Monday, September 27, 2010

New iPads won’t resolve all gov’t issues


The introduction of iPads in the Saskatchewan government has received mixed reviews.

Cam Broten, the NDP MLA of the Saskatoon Massey Place constituency, said that the new flat Apple touchpad computer could be a practical asset to the government.

“It can actually save money and save paper and that is a good thing,” said Broten.

The iPads have the potential to be more effective in storing files electronically than keeping paper files of cabinet documents. Broten has used a BlackBerry and a laptop and said he recognised that it can be a good tool – if the politicians know how to use it.

But Broten said that the use of the iPads can’t solve a “number of problems for the SaskParty government, especially during budgeting.”

NDP Opposition Leader Dwain Lingenfelter agreed with Broten’s statements about the issues presented with the iPads.

“You still need someone who can add,” said Lingenfelter.

At least the devices may keep MLAs attention focused on business. Previously with the use of laptops, members were able to look at other members during session and see if they were playing games on their computer, according to Sandra Jackle, the director of communications and media relations for the NDP. This is no longer the case because the iPads are flat.

In addition, Broten suggested that the government should introduce a program to teach politicians how to use the iPad.

“Maybe they need to develop a Marketing 101 app for their iPads because that seems to be their biggest challenge,” he said, referring to some of the negative publicity the purchase has raised.

None of the SaskParty members were available for comment. However, Wayne Elhard’s office in the Cypress Hills district stated that “only cabinet ministers will receive iPads.” The system is anticipated to be in full effect in the next five or six months.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flooding drowns farmers’ hopes


Times are grim for farmers across Saskatchewan this year. Only 14 per cent of the crops have been harvested this year according to the provincial agriculture ministry’s weekly crop report on Sept. 16.

This is noticeably lower than the provincial average in the last five years, normally being over 50 per cent. The poor weather conditions have had a disastrous outcome on the agriculture industry.

“It’s been a very challenging year,” said Grant McLean, an agriculture ministry spokesperson. “In many cases, producers were challenged to get seeding in the optimum time.”

After April 1, precipitation levels increased to over 200 per cent of the typical rainfall prospects in that time frame. This caused hardships for many farmers seeding their crops, especially in the northeast and east-central areas of the province.

“It’s estimated that of the 32 million acres that we normally plant, eight million acres of that did not get planted and an additional four million acres that was planted that got flooded subsequently,” McLean said. “Certainly these prolonged wet periods…are going to have a detrimental effect on the grades that producers were expecting for their production.”

Jerry Prang, who farms in Milestone, was able to seed “not even 40 per cent” of his land, some of which is under water. Consequently, he has been unable to harvest any of his crops.

“Normally the years I’ve seeded continuous crop, so I seed everything. So out of 2,000 acres, I’ve only got 700 seeded and out of that 700 there’s quite a bit flooded out,” said Prang.

“If it keeps up like this, I could lose it all.”

The poor weather has done nothing for expenses, which still remain in place. Prang had to spray his fields numerous times, which increases costs. Lots of farmers are “pretty down” in all areas of Saskatchewan, he said.

In Hague, Lyle Funk shares Prang’s disappointment at this year’s outcomes. Funk seeded most of his land and so far has harvested about 25 per cent of his crops. Normally, he should have two-thirds to three-quarters of his crop combined.

“It’s frustrating,” remarked Funk, “but there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve got to wait for better conditions.”

Whether or not improved weather is coming remains to be seen. McLean noted that many individuals worry that the spring of 2011 will be even wetter and seeding will be “even more of a challenge.”