Thursday, November 29, 2007

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Former CFIB director Dale Botting lands key role in Saskatchewan Party government

If Enterprise Saskatchewan had little credibility before the provincial election it appears to have even less now.

On November 27, 2007, in a blatant nod to business, the new Saskatchewan Party government announced that Dale Botting, the former Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Vice President of Western Canada, will serve as the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and will lead the “design-build” phase of the establishment of Enterprise Saskatchewan.

Lyle Stewart, the MLA for Thunder Creek, was named Minister of Enterprise and Innovation on Nov. 21.

In Enterprise Saskatchewan would privatize department: SFL (StarPhoenix, Nov. 1, 2007) party leader Brad Wall named the CFIB, the alleged non-partisan business lobby group with whom his party is closely aligned, as one of the business groups that could be asked to be involved in Enterprise Saskatchewan.

So in essence the CFIB could very well have a representative on the Enterprise Saskatchewan board making recommendations to someone in government it has deep ties with who will be responsible for designing and implementing the scheme.

You’d think things couldn’t get much better than that for business – but it does.

In his “economic vision” The Promise of Saskatchewan, Wall said regional economic development authorities would also be represented on the board (Page 83 in the Sask. Party Policy Book). As luck would have it Botting was once the CEO of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority.

In Enterprise Sask. gets a face (StarPhoenix, Nov. 28, 2007) Botting told business editor Murray Lyons that he wants “to see if we can go beyond a narrow silo approach to a more co-operative and collaborative approach.”

How he intends to achieve this is unclear since Wall was adamant in a speech to the North Saskatoon Business Association on Dec. 8, 2005, that “Non-negotiable and foundational to the terms of reference given to Enterprise Saskatchewan will be changes to labour legislation.” The same goes for the “implementation of the Vicq report recommendations on small business exemptions, corporate income and the very insidious corporate capital tax” and “the end of government picking winners and losers in the economy.”

“These initiatives are non-negotiable and are hard wired right into Enterprise Saskatchewan. Legislative changes where necessary will be readied for the first Legislative session,” said Wall.

In fact, a good deal of Wall’s Enterprise Saskatchewan comes with a pre-determined outcome and little in the way of transparency.

The CFIB generally despise unions and labour laws. It is against minimum wage hikes and supports new workers being paid less than the minimum during probation periods. The organization has called for deep cuts to Workers’ Compensation and the privatization of Crown corporations. It is also tireless in its quest for tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts. It wants less government and less government spending. As for social programs its many reports over the years seem to mention only health and education.

Botting is no stranger to these issues.

In Corporate tax holidays priority for SREDA (StarPhoenix, Dec. 20, 2001) Botting pushed for “five to 10-year holiday on corporate income tax (CIT) for new businesses and expansions” and “proposed the formation of a capitalization company (CAPCO) program, a fund for large corporations to invest in and derive tax breaks.”

In Keep Crown corporations in public hands: gov’t report (StarPhoenix, Oct. 18, 1996) Botting said that “Selling Crowns may be the only way Saskatchewan will ever get out from under its debt and be able to offer tax relief.”

His comments echoed those made during the July 1995 provincial election when he said the media missed a prime opportunity to discuss the restructuring of government.

The article A long, uncertain road to recovery: Boyd's Tories must advance a hard-line philosophy if they ever hope to retake Saskatchewan (Western Report, Vol. 10, Issue 24; July 3, 1995) notes:
“It’s time to talk about privatizing the crown corporations,” he says, “but there was little debate on that either.” Mr. Botting says emerging technology will soon render SaskTel relatively worthless. “We ought to sell it while it still has some value,” he says. And he also refers to “dog crowns”--perennial money losers such as the Saskatchewan Transportation Company--which he believes could be made profitable if turned over to the private sector.
Enterprise Saskatchewan is designed to remove barriers to growth. The province’s Crown corporations and their policies have been identified as “non-tax barriers.” Furthermore, the Saskatchewan Party supports keeping only the four major Crown utilities publicly owned but continues to deny this even though its policy book states otherwise.

In CFIB wants workers’ compensation cut (StarPhoenix, Sept. 24, 1996) the lobby group said that “The Workers Compensation Board should reduce benefits and consider partial privatization to help prevent future “rate shock.”

According to the article Botting said “Partial privatization could also help reduce rates by bringing down administration costs if certain management functions are contracted out.”

The CFIB recommended “that benefits drop from 90 per cent of net income to 75 per cent for the first 39 weeks, and 80 per cent thereafter.”

“It creates a difficulty to get people motivated to go back to work,” said Botting.

The CFIB were vehemently against amendments to the Labour Standards Act requiring companies to pay benefits to permanent part-time employees.

“This is without precedent in Canada and in North America,” said Botting.

“We are not able to afford such unbelievably unprecedented kinds of reforms.” [Saskatchewan part-timers to get all benefits (The Province, March 13, 1994)]

Employment Insurance hasn’t escaped the CFIB’s wrath either.

In Businessman wants dropouts cut off UIC (Edmonton Journal, March 28, 1991) Botting reportedly told a symposium that “Unemployment insurance benefits should be withheld from Canadians under 24 who have not completed high school.”

He complained that business is forced to handle education’s failures.

It seems clear that the Wall government intends to let Enterprise Saskatchewan be designed and run by business for business. On this count it will be picking winners and losers – something the party has consistently said it wants to avoid.

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