Thursday, February 07, 2008

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Board selection process shows flaws; Strategic Issues Councils to be established but no information provided on what they are

In a Feb. 6, 2008, news release Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said the Ministry has received more than 300 applications for the ten nominee positions available on the Enterprise Saskatchewan Board.

“A committee of senior Ministry officials will score each of the applications based on a standard set of criteria,” the release states.

“From the very positive response we have received, there will be much interest in the Sector Teams and Strategic Issues Councils, who will be of significant importance to the Board,” Stewart said.

Stewart anticipates an announcement regarding the selected nominees will be made in early March.

The government has not released the names of the committee members.

In Gov’t opens nominations for Enterprise Saskatchewan (StarPhoenix, Jan. 5, 2008) Stewart would only say that he and another minister, along with some deputy ministers, will be part of the committee that selects the final board members, but those details are still being finalized.

One thing has been confirmed, though. As suspected the organizations not selected to be part of the Enterprise Saskatchewan board could form a pool from which participants in the “sector teams” would be selected.

The backgrounder attached to the news release notes that “Individuals previously nominated for positions on the Board, or who applied for the Member at Large position on the Board, will be considered for these forums without needing to submit an expression of interest.”

A new wrinkle to Enterprise Saskatchewan is the emergence of something called the “Strategic Issues Councils.” Just exactly what they are the news release doesn’t say.

The backgrounder states that these Councils, along with the Sector Teams, were “outlined in the Enterprise Saskatchewan legislation.” In reading the proposed Bill that was tabled on Dec. 17, 2007, this does not appear to be the case. While ‘Section 4 – Purposes of agency’ does say that sector teams will be established there is nothing in the legislation that refers specifically to “Strategic Issues Councils.”

So while the government answered one question it has created another to take its place.

The majority of the Enterprise Saskatchewan board will be unelected but the sector teams will be even one step further removed from the public in terms of accountability. Given its mandate this is cause for concern.

A Jan. 18 news release illustrates the significant influence the “sector teams” will have within Enterprise Saskatchewan.

According to Stewart, “the major organizational focus of Enterprise Saskatchewan will be based on key sectors of the provincial economy. The agency’s job, through additional sector participation, will be to identify and monitor competitive advantages and disadvantages in each sector, and to prescribe appropriate actions and strategies to enhance Saskatchewan competitiveness and growth. As well, the agency is responsible for identifying barriers to Saskatchewan’s growth and making recommendations on action to removing those barriers.”

Still unanswered is whether the sector team meetings and any reports or correspondence they consider will be open and available to the public without restriction. The same goes for the board. The government’s silence on this issue seems to suggest that all meetings will be closed.

Also attached to the news release are the screening criteria for the Enterprise Saskatchewan board. Some of the ten objectives listed to be used for the selection process will likely result in a decision that was arrived at subjectively rather than objectively.

For example, the government is looking for board members that:

– are team players with a demonstrated track record of working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders.

– are innovative and forward looking.

– balance social development and environmental considerations with economic development.

How can the public be assured that the as yet unidentified “committee of senior Ministry officials” will evaluate these criteria fairly without personal or political bias creeping in?

In Selection process has begun for 10 board seats (Leader-Post, Feb. 7, 2008) Stewart “maintained that politics are not involved.”

With Stewart and another minister and deputy ministers who are politically appointed involved in the selection process how can politics not be involved?

How do Stewart and his officials define what ‘team players’, ‘innovative and forward looking’ and ‘balance’ mean?

With the recent introduction of anti-labour legislation the public doesn’t have to look very far for an example of what the Saskatchewan Party’s idea of ‘balance’ is.

Will the Board of Directors Screening Forms be made public so everyone can see how each nomination was scored?

After spending ten years in opposition the Saskatchewan Party would surely know who its friends are and more importantly its enemies.


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