By Wayne Litke
It’s that time of the year when people and families get together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate Christmas. It is also known as the festive season or happy holidays for people who do not believe in Jesus or his fictitious birthday on Dec. 25. If you dislike your family members or in-laws and don’t want to spend time with them over the December holiday period, remember the payoff comes when the turkey (or ham) and all the trimmings are served.
The point is it’s socially significant that we get together to enjoy the moment and appreciate real peace in our province and across Canada. Furthermore, we have a lot of reasons to celebrate, even if the turkey is a little overcooked and is a touch on the dry side or the pie crust is hard and sticks to the pan.
We have a lot to celebrate as individuals and a province and what better time to do it than at Christmas and New Years. As we enjoy the holidays and fellowship this year it is important to consider all the reasons we – Saskatchewan residents – can be thankful.
Let’s consider some of the things we have going for us and perhaps we can even brag a little, albeit modestly and with humility, especially while sitting around the table with relatives from other provinces.
• For example, Saskatchewan’s agricultural crops are some of the best and last year we were No. 1 in wheat and canola production.
• We are the world’s largest exporter of potash and uranium (which is used in nuclear reactors and never considered for a weapons program).
• Saskatchewan is the sunniest province in Canada, but the summer of 2016 may have placed us dangerously close to the No. 2 position.
• We are one of the Top Three provinces that could survive a zombie apocalypse and that alone is reason enough to celebrate.
• When it comes to giving to charities, Saskatchewan residents are some of the most generous in the land. I think Manitoba may have sneaked past us last year.
• Let’s not forget that Saskatchewan is the only province that has not fallen victim to the daylight savings time scam.
• Furthermore, our province has the greatest length of maintained roads in Canada. When municipal, rural, provincial and federal roads are added together, the total distance exceeds 250,000 kilometres. Alberta is very close behind and jealously trying to catch up.
• Perhaps that is one of the reasons (but a very bad reason) why Saskatchewan also has the highest impaired driving rate in our nation! That is a little alarming, but knowing that texting is apparently more dangerous than drinking and then driving is somehow a little settling.
According to a news story in the Leader-Post, our 2015 impaired driving rate is the same as the 1986 national average. To put that into perspective, our provincial rate has decreased by 37 per cent over the last 30 years (which is good), but the national decrease was 65 per cent over the same time period.
The numbers are based on the number of impaired drivers police have picked up and it appears that we are improving, but our friends and neighbours in other provinces are improving faster. Even the Newfies and wine-drinking French Canadians are beating us. However, remember that we can’t all be first and someone has to finish last in every race or contest.
I also learned from the news story that provincial regulations will be tightened in January, 2017 when there will be zero tolerance for drivers 21 years old and under and all new drivers aged 19 years and older. Furthermore, an experienced driver who registers a first-time blood-alcohol reading of .04 to .08 will result in their vehicle being impounded for three days.
That might sound a little harsh, but in reality it should be nothing less since Saskatchewan has the most roads in Canada and we all share in the responsibility of keeping those roads safe. I was reminded of that while talking to a friend on the weekend. His life was forever changed by an impaired driver. While jogging along a road, a vehicle approached from the rear, crossed the oncoming lane and then slammed into him. His life was spared, but his legs were not. He was sentenced to a wheelchair from that point forward due to the reckless actions of one impaired driver.
Consider other alcohol-related auto accidents that were in the news this year such as the Van de Vorst family of four that was eliminated, terminated – killed – by a drunk driver near Saskatoon. It was an accident, but it was also totally preventable by simply not driving while impaired or not getting impaired.
As a province we are improving and I am thankful my children and their friends are more responsible than my generation was when it comes to drinking and driving responsibly. Over the festive season, remember we all have a role to play on and off our highways to ensure impaired individuals do not endanger other people.
God bless you all and have a safe and festive holiday.