Monday, October 22, 2007

Saskatchewan Party platform misleading voters on Crowns; Enterprise Saskatchewan lacks transparency; social policies overlooked; TILMA revisited


The Saskatchewan Party continues to mislead the public on its plans for the province’s Crown corporations. It is also failing to be transparent with its Enterprise Saskatchewan scheme.

On October 19, 2007, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall released the entire Saskatchewan Party election platform. Called Securing the Future – New Ideas for Saskatchewan the plan includes a four year fiscal forecast (2008-09 to 2011-12).

On the subject of Crown corporations the platform states:

“In 2004, the Saskatchewan Party voted in the Legislature to support the Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act.” [Page 29]

“A Saskatchewan Party government will keep our Crowns publicly owned and ensure that Saskatchewan people continue to enjoy high quality utility services at the lowest cost.” [Page 30]

The platform discusses SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SGI. No other Crown corporations seem to be mentioned. What the Saskatchewan Party is not telling voters, though, is that these are the only Crown corporations it supports keeping publicly owned. The local media, who seem to favour donating to the party, do not report this.

The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act, which the party claims to support, applies to Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan, Liquor and Gaming Authority, Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Saskatchewan Power Corporation, Saskatchewan Telecommunications, Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corporation, Saskatchewan Transportation Company, Saskatchewan Water Corporation, SaskEnergy Incorporated, SGC Holdings Inc. and TransGas Limited.

As one can plainly see the list goes well beyond the four major Crowns that Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall seems to only mention.

The legislation leaves out Crowns such as the Saskatchewan Research Council and the Saskatchewan Communications Network. This is because selling off a major portion of a Crown without fully privatizing the company would require the same legislative process under the Act.

The Act received second reading on November 22, 2004. Prior to the vote Wayne Elhard, the Saskatchewan Party MLA for Cypress Hills, spoke on behalf of the party: “For the record, Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Party supports this Bill. The Saskatchewan Party supports the continued public ownership of the major Crowns.”

Elhard also stated:

“Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Party believes it is the role of government to provide essential services like power, like gas, like insurance, like telecommunications services, but they need to be directed to the people of Saskatchewan at the lowest possible cost.”

“Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Party supports The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act and commits to the people of Saskatchewan that a Saskatchewan Party government will keep the major Crowns publicly owned while focusing on providing the best possible service to Saskatchewan people, Mr. Speaker, all the while at the lowest possible cost. Thank you.”

Elhard only named the four major Crowns – power, gas, insurance and telecommunications services. The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book is no different.

Policy resolution CC05-1: Keeping the Major Crowns Public states:

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government supports The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act and will retain public ownership of our major Crown corporations as important tools in the provision of utility services to Saskatchewan families and businesses and important partners in the economic development of Saskatchewan.”

Policy resolution EC05-3: Establishing the Right Economic Development Priorities states in part:

“Be it resolved that the economic development priorities of a Saskatchewan Party government will be to:

d) Maintain public ownership of Saskatchewan’s major crown utilities focused on the provision of power, telecommunications services, natural gas transmission and distribution and insurance services to Saskatchewan families and businesses at the lowest possible cost.”

It’s clear that the Saskatchewan Party only supports keeping the four major Crown utilities publicly owned. Leader Brad Wall and the rest of his party are silent on the fate of the rest. Why? Could it be because a Saskatchewan Party government would amend the Act so it can begin dismantling them?

ENTERPRISE SASKATCHEWAN

On the Enterprise Saskatchewan scheme the Saskatchewan Party platform states:

“A Saskatchewan Party government will create Enterprise Saskatchewan, a new public-private partnership between government, business, labour, First Nations, municipalities, post-secondary institutions and economic stakeholders. Enterprise Saskatchewan will be Saskatchewan’s central economic development agency.” [Page 18]

Enterprise Saskatchewan teams will review key sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy, to identify barriers to growth and make recommendations to government for their removal.” [Page 19]

According to leader Brad Wall’s The Promise of Saskatchewan: A New Vision for Saskatchewan’s Economy (Sept. 2004), under Enterprise Saskatchewan the government “will cede significant control over the formation and implementation of economic development strategies to a broad partnership of economic stakeholders with the full support of the Premier and Executive Council.”

“Its board will represent both government and the aforementioned partners, with the chairperson coming from the non-government members of the board.”

“Rather than taking direction from government” Wall’s non-elected Enterprise Saskatchewan partners “will establish provincial economic development goals and strategies for endorsement by Cabinet and the Legislature. Government departments; agencies and, in some cases, Crown corporations, will then be tasked with implementing these strategies.”

One of Enterprise Saskatchewan’s key functions will be to “develop a systematic and ongoing process to identify and remove barriers to growth in each of our key economic sectors.”

Wall’s plan, however, lacks any credibility because his “vision” pre-determines what the alleged barriers are and what the outcomes are expected to be. (See page five of Wall’s Dec. 8, 2005, speech to the North Saskatoon Business Association for an example.)

Furthermore, when it comes to the finer details of the plan there appears to be no transparency.

The Saskatchewan Party has not released the complete terms of reference for Enterprise Saskatchewan or clearly explained the process of how its chair, vice-chair and members of the board will be selected.

Wall has not said whether the Enterprise Saskatchewan board meetings and its agendas will be open to the public.

To date Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall has not supplied a definitive list of the groups that will comprise the Enterprise Saskatchewan board. At this juncture it appears that Enterprise Saskatchewan will be little more than a front for the party’s corporate friends (i.e. Canadian Federation of Independent Business & Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce etc). After all, it’s business that provides the bulk of the party’s donations – not to mention the media who are also well represented.

SOCIAL ISSUES

The Saskatchewan Party platform appears to be light on social issues. Aside from high profile ticket items like health and education, the party says it “will provide an additional $2-million in over the next four years to community schools across the province for school lunch and anti-hunger programs” and “an additional $20-million over four years to food banks and community based organizations that provide life skills, development and employment training to under-skilled individuals.”

Page fifteen notes: “A Saskatchewan Party government will empower community based organizations, by holding a summit of community based organizations within the first six months of a Saskatchewan Party government to develop a new social policy direction for Saskatchewan.”

Page thirty-four indicates that a Saskatchewan Party government will provide an additional $16-million in funding over four years for more addiction treatment beds and services.

There doesn’t appear to be much more.

However, this is what the Saskatchewan Party Policy Book states:

SC05-9. Addressing Food and Hunger Issues

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will address food and hunger issues in the province by:

a) Increasing the food allowance for social assistance recipients; and
b) Ensuring a portion of social assistance received by families is dedicated to food funding.”

SC05-5. Supporting the Transition from Social Assistance to Employment

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will promote economic self-sufficiency and support the transition of people from social assistance to full employment by:

a) Ensuring training programs are delivered with the input of employers and are geared towards local labour market needs;
b) Increasing the amount a recipient can earn from employment while on assistance; and
c) Removing barriers to make it easier to move from welfare to work.”

SC05-6. Increasing Support for Persons with Permanent Disabilities

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will increase assistance and establish a distinct funding mechanism to support individuals with permanent disabilities.”

SC05-7. Building Partnerships to Deliver Employment Programs for Persons with Disabilities

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will work in partnership with local community organizations and businesses to determine how best to deliver employment programs to persons with physical and intellectual disabilities.”

SC05-8. Implementing a Strategy to Reduce the Use of Crystal Meth and Other Addictive Substances

“Be it resolved the Saskatchewan Party government will implement a strategy to reduce the use of crystal meth and other addictive substances, including:

a) Assisting families, communities and schools to get the information they need to combat the dangers of crystal meth by facilitating public awareness, providing a list of expert speakers in the field of law enforcement and drug awareness and ensuring parents have access to the material they need to work together;

b) Implementing a specific crystal meth strategy, including an awareness program, mandated for use in schools;

c) Improving treatment for those suffering because of addiction to crystal meth, or other drugs made cheaper by its arrival on our streets. This will include:

i) An addictions treatment program specifically for children;

ii) Centres capable of treating individuals for extended periods;

iii) A treatment system prepared to meet current and future demands;

iv) Safe houses for at risk individuals waiting to get into treatment centres; and

v) Family counseling.

d) Re-establishing an independent addictions foundation, staffed by experts specializing in upto-date treatment options; and

e) Lobbying the federal government to give police the enforcement tools needed to stop the proliferation of crystal meth and other addictive substances.”

A Saskatchewan Party government will ensure “that social assistance recipients who make the transition to work have access to the necessary financial resources to pay for initial work related expenses.” [Page 83]

GM05-1. Studying the Social Impact of Gaming to Inform Future Gaming Strategy

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will honour all existing casino development agreements but will complete a comprehensive study of the social impact that gaming expansion is having on Saskatchewan before considering the approval of any further casino developments or expansion in the number of VLTs operating in Saskatchewan and release the study to the public.”

GM05-2. Dedicated Funding for Addictions Treatment Programs and Facilities

“Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will dedicate a percentage of liquor and gaming revenues to addictions programs and facilities.”

None of these policies seemed to make the final cut. No explanation is given why.

TILMA

In 2006, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall unequivocally supported and endorsed the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement in its present form. He berated Premier Lorne Calvert for not signing it. On June 28, 2007, he flip-flopped.

Page twenty-one of the Saskatchewan Party platform states:

“A Saskatchewan Party government will reduce interprovincial trade barriers” and “will be an active participant in inter-provincial Western Canadian initiatives that expand economic opportunity, improve the effectiveness of public services and enhance security for Saskatchewan people, including initiatives related to: Protecting and furthering Western Canadian interests within Confederation…”

The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book is blunter:

IG05-4. Eliminating Barriers to Growth
Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will work with other provinces to standardize provincial regulations and eliminate barriers to growth.

In other words TILMA: The Sequel.

2 Comments:

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Lord High Commissioner said...

Joe,

That was a long winded diatribe of crap!

Your scare tactics will not work on this union member or any other of my shop floor brothers.

You and your silly group is on their way out. No need to cry Joey, just do what everyone else does while in opposition; get a job based upon your merit, not on your party membership!

Good luck in your new job at the Co-op!

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger Brian said...

This article hit home. When I needed to go to dual diagnosis treatment I found that these guys were caring and compassionate.

 

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