Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chair of the Future of Uranium in Sask. Public Consultation Process rejects request for disclosure of UDP records, ‘not within my mandate’: Perrins

Just days into the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Public Consultation Process and already fairness and transparency seem to be out the window.

On April 8, the Saskatchewan Party government appointed Dan Perrins as chair of the public consultations on the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) report, Capturing the full potential of the uranium value chain in Saskatchewan, submitted March 31, 2009.

Perrins is tasked with writing and submitting to Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart a report no later than August 31, 2009.

According to the mandate letter signed by Stewart, Perrins is “responsible for leading all aspects” of the process and has the authority to recommend further public consultations. He also has the power “to recommend… the provision of further information to the public.” What is meant by this is not explained but presumably it has something to do with the UDP and/or its report.

It was in this context that Perrins was asked on May 17 to request that the provincial government release a number of UDP records to which the public was being denied access.

Since January, Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) has denied at least three requests made under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for copies of the full agenda packages and minutes for any UDP meetings that occurred after October 20, 2008. Furthermore, CIC is also denying access to the request for proposals that was submitted by pro-nuclear consultant McKinsey and Company for support services to the UDP.

It remains unclear how many meetings or conference calls, which were closed to the public, the UDP conducted from the time it was established on October 20, 2008, to when it disbanded on April 3, 2009.

In an email response on May 27, Perrins rejected the request saying, “The mandate I received from the Government of Saskatchewan relates to the public consultation process on the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership report. Your request, to seek provincial government disclosure of records to you, is not within my mandate.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Perrins did not elaborate on why he felt making such a request was not within the scope of his work since Stewart’s mandate letter seems to suggest otherwise. He also didn’t comment on the question of fairness and that all parties should have access to the same information.

The findings and recommendations of the UDP are a byproduct of the meetings it held. The agendas and minutes to those meetings are the official record of the group’s deliberations and are inseparable from the final report. Without one you wouldn’t have the other. Why these weren’t appended to the final report is a mystery that deserves attention.

This issue is important because 10 organizations that were represented on the UDP have been invited to participate in the public consultation. These include: AREVA Resources Canada, Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, IBEW Local 2067, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology, Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, University of Regina, and University of Saskatchewan.

These organizations have also been afforded the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the chair, Dan Perrins, to present and discuss their views on the UDP’s findings and recommendations, which they helped to develop.

This select group would surely have access to UDP records that the public doesn’t. This gives the organizations involved a clear advantage and indeed makes their voice privileged since it’s their report, and only their report, that Perrins is mandated to review.

Two additional organizations that were invited – Golder Associates and Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) – have connections to the UDP as well.

Golder Associates is a consulting firm specializing in ground engineering and environmental services. They have Bruce Power as a client. In March, Golder conducted information sessions for the nuclear power company in North Battleford, Prince Albert and Lloydminster. Allowing Golder to take part in the public consultation essentially gives Bruce Power another voice at the table.

Golder Associates are acknowledged in the UDP report for the “information and support” it provided during the course of the panel’s work. The connections to Bruce Power and the UDP seem to be paying off.

On May 27, a day after the first stakeholder meeting, Ron Barsi, a mining and environmental management specialist with Golder Associates in Saskatoon, was quoted in The StarPhoenix as saying Saskatchewan will need more energy if it plans to rely on mines -- projects that use massive amounts of electricity -- for its future, and that might have to come from a nuclear reactor.

“If there ever was a budget that relied on mining, it’s the latest one,” he said.

“The mines are paying for our education and our hospitals.” [Stakeholders eye uranium report (StarPhoenix, May 27, 2009)]

As for STEP it has two board members that were directly involved with the UDP: Keith Brown and Dale Botting.

Brown was the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce representative on the panel and Botting, who is the CEO of Enterprise Saskatchewan, was co-lead of the secretariat that was established by the government to assist the group.

According to its 2009-10 strategic plan one of the key actions for Botting’s agency this year is to, “Advance recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership report after public consultation to increase value-added processing of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources.”

For a process that some have called a sham this latest development certainly won’t help to dispel that notion.


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