Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mendel Art Gallery: City of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan Tourism, Parks, Culture, and Sport refusing to disclose records on proposed new gallery

On April 3, Mayor Don Atchison and Mendel Art Gallery board chair Art Knight announced that construction of a new art gallery at River Landing, to be known as the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan (AGS), is being proposed for federal infrastructure funding under the project category of sport and culture. The long-planned renovation and expansion of the current facility would be abandoned.

The proposal was developed in secrecy only becoming public at the last minute. The Mendel family, gallery members, donors and the public were not consulted.

It’s been nearly twelve weeks since the press conference and so far the only information that’s been made available is a news release, glossy brochure, and misleading two-page fact sheet. The discussions have moved back behind closed doors.

Atchison and Knight seem to have no qualms about spending an estimated $55 million to build the new gallery, most of which will be taxpayer money, and yet when the public tries to access information on the project the door gets slammed in their face.

On April 17, Mendel director Vincent Varga rejected a request submitted under The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for copies of any letters or emails between the gallery and the City of Saskatoon since February 1 regarding or relating to the proposed new AGS; and, also for a complete copy of the agenda and minutes for the Mendel board of trustees meeting held March 14. (This was the meeting where pursuing the construction of a new art gallery at River Landing was approved in principle.) Varga said the gallery was not subject to the legislation but did not explain why. Varga also rejected an informal request made on April 23 for the same information. The matter has been referred to the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner for review.

The Mendel is a publicly owned and taxpayer funded institution. According to the city’s 2009 preliminary operating budget the gallery’s operating grant for this year is $2,064,900. This is up from $1,864,000 million in 2008. It’s disturbing that Mendel management seems to think the public has no right to know its business.

On April 6, a freedom of information request was submitted to Saskatchewan Tourism, Parks, Culture, and Sport (TPCS) for copies of any briefing notes, memorandums, reports, or formal correspondence since March 1 relating to the Mendel Art Gallery. The ministry advised on April 27 that some of the records requested required third party consultation to determine whether they could be released. On May 21 the ministry gave notice that it had received “representations from the third party in regards to the records in question” and that “access shall be granted only to the announcement brochure.” Access to the remaining third party records was denied. The third party in question is the City of Saskatoon.

Finally, on June 3, the ministry responded to the balance of the request by disclosing only two pages of non-third party information: An April 9, 2009, letter from TPCS Minister Christine Tell to Mayor Don Atchison; and, a short undated briefing note for the minister titled “Key Messages.”

In an email on June 11 a ministry official advised that, “Three documents were withheld, amounting to eight pages of responsive material. An additional four pages were severed from a document which had the “A new time. A new place. A new destination.” attachment.”

TPCS is subject to The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Section 8 of the Act is mandatory stating: “Where a record contains information to which an applicant is refused access, the head shall give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access.”

Asked whether this section of the Act was applied to the request the ministry said, “The records in question were withheld as no portion of the records could reasonably be severed without disclosing information exempt from release.”

So basically the provincial government is saying that every word on every page of the records being withheld is too sensitive to disclose. This file has been forwarded to the province’s information commissioner for review as well. Three additional requests with TPCS are still pending.

The April 9 letter from Minister Tell to Mayor Atchison was in response to a letter from the mayor dated March 18, 2009, summarizing information regarding the proposed new art gallery.

“Although the package you sent provides information of a preliminary nature, this is indeed an exciting proposal. However, as I am sure you know, there are many discussions and challenges yet to overcome before this concept becomes a reality,” Tell said.

“I have instructed my officials to contact your office to have further discussions regarding the concept. Mr. Scott Langen, Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture, and Sport will have one of his staff contact your office to make these arrangements.”

One of the ‘key messages’ outlined in the briefing note states, “The Government of Saskatchewan appreciates the long-standing need for better facilities for Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery and sees the advantages of this proposal to build a new permanent home for the gallery.”

This comment ignores the fact that the long-planned renovation and expansion of the current gallery would also provide “better facilities” and that the province was fully supportive of those plans. Now it seems provincial officials won’t talk about them. It’s as if they don’t exist.

Equally disturbing is that neither Tell’s letter nor the briefing note mentions the estimated cost of the new larger gallery ($55 million) is nearly twice that of the renovation and expansion ($24 million). Apparently money is no object. Tell admits in her letter that the plans are “preliminary,” it’s not yet designed, but she seems completely supportive anyway.

On April 22, a freedom of information request was submitted to the City of Saskatoon for copies of any correspondence between the city and both the Mendel Art Gallery and the federal government regarding or relating to the gallery since January 1. The scope of the request was confined to the mayor’s office, city manager’s office, and the special projects manager. The city denied the request. In a letter dated June 4 the city clerk said: “The disclosure of any of the documents could jeopardize on-going negotiations of the City with the Federal Government for funding for a new Art Gallery of Saskatchewan and thereby prejudice the economic interest of the City.”

The City of Saskatoon is subject to The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Section 8 of the Act pertaining to severability is exactly the same as the legislation for provincial government institutions. The city has acknowledged that this is true but is still withholding the records in their entirety anyway. Like the other files, this one has been submitted to the province’s information commissioner for review.

As for the federal government three freedom of information requests have been submitted to Infrastructure Canada and are still pending. The StarPhoenix keeps telling readers that the Feds are not interested in funding a renovation project. Apparently it doesn’t carry as much pizzazz as a brand new building, one that offers better photo-ops for MPs and MLAs. The strange thing is since the controversy began on April 3 the newspaper has not published one interview with federal officials. The federal government has made no public statements on the project, yet somehow The StarPhoenix seems to know what’s going on. How does that work?

And then there’s the issue of funding and the decisions that have already been made.

On December 12, 2005, city council approved the Mendel renovation and expansion project subject to confirmation that all fund raising and third-party grants for the total project be in place or committed, based upon independent audit verification.

As late as December 15, 2008, when city council approved the 2009 capital budget, the renovation and expansion of the Mendel Art Gallery was still planned for completion in 2010, subject to approval from the Building Canada Fund.

“The Mendel’s ten-year capital plan addresses both the existing facility needs and the required capacity to see it through the next 30 to 40 years of operation,” the capital budget document states. [Proponents of the new gallery conveniently overlook this important piece of due diligence. It should be noted that in the article Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery a cultural gem with an open door (Canadian Press, Dec. 29, 2008) Vincent Varga is quoted as saying that the gallery’s “vaults are completely overflowing… In fact, we have about 20 per cent of our collection held off site.” He goes on to say that a major renovation and expansion project will nearly double the space. He calls the gallery “one of the great destinations in the city.” There is no talk about moving or that the renovation plans are too old and should be scrapped.]

“The total cost of renovation/expansion project, including preliminary design, detailed design and construction is $24,000,000. The renovation/expansion project is now into the development of detailed drawings stage in preparation for going to tender. The next stage will be the contract administration and construction; projected to take begin in 2009 as a Federal grant and Mendel Capital Campaign funding is secured.

“Preliminary funding includes City reserves, and a four-way funding partnership between the three levels of government and the Mendel’s Capital Campaign. The City has committed funding of $4,663,000 together with Civic Buildings Comprehensive Maintenance funding during construction phase ($153,000) and accessibility funding of $25,000. The Province of Saskatchewan has committed $4,092,877 to this project. The first installment of $1,023,219.25 has already been received. The Federal Government has provided $438,513. A grant application has been submitted to the Buildings Canada Fund in excess of $7 million. The development position added to the staff complement of the Mendel in the 2008 budget has been filled by a Manager, Resource Development who will also support the raising (funded by private donations) of approximately $7.6 million.” [City of Saskatoon, 2009 Capital Budget, p. 215-16]

As late as January 6, 2009, Knight and Varga were still promoting the Mendel’s renovation and expansion plans. In an open letter posted on the gallery’s website asking for the public’s help the two said the project was “shovel ready” and “can be tender ready by March of this year!” Clearly, this project is more ready to go than are the plans for the new gallery. But now, according to the fact sheet, “both the city and art gallery have outgrown that plan.” What nonsense. Do Mendel management and the mayor really expect people to believe that within a span of 67 days – from the date of the open letter to the March 14 board meeting – the plans that had been worked on for so long had suddenly become obsolete?

The provincial contribution was announced by Premier Lorne Calvert at a press conference in Saskatoon on July 18, 2007. According to a government news release the source of the funding was the Building Communities Program, a three- year, $100-million fund for cultural and recreational infrastructure that ended in 2008.

The news release said the additional funding will assist in the project in which the facility will be renovated and expanded by 1,542 square metres, or approximately 60 per cent.

“The Mendel Art Gallery is a local and national treasure, and this funding will help bring art to more residents and visitors alike,” Mayor Don Atchison said. “The Gallery will be able to showcase its phenomenal collection - some of Canada’s and the world’s finest art. We are very excited about this support and what it will bring to our community.”

Now Atchison is saying there’s not enough money to fund both the Mendel and his pet project River Landing which appears to be in trouble. As for the gallery’s stature as a “local and national treasure” the mayor now supports moving the gallery and stripping the Mendel name from the building.

With the province on board Mendel board chair Art Knight told reporters a source of federal money was now much more likely to come through.

“I think one of their requirements is always a firm indication that both the municipal and provincial level are in support of the project. So we’re very encouraged by that, and look forward to being able to talk to the federal government about the project. The plan is that our application to the federal government will be submitted early this fall and our capital campaign to draw on local and national donors will begin probably in September or October.” [$4M for Mendel expansion (StarPhoenix, July 19, 2007)]

So what happened? Did the federal government tell the city or Mendel management that it wouldn’t fund a renovation and expansion project? If the answer is yes then why hasn’t that information been made public?

The glossy brochure distributed at the April 3 press conference clearly shows provincial and federal involvement stating, “We’ve fully explored the implications of expanding our old home. With our partners in the City, Provincial and Federal governments, we have come to the conclusion a new building is the best fit for Saskatoon’s expanding future and our city’s amazing new urban riverfront.” When was the “conclusion” reached and who specifically in the three levels of government took part in the discussions?

To be clear, the money approved by city council and the contribution from the province was for the renovation and expansion of the Mendel Art Gallery and not for a new facility called the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. This is what the public was told. Atchison and Knight know this but the fact sheet seems to suggest they would rather see those funds spent somewhere else.

“How will the new Art Gallery of Saskatchewan be paid for?” the fact sheet asks.

The answer: “The City and Province have already reaffirmed their financial contributions to the project. And the Gallery’s board remains committed to raising $6 to $8 million through a fundraising campaign. It is still early in the process and there are many financial issues to work through, notably the federal government’s contribution. So we’ve made a start, but there is still work to do.”

It needs to be explained how funds allocated to one project can suddenly be shifted to another.

Two reasons that are given in the fact sheet for moving the gallery to River Landing are: “A destination centre is needed to attract people on a year-round basis, and the art gallery is a natural fit for that. Availability of stimulus funding from the federal government is also a factor.” This comes closest to revealing the real reasons why the mayor and Mendel board want to move the gallery. It’s political and will help save the struggling River Landing from becoming an even bigger embarrassment than it already is; and, it exposes the federal government’s desire to dictate where any stimulus funding will be spent. This is indeed a travesty.


Previous posts:

April 6, 2009 – Mendel Art Gallery: Mayor Don Atchison and Board of Trustees hypocrisy and betrayal appalling; gallery move planned in near total secrecy

April 8, 2009 – Meewasin move to Mendel site revives aborted 2005 plan; Lamb & Knight serve on secretive River Landing destination centre steering committee

April 26, 2009 – Mendel Art Gallery rejects freedom of information request, refuses to disclose records; federal government part of covert plan to move gallery

May 13, 2009 – Meewasin Valley Authority refusing to release CEO reports; board votes behind closed doors to investigate possible move to Mendel Art Gallery site

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nuclear secrecy continues as Crown Investments Corporation refuses to release public consultation briefing notes and Bruce Power correspondence

Openness and transparency continues to take a beating in the Saskatchewan Party government’s drive to bring nuclear power to the province whether anyone likes it or not.

On May 5, two requests under the province’s freedom of information legislation were submitted to the Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) for copies of any briefing notes or reports since February 1 regarding the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Consultation Process; and, for copies of any formal correspondence between the provincial government and Bruce Power, or its representative Golder Associates, since December 1, 2008, relating to the power company’s interest in building a nuclear reactor in the province.

On June 4, CIC vice president and general counsel, Doug Kosloski, advised that both requests were denied.

With respect to the first application, CIC said it located two records responsive to the request. Access to one record was refused “on the basis that it would disclose a confidence of the Executive Council.”

Access to the second record was refused on the basis that if disclosed “could reasonably be expected to disclose advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for CIC or a member of the Executive Council” and “could 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.”

As for correspondence between the province and Bruce Power, CIC said it located one record responsive to the request. Access to the record, however, was denied “on the basis that if disclosed the record would release information that could reasonably be expected to disclose information, including the proposed plans, policies or projects of a government institution, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to result in the disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision of a pending policy decision or budgetary item.”

Under Section 8 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act where a record contains information to which an applicant is refused access, a government institution shall give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access. It appears CIC failed to comply with this requirement on both requests.

The Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Consultation Process began May 26 in Saskatoon and ends June 23 in Regina. The process, led by chair Dan Perrins, has been mired in controversy with many calling it a sham. Withholding information from the public can only exacerbate the problem.

Perrins’s mandate is extremely narrow: lead a public consultation process on the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) in the report, Capturing the full potential of the uranium value chain in Saskatchewan, submitted March 31, 2009.

Perrins is responsible for writing and submitting to the Minister of Enterprise and Innovation a report no later than August 31, 2009, summarizing public input and feedback from stakeholders and citizens gathered through the public consultation process.

The briefing notes for the public consultations are not the only UDP-related records that access is being denied to. CIC is also refusing to release the complete agendas and minutes for any meetings the panel conducted after October 20, 2008; and, it is also denying access to the request for proposals that was submitted by pro-nuclear consultant McKinsey and Company who were hired to provide support services to the UDP.

Then there is Premier Brad Wall’s address to the Enterprise Saskatchewan board of directors at its inaugural meeting held March 31, 2008, at the Legislative Building in Regina. Wall told the board, who are supposedly independent and arm’s length from government, that one of the priorities he wanted it to oversee in the comings months was identifying uranium value-added opportunities. The board dutifully complied recommending that a partnership be established to conduct a full evaluation of the economic potential for value-added expansion of the nuclear industry and environmental considerations for Saskatchewan. On December 23, 2008, Executive Council denied a freedom of information request for a copy of Wall’s address.

Incidentally, Enterprise Saskatchewan’s 2009-10 strategic plan shows that one of the agency’s key actions 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.” This combined with political meddling and secrecy leaves little reason for the public to trust the Saskatchewan Party government on the nuclear issue.

Just as worrisome is CIC’s refusal to disclose correspondence between the government and Bruce Power.

When Bruce Power released its feasibility study on November 27, 2008, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said in a news release that the government would “undertake a thorough evaluation of the conditions identified by Bruce Power that would be necessary for a nuclear power plant to be feasible in Saskatchewan and will provide a response to both Bruce Power and the people of Saskatchewan within six months.”

That was nearly 7 months ago. The government has yet to provide the public with a response, but what about Bruce Power? Has the Wall government let them know? Kosloski’s June 4 letter seems to confirm that correspondence has been exchanged between the two parties during that time.

It’s interesting to note that Bruce Power reportedly attended the EnerCan West 2009 conference and trade show held March 16 & 17 at Evraz Place in Regina.

According to the EnerCan West website the inaugural event focused “on nuclear power as an energy solution for a sustainable future” and was hosted by the Saskatchewan Environmental and Industry Managers Association (SEIMA) and the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA). Sponsoring the event was:

– Cameco Corporation
– Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan
– Enterprise Saskatchewan
– Clifton Associates Ltd.
– Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
– Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
– SaskPower
– Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

In the legislature on April 7 the government revealed that Enterprise Saskatchewan paid $8,800 as a sponsor for the event while SaskPower paid $5,000 and CIC $20,000.

The conference program shows Enterprise Minister Lyle Stewart and CIC Minister Ken Cheveldayoff were scheduled to attend. Saskatchewan-related topics at the two-day event included:

– Environmental Regulatory Requirements for the Nuclear Industry in Saskatchewan

– Environmental Management of Nuclear Activities: The Environmental Impact Statement for the Nuclear Build at Bruce Power

– Saskatchewan’s Deep Geothermal Energy Potential

– Nuclear Development Potential in Saskatchewan

– Moving Beyond the Mine: Business Opportunities to Transform Saskatchewan into the Nuclear Energy HUB of Western Canada

At least 60 organizations were expected to be there. The nuclear contingent included:

– AREVA Resources Canada
– Bruce Power
– Cameco
– Crown Investments Corporation
– Enterprise Saskatchewan
– Golder Associates
– Idaho National Laboratories
– SaskPower

The conference conveniently coincided with information sessions that were being conducted by Golder Associates on behalf of Bruce Power in Prince Albert (March 18), Lloydminster (March 19) and North Battlefored (March 20) as part of the power company’s Saskatchewan 2020 campaign.

With so many nuclear industry heavyweights in one place at the same time it would be hard to believe that Bruce Power and provincial government officials didn’t cross paths at least once. That Enterprise Saskatchewan and CIC were sponsors of the event should not go unnoticed since it’s these two ministries that keep telling the public that no decision has been made on nuclear power.

It’s also tough to ignore the reasons that CIC gave for withholding the correspondence with Bruce Power. They’re saying that releasing the document could “result in the disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision of a pending policy decision or budgetary item.” If no decision has been made how can the government already have policy or budgetary items ready to go?

Bruce Power doesn’t seem to be endearing itself to rural residents in Saskatchewan either. In a letter to editor published on June 6 in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, Paradise Hill resident Marilyn Brown rattled off a list of meetings where the company failed to attend or skipped at the last minute.

Brown said Bruce Power was invited to participate at an open forum in Paradise Hill but didn’t show up. “Instead, on March 18, Bruce Power conducted its own public information session in Lloydminster. At this event I discovered their presentation was prepared in such a way as to provide only selective details about their proposal,” she said.

Brown noted the power company failed “to provide a spokesperson” at a March 23 information session in Hillmond.

“On April 9 the RM of Wilton ratepayer’s annual meeting was to host a Bruce Power presentation as part of their agenda. This meeting was rescheduled into early June, however Bruce Power has declined participation,” Brown said.

“The following ratepayer meeting was the RM of Britannia, occurring on April 15, at Hillmond. Initially Bruce Power indicated a willingness to participate in an information session set aside during the meeting. They declined the invitation just two days prior to the event.”

At St. Walburg, during the RM of Frenchman Butte’s ratepayer meeting, Bruce Power was “invited to make a prepared presentation devoid of questioning from the floor. At the very last moment, the company failed to participate.

“Could it be – Bruce Power will establish a nuclear power plant regardless of increasing public rejection,” Brown wondered. [Bruce Power motives seem unclear (P.A. Daily Herald, June 6, 2009)]

The answer to that could be in a pair of stories that were published in The StarPhoenix a day earlier.

In Reactor panned at Regina meeting (StarPhoenix, June 5, 2009) it was reported on page A4 that more than 400 people showed up at the June 4 public consultation meeting chaired by Dan Perrins at the Western Christian College in Regina. According to the story many in the crowd were “firmly opposed to the idea of building a reactor.”

On page A8 the newspaper reported that Bruce Power was moving full steam ahead with its site selection process for a potential nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan.

In the article Bruce Power proceeding with reactor site selection (StarPhoenix, June 5, 2009) company spokesperson, Steve Cannon, said the selection will be made before the end of the year.

Cannon seemed to spin the story saying the company does not want to “get ahead” of the public consultations.

“We’ll be ready to select a site in the coming months. We’re not going to put a firm timeline on anything because we want to do it properly,” he said.

If this is Cannon’s idea of doing things “properly” then it says a lot about the company’s attitude. More than two months remain before Perrins has to submit his public consultations report to the government, and yet Bruce Power is already saying it’ll have a site chosen by the end of the year – regardless, it seems, of what the public thinks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saskatchewan Chamber’s “expert and reputable sources” in “fact-based” information campaign have vested interests in expanding the nuclear industry

‘Nuclear power is safe, clean, reliable, and affordable.’ As Big Lies go this one is right up there with NAFTA has been good for Canada and interprovincial trade barriers are so prevalent that they’re seriously damaging the country’s economy. Repeat a lie often enough and people will start believing it. This seems to be what the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is hoping for in the debate over nuclear power that is polarizing the province.

On May 20 the Chamber launched what it called a “fact-based campaign to provide information to the thousands of members of the multiple Chambers of Commerce operating throughout” the province. The initiative included the release of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that the lobby group claims “draws upon expert and reputable sources to answer the most common questions in relation to nuclear development. Agencies such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have been used to ensure the answers are exact and complete.”

A Chamber news release said the campaign would “coincide with the public consultations held on the recommendations of the Uranium Development Report commissioned by the Province of Saskatchewan. This FAQ was designed to inform people in advance of those sessions and assist the sharing of fact based material.”

The public consultations began May 26 in Saskatoon and end in Regina June 23.

“The opportunity for a large scale expansion of our uranium sector into a new area is vitally important and will have a significant impact on the future of our province. We should all be informed of the facts required to make this decision,” said Chamber CEO Steve McLellan. “Our intent is to make all the necessary information readily available to those who are looking to become informed.”

The key word here is ‘fact,’ which is used 5 times in the news release. The Chamber seems to think that only they have the real facts on nuclear energy. Apparently, most everyone else is wrong.

In the article Nuclear plants get support (Leader-Post, May 21, 2009) McLellan noted that “anti-nuclear sources” are referenced as well.

“In terms of being balanced, we’ve listed in (the paper) the David Suzuki (Foundation) and Greenpeace (Canada) websites. So if people want other information or have more questions that we haven’t answered, we’re giving them other sources.”

Other elements of the chamber’s campaign will be unveiled over the next few weeks and will utilize the network of local chambers across the province, the article said.

“We’ve got communications out to our chamber network across the province and we want them to send it down to their members. The purpose of this is to encourage people to get the information and then get out to the public hearings that are focused on the UDP (Uranium Development Partnership) report,” McLellan said.

In other words, the Chamber wants its members to go to the public consultation meetings armed with its version of the facts and spread the propaganda around accordingly.

Now here are a couple of things that McLellan and the Leader-Post didn’t tell people.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is, in theory, an independent agency, but is susceptible to serious political meddling.

The CNSC was established in 2000 under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. CNSC was created to replace the former Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), which was founded in 1946.

Members of the commission are appointed by order-in-council. One permanent member of the commission is designated as the CNSC’s president and CEO.

On January 15, 2008, the Harper government fired CNSC president Linda Keen, a Liberal appointee, for doing her job.

In November 2007, a nuclear reactor at Chalk River, Ont., operated by a federal Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), was shut-down indefinitely when CNSC inspectors discovered it had been operating for months without fulfilling certain safety conditions attached to its license. This resulted in a domestic shortage of medical isotopes for cancer and cardiac diagnosis and other treatment.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was outraged blaming the problem on the “Liberal appointed” safety commission. On December 11, 2007, Parliament passed emergency legislation to override the nuclear watchdog ordering the reactor back on line. Well, so much for the CNSC being arm’s length from government.

The two “anti-nuclear sources” that McLellan proudly boasts of being included in his organization’s FAQ are buried on page 25 of the 27 page document. All it provides are links to the organizations homepages and not to any specific report. The Chamber leaves it up to the reader to do the research. Nowhere else in the document are the two group’s mentioned. And McLellan has the nerve to call this “balanced”?

The Chamber incredibly ignores the Pembina Institute, a well-respected national not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing innovative sustainable energy solutions. In May 2007, the institute published three documents studying the life cycle of nuclear. These include: Clearing the Air About Nuclear Power, a summary report of the larger Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability released in December 2006; and the related fact sheets Clearing the Air: Nuclear Power and Climate Change, and, Clearing the Air: Uranium Mining: Nuclear Power’s Dirty Secret. Together, these reports manage to blow apart many of the Saskatchewan Chamber’s arguments for supporting nuclear power.

The Chamber’s credibility implodes completely when it becomes apparent that the majority of the “expert and reputable sources” its information is drawn from have vested interests in expanding the nuclear industry. The suspects include: World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power Expert Panel, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Uranium Development Partnership, Bruce Power, and Cameco Corporation.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) is a London-based lobby group that, according to its website, “seeks to promote the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries.” Members include familiar names like AREVA, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Bruce Power, and Cameco Corporation.

Cameco’s senior vice-president of marketing and business development, George Assie, serves on the WNA’s board of management. Cameco president and CEO, Gerald Grandey, serves on the organization’s council of advisors. He was also chairman of the WNA from 2002-2004.

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is an Ottawa-based lobby group whose mission is “to promote domestic and international acceptance of Canadian nuclear technologies and to create a positive public, political and regulatory environment for advancing the nuclear industry in Canada and in global markets.”

CNA members include AREVA Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, Denison Mines, Saskatchewan Mining Association, University of Saskatchewan, and World Nuclear Association.

CNA board members include Tim Gitzel, senior vice president & COO of Cameco, Duncan Hawthorne, president & CEO of Bruce Power, Armad Laferrere, president of AREVA Canada, and Hugh MacDiarmid, president & CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada.

Gitzel, Hawthorne and MacDiarmid serve on the organization’s executive committee.

The Nuclear Power Expert Panel was announced by the Government of Alberta on April 23, 2008. The panel was mandated “to provide a comprehensive examination of: environmental, health and safety issues; waste management; comparing nuclear energy with other electricity generation technologies; current and future nuclear power generation being used in Canada and around the world; and Alberta’s future electricity needs.” It was also asked to “examine social issues and concerns related to nuclear energy.”

The panel’s report was released on March 26, 2009, and formed the basis for Albertans “to share their views on the issues covered in the report and the option of nuclear power generation in Alberta.”

The information contained in the report “is based upon facts and data supplied by panel members and by the Alberta Research Council and the [pro-nuclear] Idaho National Laboratory, who were commissioned by the panel to compile background information.” The report does not offer any recommendations.

The panel members were:

– Dr. Harvie Andre (Panel Chair), former federal Tory MP for Calgary Centre. Andre is the president and CEO of Wenzel Downhole Tools Ltd. which manufactures and distributes equipment used in oil & gas and utility drilling. He is also the president of Cresvard Corporation a strategic planning and management consulting firm. Andre has deep roots in the energy industry having served on the boards of several private corporations including Flagship Energy Inc. (now Insignia Energy Ltd.), BowEnergy Resources Ltd., Avery Resources Inc. (now Bengal Energy Ltd.), Arctigas Resources Corp., King Energy Inc., Alternative Fuel Systems Inc., and Suprex Energy Corporation.

– Dr. Joseph Doucet, Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy, University of Alberta, School of Business. Doucet is president of the Canadian affiliate of the International Association for Energy Economics.

– Dr. Harrie Vredenburg, Suncor Energy Chair in Competitive Strategy and Sustainable Development, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. Vredenburg has worked as a consultant for TransCanada PipeLines, the majority owner of Bruce Power, and is the founding director of the TransCanada International Institute for Resource Industries and Sustainability Studies (IRIS) at the Haskayne School of Business. The school is named for Richard F. Haskayne, the immediate past chairman of the board of TransCanada Corporation. Vredenburg is also a director of The Van Horne Institute who in February 2009 sponsored Hugh MacDiarmid, president & CEO, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to address the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

– Dr. John Luxat, Nuclear Safety Analysis, Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster University. Luxat was president of the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) in 2005-06. According to the organization’s website the CNS was established in 1979 as “the technical society of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).” The CNS is “legally a division of the CNA.” Before joining McMaster he was vice president of technical methods at Nuclear Safety Solutions Ltd. (NSS) in Toronto. The NSS is the largest private sector nuclear consultancy in Canada. It is a subsidiary of AMEC, one of the world’s largest project management and services companies. AMEC NCL, the direct parent company of NSS, is the project manager for the Bruce Unit 1&2 Restart Project, the largest nuclear refurbishment project in the world. Luxat was also the manager of nuclear safety technology at Ontario Power Generation. He is a current board member of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) to investigate approaches for managing Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The NWMO board is dominated by nuclear industry representatives, which include Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Ontario Power Generation and NB Power. The nuclear industry supports “deep geological disposal” of radioactive waste, therefore, the organization’s ability to be objective is suspect. In its 2008 annual report the NWMO notes that it met with the Government of Saskatchewan, University of Saskatchewan, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. In January 2009, the NWMO published Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2009 to 2013 in which Saskatchewan was named as one of four provinces where nuclear waste could be stored over the long-term.

The Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) was established on October 20, 2008. Its narrow mandate was “to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry.” The Saskatchewan Party government stacked the 12 person panel with at least 10 pro-nuclear representatives including AREVA Canada, Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, TransCanada PipeLines, and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. The UDP met behind closed-doors and were assisted by pro-nuclear consultant McKinsey and Company. The final report, Capturing the Full Potential of the Uranium Value Chain in Saskatchewan, was released on April 3, 2009, and contains 20 recommendations on further development of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources focused on further exploration and mining, power generation and research and development. The report formed the basis for public consultations which began May 26 in Saskatoon. A total of 10 organizations that were represented on the UDP were outrageously invited to participate. The list included AREVA, Bruce Power, Cameco, and, oh yes, the Saskatchewan Chamber.

To top things off the Chamber’s website includes a form that can be filled out and sent directly to Dan Perrins, the chair of the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan Public Consultation Process. “Send your letter of support,” it urges.

The Chamber even goes so far as to supply a ‘sample letter’ that can be cut and pasted into the body of the form:

Dear Mr. Perrins:

I have looked at the facts and I support the development of the uranium industry in Saskatchewan, including a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power is safe, clean, and efficient and will benefit our province. Add my name to the list of supporters of this efficient source of power.


Jane Smith

The Saskatchewan Chamber’s strategy is obvious – to shamelessly flood Perrins with as many pro-nuclear letters as possible.