Enterprise Saskatchewan Act: Sector teams lack transparency; labour laws not identified as barriers in Premier Brad Wall’s ‘economic vision’
One of the most important aspects of the Saskatchewan Party government’s Enterprise Saskatchewan Act is the creation of “sector teams” that will identify barriers to growth in 14 sectors of the province’s economy. It seems not much work can begin until these mysterious bodies are up and running. Yet it’s an area where little information is being provided.
The Act’s preamble sets out the government’s goals and principles for Enterprise Saskatchewan, which include policies to ensure that taxes are competitive with other jurisdictions; barriers to economic growth are reduced and removed; and labour laws are balanced and fair to both employers and unions.
In keeping with the principles set out in the preamble, among the stated purposes of Enterprise Saskatchewan in Section 4(a) of the Act are: “to establish sector teams to survey and identify barriers to growth in the following sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy:
(i) energy production;
(v) advanced education, research and development;
(vi) life sciences, synchrotron science and information technology;
(ix) trucking and transportation;
(x) financial services;
(xiv) arts and culture;
(xv) any other prescribed sector.”
(In the Act “prescribed” means prescribed in the regulations, which have not yet been made public. Regulations are usually made by Cabinet, ministers or agency boards and, once filed with the Registrar of Regulations, are legal instruments with the force of law. Copies of specific regulations are available from the Queen’s Printer.)
Beyond this there is no other information contained in the Act about the sector teams. Not known is which individuals or organizations will be represented or who will choose them. Not known is how they will be selected or what qualifications are required. How many people will be on each team? Will team members be paid, if so how much? Will the names of team members be made public? Will sector meetings be open to the public? Will any reports or correspondence considered by the teams be available to the public? What are the terms of reference and what powers, if any, will the sector teams have? Will they be a permanent fixture within
It’s bad enough that the
No word yet either on whether
Details about the
In a speech to the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) on Dec. 8, 2005, Wall said:
“At the outset, we will directRight away two things are apparent. First, it was business that told Brad Wall which sectors
Enterprise Saskatchewanto establish sector teams for the economic sectors that business has told me can drive true job creating economic growth in . Saskatchewan
“Each team will have one month to prepare its first inventory of the barriers to growth holding that sector back from reaching its full potential. (resource surcharges, infrastructure, etc.)
“We won’t need to appoint a forestry task force as the Premier did in the wake of the recent Weyerhaeuser announcement – one will already exist.
“These sector teams will report publicly and the new government will respond publicly with its plans to deal with those barriers to growth within two weeks. That is one to two months for the first action on barriers to growth.”
In his speech to the NSBA Wall also said:
“Well, last year I released my economic vision for our province’s future called the Promise of Saskatchewan. One of the first places I came to talk about it was right here to all of you.So one of the first stops Wall made on his promotional tour was to business lobby group the NSBA. He asked for their feedback and they responded. As best can be determined Wall has not publicly identified which “groups and individuals” he consulted. It would be interesting to know if he reached out to labour for its input or any other non-business groups for that matter.
“I told you then that it was a living document and that I wanted your ideas and views. I sent it out around the province asking groups and individuals the same thing.
“And you responded. Soon I will release an updated version of that blueprint for a new economy.”
It should also be noted that in
(Incidentally, the Honourable Rob Norris, Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour was the guest speaker at an NSBA luncheon held Friday, December 21, 2007, at the Park Town Hotel. The topic: A Fair and Balanced Labour Environment in
Furthermore, Page 9 of Wall’s economic paper The Promise of Saskatchewan notes that the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce will be “part of the strategic planning, implementation, governance and monitoring of the Enterprise Saskatchewan Plan.”
And Page 83 of the Saskatchewan Party Policy Book states that “the board of
The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act states in Section 6(1) that “one member selected from persons nominated by the prescribed organization or organizations representing business in
The CFIB already have one thing going for them and that is its former
This information was made available in a Saskatchewan Party pre-election news release on September 24, 2007.
Interestingly, The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act is silent on the fact that sector teams will be proposing strategies.
Section 4(b) of the Act says only that the agency itself (
Section 4(d) of the Act notes that
The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act contains at least one significant change from what Wall proposed in his 2004 vision paper. Section 8(1) of the Act states that: “The minister is the chairperson of the board.”
Meanwhile, Page 11 of Wall’s The Promise of Saskatchewan had something else in mind noting that the
Page 79 of the Saskatchewan Party Policy Book expands this further stating: “The fact that
It should be noted the new Act also points out that the government “may appoint another member of the board as vice-chairperson of the board.”
These changes appear to thwart what Brad Wall told the audience during a speech he gave at the 2007 Regina Saskatchewan Party Leader’s Dinner on April 24, 2007, at the Queensbury Convention Centre that
The Saskatchewan Party government will be picking which organizations sit on the
It is interesting that The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act would include labour laws as one of the targets the government intends to attack.
With the recent introduction of the Trade Union Amendment Act, 2007 and Public Service Essential Services Act organized labour is getting hammered on two fronts.
With the identification and removal of barriers to economic growth being one of the key purposes of The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act it could very well be that the true intention of the Act is to go above and beyond what is cited in the other two pieces of legislation concerning labour. Surely the sector teams, which will no doubt be comprised of business friendly individuals, will find other barriers that it feels should be eliminated.
A Dec. 20, 2007, open letter to Premier Brad Wall and Labour Minister Rob Norris from Saskatchewan Business Council (SBC) representatives Lanny McInnes, the director of Government Relations and Member Services (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) with the Retail Council of Canada, Shirley Ryan, the executive director with the North Saskatoon Business Association and Marilyn Braun-Pollon, the vice-president of Saskatchewan and Agribusiness with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, applauding the government’s new labour legislation appears to suggest as much.
“The SBC applauds these first steps and looks forward to working with your government to further introduce other policies that help create a more competitive Saskatchewan,” the SBC said.
The letter was copied to the Hon. Lyle Stewart, Minister of Enterprise and Innovation and Dale Botting, Deputy Minister, Minister of Enterprise and Innovation, who are mandated to create Enterprise Saskatchewan which will provide recommendations and advice for the removal and reduction of barriers to economic growth.
The interesting thing is labour laws were never identified as being barriers to economic growth in Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall’s economic paper.
In an address to more than 200 students at the
“The goal of our
According to Wall, “Saskatchewan Party MLAs have spent a great deal of time meeting with various industry groups and economic development organizations to identify barriers to growth in key economic sectors.”
Wall’s economic paper pre-determined the following as barriers:
– Direct competition to business from various government agencies
– Crown corporations attempting to diversify from core functions
– Crown corporation policies
– Inadequate access to bandwidth
– Lack of high-speed internet access in parts of the province
– Corporate tax
– Income tax
– Capital tax
– Property tax (Education portion)
– Provincial Sales Tax
– Fuel tax
– Resource surcharge
– Shortage of skilled workers
– Poor infrastructure (i.e. high quality roads)
– Red tape (i.e. regulations)
– Permitting processes
– Financial institutions taxed at a higher rate than manufacturing firms
– Tendering processes in construction industry
– Property taxes on rail lines
Conspicuously absent from the list is any reference to the very things the business lobby constantly complain about: labour laws, minimum wage, employment insurance, Workers’ Compensation, social assistance, Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board or essential services legislation. There is absolutely nothing in Brad Wall’s economic plan to suggest that labour laws are barriers to economic growth in
News articles covering the release of Wall’s economic paper at the time include: Sask Party launches plan for the province (CBC News, Sept. 21, 2004), Sask. Party wants input from public (Leader-Post, Sept. 22, 2004), Wall makes economic pitch (Leader-Post, Editorial, Sept. 22, 2004), Wall’s vision gives province new mindset (StarPhoenix, Editorial, Sept. 22, 2004), Aiming at palatable alternative (StarPhoenix, Sept. 23, 2004), What's the big idea?
In February 2005, delegates at the Saskatchewan Party annual convention in
Again, there is nothing in the Promise of Saskatchewan with respect to labour laws and yet in his speech to the NSBA ten months later Wall said: “Non-negotiable and foundational to the terms of reference given to
This is the same Brad Wall that in a December 10, 2004, letter to the Saskatchewan Business Council, said the province has a “reputation as a business-friendly environment.”
In an April 3, 2007, news release Wall said
Perhaps Wall’s change in tune came about after receiving unfavourable responses from the business lobby who weren’t too pleased that his vision overlooked their deep-seated dislike of labour laws and organized labour in general.