Problem Solving - Not Just Using The Same Solution

FTLComm - Archerwell - Friday, November 23, 2001


This past week the Province of Saskatchewan's School Trustees Association have been meeting in Saskatoon and early in the week the heard the glum news that most abruptly Saskatchewan's school population will fall by more than 45,000 students. The consequences of this kind of decline are extremely far reaching.



land tax

Up until the 1980s there was a formula whereby schools were funded upon provincial grants based on per-enrollment basis and the amount of revenue that could be generated from the land tax base of the jurisdiction. Things have changed and a blanket formula now exists where by the province contributes about 40% of the cost and the rest comes from land taxation




Clearly with even less students in the future and the limits of transportation this will mean school operations will increase in cost and more and more of the responsibility will fall upon the land owner who is now and for the foreseeable future faced with reduced income due to increased foreign subsidies which devalue crop production income. The practical limit of transporting children to schools has already been reached in many areas as it is simply beyond endurance to pick up a child before 7:30 AM. This will mean school will have to be kept open with less and less students and the fixed costs will remain the same.



cut backs

To handle the problem the Minister of Education uses the standard method of solving problems. Actually this involves solving all problems with the same solution and clearly that speaks volumns about the limited awareness of political leadership. The minister to the delegates that he wants to see no more than forty school divisions in the province. So the problem of dealing with declining enrollment is in the mind of the government, just reduce the number of school divisions.




We in rural Saskatchewan have watched this standard government response to all problems with appalling results. Less money means cutbacks of all services, roads allowed to decline, hospitals closed down, rail lines abandoned, grain handling facilities removed and concentrated. In every instance this one solution, fits all problems has failed. Yet once more it is the only way government sees to handle the education problem.




If we take a sensible look at Saskatchewan we discover that we have all we need. At one time we had roads, railroads, medical services, more than adequate education facilities, recreation facilities and a thriving rural lifestyle. Less than a million people live in this province that once had all of its two million people living in the country now more three quarters of the people in Saskatchewan live in cities and very large towns.



stop the

The problem is so obvious that it is likely that everyone has overlooked to solution because it is a difficult one. Instead of doing something about declining populations while still having to maintain services, the provincial and municipal governments have just mirrored the problem while simply making it worse. To those of you who do not see the problem think it over. Saskatchewan's population in the rural areas is declining, reducing the tax base and thereby increase the per-capita operating costs. The solution is : stop the population decline and then reverse it and all problems will be solved.




The problem is not that there is not enough money but that there are fewer and fewer people to meet the same costs. Therefore the problem should be solved not simply using a non-working solution of cost cutting but by increasing the population.




Of course this seems over simplified, if you ask an accountant to solve a social problem. But for reasons that completely escape me, the planners and politicians of the present have the perspective of the big picture that would be best equated with asking an ant to explain a football game.




Perhaps this calls for a story, a true one, a successful one, to this same problem in the same location. Investors thought that it would be a good idea for Canada to have two intercontinental rail lines. They got together some money and the Great Northern set about building this second line. Then came the reality that though it seemed like a good idea where would it derive its revenue. To make it a profitable proposition there had to be people who would ship production and products on that line. Solution, damn simple, Mr. Sifton from Winnipeg put together a team of recruiters and within a two year span they had almost an endless supply of the best folks ever flowing from Ruthania to Winnipeg then settling along the new railroad line to Edmonton.




The folks were soon building towns, villages, productive farms and the railroad was shipping their products and stuff to them to build their future. Success. The people themselves built Western Canada. There presence created a demand, a market and their hard work and outstanding contribution created a wholesome vibrant environment to raise their families and hence we have today.




Half of Saskatchewan is totally empty. The inhabited portion of the province is virtually empty. The infrastructure, even as run down and abandoned as it is can support three to five million happy people. There is no need for cut backs, no need for down sizing only the need to expand, invigorate and develop. We need people.




The kind of people does not matter, anyone who comes here can see the miracle of a good life created by the great example of people before them and they too will soon learn the culture and warm to the prospects of good living and a positive life respecting society. All we need are the people. All kinds of them. People in Debden, Chelan, Robsart, EastEnd, Carnduff, Trossacks, Wawota, Kenaston, Liberty, Pelly, Bankend, Filmore, Milden, Love, Mankota, Morse and Stewart Valley.