Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sask. Party gov’t claims no records exist of April 2008 meeting with Bruce Power; CIC refusing to disclose records of September 2008 meeting

It’s on public record that Bruce Power president and CEO Duncan Hawthorne was in Regina last spring to meet with provincial officials. The Saskatchewan Party government, however, is claiming that no records of the meeting exist. How this could be possible remains a mystery.

The story begins on April 25, 2008, when TransCanada Corporation held its annual meeting of shareholders at the Roundup Centre in Calgary.

Hal Kvisle, TransCanada president and CEO, told reporters at the meeting that Bruce Power would be “encouraged” to look at a variety locations – including Saskatchewan – as it searches for site to build Western Canada’s first commercial nuclear plant.

According to an article by Calgary Herald reporter Jon Harding, Kvisle said while TransCanada supports Bruce Power’s nuclear pursuits in [Alberta], a compelling and logical argument can be made that Saskatchewan, the source of most of the nuclear fuel used in North America, would be a better home.

Saskatchewan should think about value-added upgrading of that fuel,” Kvisle said. “Also, in Saskatchewan there is increasingly a comfort level with the merits of nuclear power. Of course, in every jurisdiction there are people opposed to it.” [Saskatchewan may snatch reactor, say TransCanada (Calgary Herald, Apr. 26, 2008)]

TransCanada is majority owner of Bruce Power and is also one the Saskatchewan Party’s biggest contributors. Since 1998 it has donated $49,898.41 to the party. Cameco Corporation, a partial owner of the nuclear power company, has contributed $45,808.10.

On May 6, 2008, Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd told the Calgary Herald his government has held “early” talks with Bruce Power.

“We have had early, very preliminary discussions with Bruce Power about the potential in Saskatchewan,” Boyd said in an interview in Calgary, where he was speaking at a conference for energy regulators.

“(Bruce Power) has indicated to us, as well, that the site selection might be more appropriate in our province, so we are interested in that and are looking at it.”

Boyd said the province would welcome the investment. [Alberta faces fight for reactor (Calgary Herald, May 7, 2008)]

On May 8, 2008, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported that Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Bruce Power, met briefly with Boyd and other government officials in Regina a couple of weeks earlier.

The company had only recently expressed interest in Saskatchewan as a potential location for nuclear development in Western Canada.

According to the article Boyd said there have been no substantive discussions at this point with other companies such as Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. or the nuclear power branch of Areva. [Sask. nuclear power plant still 'long ways off': Boyd (StarPhoenix, May 8, 2008)]

Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reported on May 9, 2008, that Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said the province isn’t interested in running a plant.

‘‘We are ruling out SaskPower being an owner-operator of a nuclear plant,’’ he said.

Instead, the Saskatchewan Party government is looking to the private sector to do comprehensive studies and come forward with proposals. (This contradicts Saskatchewan Party policy which states that a government under it “will immediately carry out and publicly release a study on the feasibility of building one or more nuclear power generation facilities in Saskatchewan to provide a reliable supply of low cost power in an environmentally responsible way.”)

Boyd was quoted as saying the meeting with Bruce Power officials was of “an introductory-type.”

‘‘They talked about in general terms whether we as a government would be interested in nuclear generation. We said yes we were,’’ said Boyd. [Leaked report says yes (The Canadian Press, May 9, 2008)]

Lo and behold six weeks later Hawthorne was in Saskatoon, with Cheveldayoff and Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart by his side, to announce the launch of his company’s feasibility study.

“We would like to welcome Bruce Power to our province and look forward to the results of the Saskatchewan 2020 feasibility study, which we hope will lead to the creation of a nuclear option for our province,” Stewart said.

Cheveldayoff said the government was “establishing a climate so companies like Bruce Power can come to our province and compete to provide the next generation of clean electricity.” [Bruce Power news release, June 17, 2008]

In the article Wall says gov’t will explore nuclear power plant possibility (Leader-Post, June 18, 2008), Premier Brad Wall said the government would be “foolish” not to explore the possibility of a privately operated nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan.

In a little known story published on June 17, 2008, the Globe and Mail’s Karen Howlett reported that Wall met with Hawthorne that day and according to Leanne Persicke, a spokewoman in Wall’s office, it was Wall that asked Bruce Power to conduct a feasibility study for the nuclear power plant. [Saskatchewan to unveil nuclear plans (Globe and Mail, June 17, 2008)]

If true then it would mean it was Wall that violated the party’s policy on the issue.

It seems pretty straight forward that the best place to ask for information on the Hawthorne-Boyd meeting would be from Energy and Resources. After all, it was Boyd that was speaking on behalf of the government.

On February 19, 2009, an access to information request was submitted to Energy and Resources for copies of any records, paper or electronic, regarding or relating to the any meetings that took place in April 2008 between the provincial government and Bruce Power.

A month later, however, came this puzzling response from the Wall government: “Please be advised that the records you wish to access do not exist in the Ministry of Energy and Resources.”

The ministry recommended the request be re-directed to Enterprise Saskatchewan, SaskPower or possibly Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC).

On March 31, 2009, requests were sent to Enterprise Saskatchewan and CIC for the same information. SaskPower does not speak for the Wall government on nuclear issues so on that basis it didn’t seem worthwhile contacting them.

Enterprise Saskatchewan was the first to respond, its April 22 letter stating: “This is to advise that the record(s) you wish access to does not exist in Enterprise Saskatchewan.”

This was followed by CIC’s May 1 reply: “CIC is unable to locate any records that are responsive to your request.”

So what we have here is three government institutions with the greatest interest in the nuclear file all saying they have no records of any meeting between the provincial government and Bruce Power in April 2008. This despite media reports, unless they’re mistaken, that one did occur and that it included Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd and “other government officials.” How is this possible?

One meeting the Wall government can’t ignore is the one that took place on September 29, 2008, between CIC officials and Bruce Power. It was at this meeting that CIC were advised of the key findings of the power company’s feasibility study – two months before it was officially released.

According to an undated, heavily censored briefing note disclosed by CIC on March 9 under freedom of information legislation, “CIC staff held a preliminary meeting with Bruce Power officials on September 29 during which the following information was provided:

“The study will conclude that it is feasible to build a two unit, 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan under certain conditions.

“The study will also identify as many as four potential locations (near Lloydminster, near North Battleford, near Prince Albert and near Boundary Dam south of Estevan).”

A follow-up request was made to CIC on March 13, 2009, for copies of any written notes, emails, reports or letters regarding or relating to the September 29, 2008, meeting between the provincial government and Bruce Power. The request was denied.

In its April 29 letter CIC said that access to records responsive to the request was refused on the basis that if disclosed would release information that contains briefings to members of Executive Council in relation to matters that are before or are proposed to be brought before the Executive Council or any of its committees; and could also reasonably be expected to disclose consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of a government institution, a member of the Executive Council or the staff of a member of the Executive Council.

The Wall government would like the public to believe that its march towards bringing nuclear power to the province is transparent and above board, but at every turn seems to refuse access to information about its dealings with Bruce Power, the very company that’s interested in building as many as two reactors here. What are people supposed to think?


Post a Comment

<< Home