Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sask. Party Premier Brad Wall, MLA’s McMorris, Hickie & Norris breach party’s code of ethics; stand on Crowns may contravene constitution


Wall, McMorris, Hickie & Norris (from left)

The recent conduct of Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall and three of his cabinet ministers – Don McMorris, Darryl Hickie and Rob Norris – appears to breach the party’s Code of Ethics.

At issue are comments attributed to them relating to the Prince Albert Pulp Mill and essential services legislation.

Regina Leader-Post political affairs columnist Murray Mandryk laid out the facts in Basic honesty minimum expectation (StarPhoenix, Dec. 7, 2007).

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the day 37 of the 38 Saskatchewan Party MLA’s swore their oath of honour the media “caught the government in its first two blatant incongruities.”

Mandryk’s column notes:

– Contrary to the Saskatchewan Party’s Prince Albert Carlton candidate’s election commitment that “a vote for a Darryl Hickie is a vote to keep the mill open,” we listened Tuesday to Hickie rationalizing how cancellation of the $100-million MOU with Domtar has virtually no relationship to his pledge. [The Prince Albert Daily Herald had plenty to say on this issue.]

– And we heard from none other than Premier Brad Wall that his government would impose some form of essential services legislation. This despite repeated assurances from Elwin Hermanson, Don McMorris (his, a mere 10 days before the election call) and Wall himself that the Saskatchewan Party sees no reason to legislate essential services and that the unions and government could work this out at contract time.

The simple and basic principle in politics is, “You have to be honest and forthright with the voters,” Mandryk said.

Mandryk goes on the say:
Wall, McMorris, Hickie and now, Advanced Education and Labour Minister Rob Norris, simply aren’t being honest with the voters on these two issues.

At best, they were deliberately unclear in the lead-up to the election as they sought the support of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, voters in Prince Albert and others. At worst, Wall and Norris are choosing to be downright duplicitous with their revisionism that the Saskatchewan Party made it clear all along that it might legislate essential services (even if it didn't bother to mention it on its platform).

To hear Wall explain it today, it was just McMorris who misrepresented the party’s position by telling CBC reporter Geoff Leo on Oct. 1 that legislating essential services was “not on.”

This is simply not the case.

In fact, McMorris told the Regina Leader-Post in a June 28 story, after the Health Science Association of Saskatchewan strike, that an agreement around essential services should be forged between the parties without having to legislate the matter. Hermanson, too, stressed in a July 12 Leader-Post story that essential services agreements could be negotiated at contract time and didn't require legislation.

Wall himself in a Sept. 22 story said the same thing.

“There’s some common sense at play here that simply says before collective bargaining begins, before the expiration of a contract, both sides (should) sit down and agree to providing essential services.” Wall told LP reporter Angela Hall, even going so far as to say legislation wouldn’t necessarily be required to set out essential services.

How is this a clear message from the Saskatchewan Party that it really was contemplating essential services legislation all along?

“A vote for Darryl Hickie is a vote to keep the mill open.” How is that not a clear commitment?
“The end doesn’t justify the means,” Mandryk said.

“The minimum expectation voters should have is for their politicians to be honest and forthright. The oath that MLAs…swore…should mean something.”

Apparently it means little to Premier Brad Wall.

The Saskatchewan Party Code of Ethics, which have been removed from the party’s website, states:
“The Party and its Members should pursue their activities with a commitment to basic values and principles of ethical behaviour central to which are integrity, honesty, respect, humility, responsibility, fairness and compassion.” Sec. III

“Members shall be faithful to the letter and spirit of this Code, the principles of the Saskatchewan Party and its constitution and to the laws of Canada and Saskatchewan.” Sec. IV(4)

“Members shall use care to avoid disseminating false information and shall not knowingly do so.” Sec. IV(6)
The Party’s Ethics Panel investigates possible breaches of the Code. The panel consists of five party members two of which are appointed by the Leader. The panel reports its decision to the respondent in writing, with a copy to the Executive Council and the Leader of the Party. The Code is silent on what happens when it’s the Leader that is under investigation.

Wall’s apparent violation of his party’s code of ethics extends beyond the current incident. Throughout the 2007 election he and his party attempted to rewrite history telling the public it supported maintaining all of Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations as publicly owned entities. This is despite the fact that the party’s policy book shows its interest lies only in the four major utilities: SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower and SGI.

The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book states:
CC05-1. Keeping the Major Crowns Public
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.

CC05-2. Focusing the Major Crowns on Serving Saskatchewan
Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will mandate the major Crown corporations to provide high quality utility and insurance services and customer satisfaction to Saskatchewan people and businesses at the lowest possible cost.

EC05-3. Establishing the Right Economic Development Priorities
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.
Page 30 of the Saskatchewan Party’s 2007 election platform Securing the Future states: “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.”

The platform mentions only SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SGI.

The new Minister of Crown Corporations is Ken Cheveldayoff, the MLA of Saskatoon Silver Springs. Among his Ministry’s priorities outlined in the Nov. 21 mandate letter signed by Premier Wall is: “Ensure that Saskatchewan Crown Corporations remain publicly owned and provide high quality services at the lowest cost.”

The word ‘utility’ is conspicuously absent.

The irony is that if Wall and Cheveldayoff were to actually honour the mandate they’d be violating the party’s policy book and related resolutions as passed by party members at its Feb. 2005 convention in Regina. This in turn would seem to be contravening the Constitution of the Saskatchewan Party (Feb. 2006) which states:
“The Membership of the Party shall be the highest authority and supreme governing body of The Saskatchewan Party.” Sec. 7(a)

“The resolutions and motions passed by the Convention of the Party shall be binding on the Leader and members of the caucus of The Saskatchewan Party.” Sec. 8(c)

“It shall be the duty of the Leader and the Party President to uphold and enforce the provisions of this Constitution.” Sec. 12
It should be noted that the constitution has been removed from the party’s website without explanation as well. Its little wonder since it and the party’s code of ethics don’t seem to be worth the paper they’re written on.

Furthermore, there is no mention of essential services legislation in the Saskatchewan Party’s election platform. Page 20 simply reads: “A Saskatchewan Party government will establish a fair and balanced labour environment in Saskatchewan that respects the rights of workers and employers by…Protecting public safety by working together with the province’s public sector unions to ensure essential services are in place in the event of a strike or labour action.”

The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book does not appear to contain any resolutions specific to essential services legislation.

Wall’s mandate letter to Norris does not mention legislation either. It merely says: “In your capacity as Minister of Labour, establish a fair and balanced labour environment in Saskatchewan that respects the rights of workers and employers by…Working with the province’s public sector unions to ensure essential services are in place in the event of a strike or labour action.”

The move by Wall to ensure essential services through legislation appears to be illegitimate at best.

Just one month into its mandate and the Brad Wall-led Saskatchewan Party government already seems to be bankrupt of honesty, integrity and credibility.

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