This Happened

Are you desperate for a slightly longer version of that news column we run once in a while? Weird, but okay, here you go

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photo: Darrol Hofmeister

What Just Happened? | by Stephen Whitworth

It’s been a long summer but there’s a lot of news we never covered in Planet S. Since we’re entering the last weeks of August and we’ve still got writers on vacation, it seems like a good time to re-visit a few of the newsworthiest news stories that, um, I felt like writing about. Here’s a few stories we neglected that have been on my mind this month. It’s not a complete list but hey, that’s showbiz!

Picking Winners And Losers. Well, Maybe Just Losers.

The end of the Saskaboom will hit some of Saskatchewan’s poorest residents the hardest, thanks to government changes to benefits to people on social assistance. Defending a move she told the Leader-Post would reduce duplication of services, Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer nevertheless expressed concern for people who would be affected by the cuts.

That concern wasn’t enough for anti-poverty activists, who say that the last thing Saskatchewan’s poor need are cuts to their income — especially as unemployment rises but rents hold at high levels.

Planet S will continue to cover this story.

McMorris Is McOut

It’s starting to look like it’s all downhill for Brad Wall following his dominating election win April 4. Since that happy night, his Saskatchewan Party has been dogged by controversy over suspicious-looking land deals and embarrassed by a highly inconvenient oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River. And let’s not forget the government’s “surprise” $434 million budget deficit, the result of tanking resource prices. More than anything else, it had many wondering what the eff the Sask. Party was doing when money was rolling in during a decade of boom times.

But things arguably hit a new low when his deputy premier Don McMorris — the minister responsible for liquor, gaming and government insurance — was charged with drunk driving in a government car around 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5.

How fast things change and how ironically the mighty fall.

McMorris resigned from caucus the day after the incident and he’ll sit as an independent for the foreseeable future while he receives counselling.

If there’s an upside to this fiasco — besides the fact McMorris didn’t kill anyone while he was driving intoxicated — it might be that it puts Saskatchewan’s awful drinking-and-driving culture in the spotlight, where it can be addressed. Because as much as it would be nice for a left-wing newspaper to pummel conservative politicians for being caught drinking and driving, the truth is drunk driving extends across political lines. It’s way past time to get serious about it.

Death In Rural Saskatchewan

On Aug. 9, Colten Boushie was shot on a rural property near Biggar. The 22-year-old First Nations man was killed on property “associated with” (as one media report somewhat weirdly put it) one Gerald Stanley, a 54-year-old, around 5:30 p.m. — just past afternoon on a late summer day.

Stanley was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Boushie’s funeral was held on Red Pheasant First Nation on Saturday, Aug. 13.

If the shooting of a first nations man by a farmer seemed likely to ramp–up racial tension in the province, an explosion of outright bigotry on social media all but guaranteed it. The racist comments were denounced by Premier Brad Wall (one of his finer moments) as well as Opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon, who called the comments “sickening”. As well, many everyday Facebook civilians weighed in. One friend of mine who probably doesn’t want her name used wrote, “To anyone who doesn’t know where to sit: sit on the side that fixes this.”

Sounds like good advice to me.

Death Of A Home-Grown Terrorist

On Aug. 10, Saskatchewan-born, Christian-raised Aaron Driver was killed by RCMP bullets after a confrontation in Strathoy, Ontario, wherever that is.

Driver, a white, pro-ISIS self-described Muslim was shot while in the back seat of a taxi after he detonated an explosive. RCMP confronted Driver after receiving a tip from the FBI that the 24-year-old was planning an imminent terror attack.

Driver has been in the news before — he’d been under a peace bond since 2015 as a terror threat, though at the time he’d insisted — and those around him believed — he was not at risk to commit violence.

Unfortunately, that apparently changed sometime between June 2015 and Aug. 10.

Who Else Can You Trost?

On Aug. 16 as this paper was missing its press deadline as usual, Saskatchewan Conservative MP Brad Trost launched a website declaring his candidacy for leader of Canada’s Conservative Party.

Trost, the MP for Saskatoon-University, is probably best known to Planet S readers as an outre social conservative Christian who opposes carbon taxes, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, transgender bathrooms, access to abortion, marijuana law reform, and legal euthanasia.

But there’s more to this prime minister-wannabe than a judgey pot-pooper, self-appointed pregnancy enforcer and tough guy willing stand up to terminally ill people dying slow, painful deaths. He’s also a true-blue tax-smasher.

In fact, Trost recently made headlines when he said it was the holy mission of conservatives to oppose taxation (a policy that pays for schools, health care and hospitals, fire departments, roads, the water you drink in your home and other somewhat important public institutions).

“I think God put conservatives on earth to stop taxes everywhere, forever,” Trost told the Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington.

No doubt Jesus would stand with Brad on this.

This publication wishes Trost all the best in his quest to succeed Stephen Harper as leader of the federal Conservatives (a party that voted May 28 to join the 21st century by supporting same-sex marriage) and promises to take no pleasure whatsoever in the continued damage he will inflict on his team every time he opens his mouth between now and the leadership convention on May 27, 2017.

Goodbye Shad

In a development that was equal parts unexpected and unimportant, CBC morning show Q has replaced its host. Shad, who I always rather liked, is out and Radio 2 Morning’s Tom Power is in. What does this mean for people like me who are chronically late to work because they’re listening to CBC? Stay tuned, I guess.