious about grain problems. The crisis has been on-going for at least five months. Because of demurrage charges, added debt burdens, lost sales, deferred sales and plummeting grain prices, farmers have lost something close to $5-billion. Some haven’t had any income this year at all. And all their bills are due. The railways are thousands of cars behind. The system is a scrambled, congested mess. There’s not enough capacity, and there’s no logistical coordination. Customers are going elsewhere. Recently, even the governments and the legislatures of both Alberta and Saskatchewan have joined the chorus of deep concern. We told the Harper government a long time ago that they had the power to take emergency action under Section 47 of the Canada Transportation Act. Still they dithered and obfuscated until today. And then the action they did prescribe was nothing incremental. The amount of grain the Conservatives are ordering the railways to move is only what they’ve already projected to move anyway. Nothing new. Nothing more. Nothing faster. And look at the timing. The railways have four weeks to gear-up to that business-as-usual level. That takes you to mid-April, right when municipal road-bans will be in effect with spring thaw. And what if the railways fail? Not much will happen. They’ll have to pay a small daily fine, but to the government, not to farmers. It’s a token amount compared to what farmers have lost. Make no mistake, today’s announcement was about APPEARING to do something because the political heat was getting too severe. In substance, it changes nothing of consequence. So the real Conservative grain plan, just like the railways, is simply “wait for spring”. For the longer term, the government is now promising legislation to force the railways to do better. Such hypocrisy! The Conservatives had their chance to do exactly that a year ago now when they introduced “Rail Service” legislation (Bill C-52). They were told it was defective. But they ignored all that advice and rammed it through. Predictably, C-52 has been a total failure. To fix it, shippers need to be given the absolute right to enforceable “service level agreements” with the railways which spell out what services the railways are required to provide, how railway performance will be measured, and what damages the railways will pay to shippers when transportation services fail. Please note — every one of these specific ideas was put before Parliament for a vote last year, and every Conservative MP voted against them. If the federal government had been serious about helping farmers today, they would have been more demanding of higher railway delivery standards this spring. They would have addressed some of the financial “hurt” by requiring the railways to reimburse farmers for at least some of their losses. They would also have expanded the Cash Advances program, and called in the CEO’s of all the major financial institutions to demand flexibility on farm debt this year — debt farmers haven’t been able to pay because of the defective grain system designed by this negligent and incompetent government.
    Mar 07, 2014 3:06 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana

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MP
Ralph Goodale

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