Monday, May 24, 2010

River Landing Parcel “Y” idiocy and secrecy drags on – another deadline missed, another freedom of information request denied

For 16 months Saskatoon residents have had to put up with one city council gong show after another as councillors ignored deadlines, set precedents, showed favouritism, betrayed previous decisions, and bent every rule in the book in a desperate attempt to salvage Lake Placid Developments proposed $200 million River Landing hotel-condo-office-retail project.

The latest chapter in the ongoing farce has councillors and city administrators working together to slough off another council imposed deadline.

Council at its meeting held April 12, 2010, directed administration to enter into discussions with Lake Placid and partners with the intent of entering into a new sale agreement for Parcel “Y” and the adjacent lane, based upon the terms and conditions of the original agreement with Lake Placid at a purchase price of no less than $4.8 million, including an appropriate due diligence review, with a report back to council on May 10, 2010, if possible, but no later than May 25, 2010.

The decision disregarded a resolution passed by council on August 19, 2009, stating that if Lake Placid failed to meet an October 30, 2009, deadline to pay the full balances owing on Parcel “Y” and the lane, then both sale agreements would be terminated “without further resolution of council.”

“There’s no more chances,” Atchison said at the meeting. [Lake Placid gets time (StarPhoenix, August 20, 2009)]

Lake Placid subsequently missed the deadline, and on October 30 the mayor issued a news release reaffirming council’s previous decision that not only were the sale agreements dead, but that Lake Placid had also forfeited its two deposits totaling $250,000 and the interest payment of $193,770.48 it made in August.

In a report to council May 25, 2010, that is outrageously short on specifics, city manager Murray Totland brought news about the most recent missed deadline: “Deloitte &Touche Inc., an independent outside auditor, was hired by the City to work directly with Lake Placid and its partners on the financial due diligence review. The Executive Committee has been meeting on a regular basis to review progress reports on the financial due diligence and provide direction to the Administration on the development of the Memorandum of Sale Agreement.

“At the time of writing, the financial due diligence review and negotiations on an agreement are ongoing. We hope a report will be available in time for the June 14, 2010, City Council meeting.” Note the word hope.

Because the executive committee meetings were held behind closed doors, the public will never know what “direction” councillors gave administration.

The city is refusing to provide even the most basic information about the meetings. On May 20, 2010, an email was sent to the city clerk’s office asking the following questions:

▪ What were the dates of the meetings?
▪ How many progress reports have been tabled?
▪ Are the reports from administration or Deloitte & Touche?

The response from administration the next day was short and to the point.

“I am unable to provide you with the requested information. In Camera agenda matters and discussions are not disclosed or released,” said deputy city clerk Joanne Sproule.

Administration was somewhat more forthcoming with information about the latest delay when interviewed by the StarPhoenix.

According to Sandi Schultz, the city’s special projects manager, councillors want certainty the megaproject can be completed.

“There certainly has been progress but council has to be really comfortable with level of risk in moving forward,” Schultz said.

City officials are also waiting on Lake Placid and Victory Majors Investments Corporation to finalize their partnership, Schultz said.

“This is a partnership and there are two parties that are coming forward to be able to develop this project,” she said. “There are some things they’re working through with back and forth negotiation. Unfortunately, we’re under this timeline microscope and negotiations take some new paths and they take time, but I don’t think it’s anything alarming or that would not normally happen through a negotiation process.” [Parcel Y decision expected in June (StarPhoenix, May 20, 2010)]

If councillors are still worried about “certainty” and “risk” at this late stage, then the problems might be greater than what the public is being told. It could be that the developers simply don’t have enough funding secured to complete the project. The worst thing to do would be to start building then have to shut down because of money woes. The scary thing is this council just might be reckless enough to take that chance. Its desperate behaviour over the past year is evidence of that.

The idea that Lake Placid and Victory Majors are still ironing out their partnership arrangement doesn’t seem to square with what the developers told council and the media two months ago.

In an interview with StarPhoenix reporter David Hutton on March 17, 2010, Victory Majors director Dr. Karim Nasser said the “partnership agreement for the entire $200-million hotel-office-condo project is being negotiated… and should be finalized by the end of the week.” [Lake Placid revival (StarPhoenix, March 18, 2010)]

Nasser and Lake Placid CEO Michael Lobsinger addressed council separately on March 22, 2010; with each one confirming they had an “agreement” to work together. The meeting minutes posted on the city’s website summarizes their presentations as follows:

▪ “Mr. Michael Lobsinger, Lake Placid Group of Companies, spoke regarding Lake Placid’s commitment to the River Landing project and indicated that he has an agreement with Dr. Karim Nasser’s company, Victory Majors Investment Corporation, for the purposes of developing River Landing. Mr. Lobsinger requested that that the City re-open the purchase and sale agreement for Parcel Y and lane. Mr. Lobsinger also took the opportunity to introduce Mr. Manlio Marescotti of Marriott Hotels, indicating that the Marriott is interested in this project as well.”

▪ “Dr. Karim Nasser, Victory Majors Investment Corporation, confirmed Lake Placid’s agreement with Victory Majors Investment Corporation and asked Council to support a motion to refer the River Landing proposal submitted by Lake Placid back to the Administration to review and report.”

The StarPhoenix the next day said Nasser described the agreement as a “signed partnership.” [Developers tout plan (StarPhoenix, March 23, 2010)]

On March 23, 2010, the CBC reported Nasser saying the project was “economical” and “sustainable,” and that he was prepared to write a $5 million cheque to the city to keep the project moving. He said work on the project could begin 45 days after the city sells the land, and the development could be completed within three years. [Saskatoon gives River Landing bid another chance (CBC News, March 23, 2010)]

Nasser’s offer, however, is only enough to cover the outstanding balances owing on the land. He didn’t mention the $200 million needed to complete the project. The problem here is that the developers have not made public a copy of their signed partnership agreement, and likely never will. Who really knows for sure what it says?

All this occurred more than two months ago. And now city administration is telling the public that the developer’s are still haggling with one another. It’s ridiculous.

Nasser’s company, the StarPhoenix says, has been following the city’s requirements to provide documentation through the due diligence process to satisfy council and outside auditor the project can be completed.

Special projects manager Sandi Schultz said the due diligence process performed by the external auditor involves looking at the financing strategy, a business plan, cost estimates and revenue projections. [Parcel Y decision expected in June (StarPhoenix, May 20, 2010)]

However, the city is refusing to release the terms of its agreement with Deloitte & Touche.

On April 20, 2010, an access to information request was submitted to the city clerk’s office for a copy of the terms of reference, agreement or contract between the city and the outside auditor. The request was denied.

In a letter dated April 28, 2010, the city clerk advised, “There is one document that is responsive to [the request], being a letter that confirms the terms of engagement of Deloitte & Touche LLP by the City of Saskatoon to provide financial consulting services. I am not releasing this letter for the following reasons:

▪ It was provided in explicit confidence to the City by Deloitte and it contains proprietary information, the disclosure of which could reasonably by expected to prejudice the competitive position of Deloitte. [Section 18(1)(c)(ii) of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act]

▪ It contains information which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to interfere with negotiations of the City with Lake Placid Developments. [Section 17(1)(d) of the Act]”

It is important to note that section 18 of the Act is mandatory, but section 17 is not, it is discretionary, meaning that the city could release the information if it wanted.

The lack of transparency around Parcel “Y” since 2005 when Remai Ventures Inc. proposed a spa hotel/condo development for the land has been disturbing. In June 2006, the city denied a freedom of information request for all documents between June 1, 2004, and December 12, 2005, regarding the proposed spa hotel and site that weren’t already publicly available. The city refused access to more than 80 records. And this was just one request. There have been others since.

Add to this the disgraceful level of secrecy surrounding the city’s backroom dealing and despicable decision last year to move the Mendel Art Gallery to River Landing, and you have the ingredients for one of the dirtiest, most suspect redevelopment projects in Saskatoon’s history.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saskatchewan Party pulls in $119,888 from energy industry in 2009; $1.29-million since 1998

Even without the aid of fundraising junkets to Alberta, the Saskatchewan Party’s coffers continue to overflow with oil and gas money.

Financial statements filed with Elections Saskatchewan and posted on its website show the Saskatchewan Party took in at least $119,888 in energy industry donations last year – the fourth highest total ever. That compares to $$142,036 in 2008. Not bad for the mid-way point of the four year election cycle.

The top five contributors to the political party in 2009 were all from Calgary:

▪ Penn West Petroleum Ltd. – $20,352.91
▪ Prairie Birch Royalties Ltd. – $4,522.62
▪ TransAlta Corporation, $3,734.12
▪ Crescent Point Resources Ltd. – $3,652.91
▪ Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd. – $3,652.91

In sixth place and new to the list is Bruce Power, the Ontario-based nuclear energy company which donated $3,345.16.

Other corporations making their debut as friends of the Saskatchewan Party include the aforementioned Prairie Birch Royalties, JV Driver Projects Inc., NuCoal Energy Corp., Sherritt Coal, and Wave Energy Ltd.

The governing Saskatchewan Party depends heavily on the private sector for the bulk of its donations. In 2009, the party generated $871,294 from 1,118 corporations, of which 695 were in excess of $250.00 for $816,306. Donations from the energy industry represent about 13.75 per cent of the total.

The Saskatchewan Party received $687,265 from 4,938 individuals and zero from trade unions.

Since 1998, the Saskatchewan Party has taken in more than $1.298-million in donations from the energy industry.

In his first year as premier, Brad Wall attended a private reception in Edmonton on May 20, 2008, and a dinner in Calgary on May 21, 2008, where 750 people paid $400-a-plate to hear him speak.

According to the Leader-Post, Wall said at the time it’s only natural for parties to raise funds in places such as Calgary and sees no problem as premier with it continuing.

Calgary is the oil centre for Canada, so if you’re developing oil policy or meeting with oil companies, soliciting support ... that’s where you’re going to go. The same would be true for provincial leaders who go to Toronto and raise money there from the financial community. I mean, that’s where you would go,” he said in a telephone interview from Saskatoon after speaking at a Saskatchewan Party luncheon.

“It has not influenced our party policy in the past. We have a platform, we have commitments to keep in that platform and we’re going to do that, keep those promises notwithstanding what any executive is advising us to do.” [Making fundraising forays into Alta. (Leader-Post, May 21, 2008)]

And yet four months earlier, there was Wall in one of his first trips outside the province as premier hustling his ass over to Alberta to brief the oil barons on the new government’s plans.

Wall and Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd visited Calgary on January 21 & 22, 2008, to speak to investment audiences and oil and gas industry leaders about energy and investment opportunities in Saskatchewan.

On the 21st, Wall addressed a sold-out luncheon meeting of the CFA Society of Calgary (Chartered Financial Analysts) at the Calgary Petroleum Club. On the evening of the 22nd, he spoke at a Saskatchewan government hosted reception for oil and gas industry leaders. The premier and Boyd also held individual meetings with various energy companies and industry associations during the two-day trip, said a government news release on January 17, 2008.

The names of the companies and individuals that Wall and Boyd met with were not disclosed.

In his speech to the CFA, Wall promised the business crowd that, “The new government in the province of Saskatchewan will not be increasing royalties in the province of Saskatchewan.”

Wall also promised that Enterprise Saskatchewan, through one of its sector teams, would review both the royalty and the regulatory structures in place, not just for oil and gas, but in regard to potash and other resources, for the purposes of trying to be more competitive.

“We need to move in that other direction and here’s why: we have all this undeveloped potential. We’re behind a little bit, frankly, in developing the hydrocarbon assets of the province of Saskatchewan and some of the other resource opportunities that exist,” Wall said.

According to the StarPhoenix, Wall told reporters after the speech that Saskatchewan had no plans to cut royalty rates as Alberta raises its own.

“In oil and gas, we’re comfortable with the royalty structure the way it is now,” Wall said.

Wall said he aims to provide a regulatory environment that will help build the fledgling unconventional oil and gas sector in Saskatchewan, and that may include government help with research and development or other aspects of development outside the royalty structure.

“Maybe there’s a role on the power side, on the infrastructure side,” said Wall. “We see this as an opportunity and we want to pursue it.”

Wall mentioned his desire to become part of a pact that now includes Alberta and British Columbia aimed at removing interprovincial trade barriers and co-operating on health care and other initiatives. [Wall woos Calgary crowd (StarPhoenix, January 22, 2008)]

The Wall government followed up the two days of meetings in Calgary with a feel good news release on January 23, 2008, recapping the events.

Pierre Alvarez, the then president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) called the meetings with Saskatchewan officials “informative and constructive.”

“We were pleased Premier Wall and Minister Boyd were able to meet with us so early in their new mandate,” Alvarez said in the news release. “It’s clear that the Government of Saskatchewan is interested in the long-term growth and stability of the oil and gas industry in the province.”

Alvarez wasn’t kidding. It had only been 76 days since the November 7, 2007, provincial election. These kinds of trips are not planned overnight and take weeks to organize. Wall admitted as much in his speech to the CFA saying “there are a number of logistical challenges that go into organizing an event like this.”

CAPP is a powerful industry lobby group representing more than 250 producer and associate members. Its member companies produce about 90 per cent of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil. CAPP has donated $16,261.52 to the Saskatchewan Party since 2002.

Some of what Wall talked about in Calgary has come to pass. The Enterprise Saskatchewan Energy Sector Team (stacked with Saskatchewan Party supporters and contributors) developed a number of recommendations for consideration by the Enterprise Saskatchewan board of directors, including harmonizing labour, weights and dimensions, OH&S regulations, and trade certification with the other western provinces. On April 30, 2010, the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia signed the controversial New West Partnership without any prior public consultation or legislative debate. The western premiers claim that the pact will eliminate barriers to trade and investment but won’t say what they are.

In March 2009, Wall backtracked on the practice of staging annual fundraising dinners in Alberta confirming with the StarPhoenix that the Saskatchewan Party would not hold one that year.

Wall acknowledged that he now feels there is a difference between holding that event while also holding power.

“It is different. It is. . . . I can’t have a leader’s dinner outside the province anymore, even if we call it that. It’s a premier’s dinner and every province has their own premier,” he told reporter James Wood in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

Wall said the Saskatchewan Party would continue to raise funds outside of Saskatchewan and did not rule out holding an out-of-province fundraising dinner again. [Sask. Party axes Alta. Fundraiser (StarPhoenix, March 7, 2009)]

Wall’s change of heart lasted all of eight months.

In December 2009, the StarPhoenix reported that the Saskatchewan Party had held a $200-a-ticket fundraising reception in Toronto on November 26.

Among the organizers of the event was Kory Teneycke, former press secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a friend of Wall’s since the two worked on a federal campaign in 1993.

In attendance were federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

According to reporter James Wood, Wall made no apologies for the event. He even tried to justify it by saying it was different than a leader’s dinner because it was “far less formal.”

Wall said he had no interest in following some other provinces in banning out-of-province donations to political parties.

“We’ve always fundraised extra-provincially,” he told reporters at the legislature.

“There’s a lot of companies across the country who are vested in the province, who like what’s going on in Saskatchewan, who . . . want to support the party and I think it’s important that we never deny the chance for people who want to give to give. So we’re going to continue to fundraise outside the province.” [Wall defends Ontario fundraiser (StarPhoenix, December 4, 2009)]

The man has no shame.

Given Wall’s penchant for flip-flopping and going back on his word, it seems a safe bet that some time between now and the November 7, 2011, provincial election the Saskatchewan Party will hold another fundraiser in Alberta.


Energy industry donations by year:

2009 – $119,888.95
2008 – $142,036.05
2007 – $254,119.83
2006 – $57,204.15
2005 – $60,198.33
2004 – $74,984.29
2003 – $263,944.53
2002 – $86,707.80
2001 – $89,349.80
2000 – $27,500.00
1999 – $88,500.00
1998 – $34,165.00
Grand Total: $1,298,598.73

Top 5 energy industry contributors since 1998:

1) EnCana Corporation – $100,674.34
2) Nexen Inc. – $82,901.77
3) TransCanada PipeLines Limited – $51,290.01
4) Cameco Corporation – $47,310.50
5) Penn West Petroleum Ltd. – $46,731.33

The Saskatchewan Party
Registered Political Party’s Fiscal Period Return
Total Energy Industry Contributions 1998-2009
(Note: Entries in red are new to the list)

101101266 Saskatchewan Ltd., Fort Qu’Appelle, SK, $500.00

101108359 Saskatchewan Ltd., Regina, SK, $1,200.00

49 North Resource Fund Inc., Saskatoon, SK, $2,092.00

936173 Alberta Ltd. (Harvard Oil & Gas Inc.), Calgary, AB, $1,400.00

A & S Oilfield Operating Ltd., Estevan, SK, $500.00

Active Enterprises Inc., Regina, SK, $695.80

Alberta Energy Company Ltd. (EnCana Corporation), Calgary, AB, $32,780.00

Aldon Oils Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $2,373.75

Allaro Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $596.84

Alliance Pipeline Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Alliance Pipeline Limited Partnership (Enbridge Income Fund and Fort Chicago Energy Partners L.P.), Calgary, AB, $1,391.60

AltaGas Services Ltd. (AltaGas Income Trust), Calgary, AB, $5,336.16

AltaLink, L.P., Calgary, AB, $3,266.80

AMEC Americas Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,843.20

Amoco Canada Petroleum Company (BP Canada Energy Company), Calgary, AB, $3,750.00

Anadarko Canada Corporation, Calgary, AB, $567.93

Apache Canada Ltd., Calgary, AB, $470.64

AREVA Canada Inc., Pickering, ON, $1,391.60

AREVA Resources Canada Inc., Saskatoon, SK, $4,725.94

AREVA/COGEMA Resources, Saskatoon, SK, $2,398.95

Arista Energy Limited (TriStar Oil & Gas Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $400.00

Armada Resources Ltd., Alameda, SK, $500.00

Arsenal Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,775.52

ATCO Group, Calgary, AB, $935.92

ATCO Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,875.00

Badger Enterprises Inc., Shaunavon, SK, $1,000.00

Barrington Petroleum Ltd. (Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $375.00

Baytex Energy Ltd. (Baytex Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $11,761.31

BEC International Corporation, Saskatoon, SK, $1,000.00

Bellport Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $400.00

Best Pacific Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $387.50

Big Sky Drilling Inc. (Ensign Energy Services Inc.), Oxbow, SK, $2,500.00

Bonavista Petroleum Ltd. (Bonavista Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Bonterra Energy Corp., Calgary, AB, $4,911.16

BP Canada Energy Company, Calgary, AB, $1,500.00

BRI Energy Solutions Ltd., Moosomin, SK, $695.80

Brookfield Renewable Power Inc., Toronto, ON, $561.96

Bruce Power, Tiverton, ON, $3,345.16

Bulldog Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $7,260.04

Burlington Resources Canada Ltd. (ConocoPhillips), Calgary, AB, $2,561.64

Calfrac Well Services Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon, SK, $47,310.50

Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Calgary, AB, $929.00

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Calgary, AB, $16,261.52

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Calgary, AB, $5,422.96

Canadian Energy Services L.P., Calgary, AB, $335.00

Canadian Green Fuels Inc., Regina, SK, $2,673.79

Canadian Hydro Developers, Inc., Calgary, AB, $5,500.00

Canadian Occidental Petroleum Ltd. (Nexen Inc.), Calgary, AB, $15,000.00

Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Ottawa, ON, $2,843.20

Caprice Resources Ltd, Weyburn, SK, $2,517.40

Caravan Oil & Gas Ltd. (Ketch Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $500.00

Carson Welding & Maintenance Ltd., Lampman, SK, $5,880.60

Carving Oil & Gas Ltd., Alberta, $3,600.00

Centipede Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $20,300.00

Centipede Holdings Ltd. (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $20,100.00

Centipede Resources (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $14,700.00

Century Oilfield Services Inc., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Churchill Energy Inc. , Calgary, AB, $1,260.04

Clan Oil Inc., Estevan, SK, $1,000.00

Cliff Nankivell Trucking Ltd., Kisbey, SK, $500.00

Coast Resources Ltd., Regina, SK, $347.90

C O G Energy, Alberta, $4,000.00

Cogema Resources Inc. (Areva/Cogema Resources), Saskatoon, SK, $18,147.60

Connacher Oil and Gas Limited, Calgary, AB, $6,089.80

Cree-Way Gas Ltd., Saskatoon, SK, $9,125.60

Crescent Point Resources Ltd. (Crescent Point Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $8,115.67

D & G Lemon Fuel Sales, Swift Current, SK, $300.00

D & G Polyethylene Products Ltd., Neilburg, SK, $400.00

Danoil Energy Partnership (Penn West Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $750.00

Dean's Pump Service Ltd., Frobisher,SK, $500.00

Devon Canada (Devon Energy Corporation), Calgary, AB, $329.14

Diamond Energy Services Inc., Swift Current, SK, $4,580.46

Diamond Sage Well Services, Swift Current, SK, $1,532.05

Diamond Service Rigs S.C. Ltd. (Diamond Energy Services Inc.), Swift Current, SK, $800.00

Diamond Tree Resources Ltd. (Crocotta Energy Inc.), Calgary, AB, $658.28

D.L.M. Oilfield Supervision Ltd., Carievale, SK, $2,637.28

Eagle Drilling Services Ltd., Carlyle, SK, $1,512.40

EDCO Oil & Gas Ltd., Calgary, AB, $329.14

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. (Enbridge Inc.), Toronto, ON, $749.28

Enbridge Inc., Calgary, AB, $4,000.00

Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Calgary, AB, $21,314.20

EnCana Corporation, Calgary, AB, $100,674.34

EnerMark Inc. (Enerplus Resources Fund), Calgary, AB, $4,601.11

Enform, Calgary, AB, $403.36

ENMAX Corporation, Calgary, AB, $4,481.13

Ensign Drilling Inc. (Ensign Energy Services Inc.), Calgary, AB, $9,214.80

Ensign Resource Service Group Inc. (Ensign Energy Services Inc.), Calgary, AB, $596.84

Entech Industries Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,500.00

Enterra Energy Corp. (Enterra Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $26,500.00

Enterra Energy Trust, Calgary, AB, $2,016.80

EPCOR, Edmonton, AB, $1,056.52

Epping Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $470.64

Erickson Enterprises Ltd., Abbey, SK, $500.00

Esprit Exploration Ltd. (Pengrowth Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $325.00

Estevan Coal (1996) Corp., Estevan, SK, $5,000.00

Fast Trucking Service Ltd., Carnduff, SK, $6,829.92

Fillmore Petroleums Ltd. (MBC Ventures Inc.), Regina, SK, $312.82

First Avenue Partners, Saskatoon, SK, $1,508.40

FirstEnergy Capital Corp., Calgary, AB, $9,274.53

Flatland Exploration Ltd. (Bulldog Energy Inc.), Regina, SK, $2,312.00

Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. (TransCanada Pipelines Limited), Calgary, AB, $2,780.00

Founders Energy Ltd. (Provident Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $375.00

Frank R. Lee Investments Ltd., Regina, SK, $12,977.76

Ganze-Reece Operations Ltd. (Reece Energy Exploration Corp.), Medicine Hat, AB, $1,000.00

Gasland Properties Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $2,179.52

Gem Oil Inc., Manitoba, $1,000.00

Gold River Oil & Gas Ltd, Calgary, AB, $1,200.00

Greenslade Consulting Group Ltd., Shaunavon, SK, $2,100.00

Greg Cousins Construction Ltd., Carnduff, SK, $500.00

Grizzly Well Servicing Inc., Edmonton, AB, $695.00

Harvard Energy, Calgary, AB, $1,971.32

Harvard International Resources Limited, Calgary, AB, $1,100.00

Herc Oil Corp. (Zargon Energy Trust), Regina, SK, $1,000.00

Hitachi Canadian Industries Ltd., Saskatoon, SK, $3,411.08

HTC Purenergy , Regina, SK, $3,998.33

Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $7,479.80

Husky Group of Companies, Calgary, AB, $1,000.00

Husky Oil Operations Ltd., Calgary, AB, $3,016.80

I.D. Oilfield Rentals Ltd., Estevan, SK, $800.00

Imperial Oil Limited, Calgary, AB, $21,000.00

Industrial Electric (Weyburn) Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $1,150.00

Interprovincial Pipeline Ltd. (Enbridge Pipelines), Fort Simpson, NT, $2,000.00

JED Oil Inc., Didsbury, AB, $16,841.56

Jerry Mainil Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $8,853.32

Jolliet Energy Resources Inc., Calgary, AB, $4,000.00

JV Driver Projects Inc., Leduc, AB, $2,391.60

Kelly Lafrentz Trucking Ltd., Estevan, SK, $500.00

Kelly Panteluk Construction Ltd., Estevan, SK, $1,000.00

Keystone Energy Inc., Regina, SK, $5,978.20

Keystone Royalty Corp., Regina, SK, $5,955.68

Kiora Resources Inc., Regina, SK, $11,758.00

Kobylak Construction Inc., Saskatoon, SK, $3,000.00

K-Town Holdings Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,671.56

KW Petroleum Services Ltd., Saskatoon, SK, $313.82

Laredo Well Services Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $4,394.04

Lex Minerals Inc., Regina, SK, $3,208.58

Lloydminster Maintenance Ltd., Lloydminster, SK, $500.00

LMD Wellsite Consulting Ltd., Kyle, SK, $550.00

Lockwell Servicing Ltd., Kindersley, SK, $10,000.00

Lone Mountain Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,250.00

Long View Resources Corp., Emerald Park, SK, $2,084.10

Los Altares Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $403.36

Lowmac Oilfield Services Ltd., Alberta, $1,500.00

Luscar Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $27,249.80

Luscar Ltd., Boundary Dam Mine/Bienfait Mine, Estevan, SK, $5,000.00

Magin Energy Inc. (NCE Resources Group), Calgary, AB, $6,500.00

Marble Point Energy Ltd. (Canadian Phoenix Resources Corp.), Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Marjohn Minerals Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,500.00

MBC Ventures Inc., Regina, SK, $6,719.42

MC3 Resources Inc., Indian Head, SK, $1,000.00

McCallum Fuels Ltd., Rosetown, SK, $500.00

Meota Resources Corp. (Provident Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $1,000.00

Mi Casa Rentals Inc., Calgary, AB, $300.00

Midwest General Contractors Ltd. (Midwest Management (1987) Ltd.), Acheson, AB, $423.42

Millennium Directional Service Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,730.00

Millsap Fuel Distributors Ltd., Kenaston, SK, $600.00

MLTC Resource Development Inc., Meadow Lake, SK, $2,130.88

Moose Jaw Husky (Husky Energy Inc.), Moose Jaw, SK, $2,500.00

Murphy Oil Company Ltd. (Murphy Oil Corporation), Calgary, AB, $500.00

NAL Resources Management Limited (NAL Oil & Gas Trust), Calgary, AB, $5,089.80

Navigo Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,316.56

Nexen Canada Ltd. (Nexen Inc.), Calgary, AB, $2,790.79

Nexen Inc., Calgary, AB, $82,901.77

Northern Resource Trucking Limited Partnership, Saskatoon, SK, $8,722.88

Novitas Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $298.42

NuCoal Energy Corp., Saskatoon, SK, $1,755.88

Oilsands Quest Inc., Calgary, AB, $9,622.34

PanCanadian Energy Corporation (EnCana Corporation), Calgary, AB, $7,500.00

PanTerra Resource Corp., Calgary, AB, $967.96

Panther Drilling Corporation, Weyburn, SK, $2,164.20

Panther Industries Inc., Davidson, SK, $500.00

Parkland Industries LP (Parkland Income Fund), Red Deer, AB, $1,753.96

Partner Technologies Inc., Regina, SK, $1,391.60

Pemoco Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,403.88

Pengrowth Corporation (Pengrowth Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Pengrowth Management Ltd. (Pengrowth Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $5,167.36

Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (Penn West Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $46,731.33

Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $13,652.91

Petro-Canada, Calgary, AB, $871.32

Petroleum Industry Training Service (Enform), Calgary, AB, $298.42

Petroleum Services Association of Canada, Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Pilgrim Energy Inc., Regina, SK, $900.00

Prairie Birch Royalties Ltd., Calgary, AB, $4,522.62

Prairie Mines & Royalty Ltd. (Royal Utilities Income Fund), Edmonton, AB, $6,374.06

Prairie Mud & Chemical Services Ltd., Estevan, SK, $3,500.00

Precision Drilling Corporation, Calgary, AB, $10,404.16

Provident Energy Trust, Calgary, AB, $4,813.48

Pursuit Resources Corp. (EnerMark Income Fund), Calgary, AB, $500.00

Ravens Cross Energy Ltd., Kindersley, SK, $2,000.00

RC Consultants Ltd., Swift Current, SK, $1,820.10

Reba Oil & Gas (Alberta) Limited, Lloydminster, AB, $500.00

Red Hawk Well Servicing Inc., Oxbow, SK, $2,275.00

Robin Hood Petroleum Ltd., Estevan, SK, $400.00

Rockwell Services Partnership, Nisku, AB, $329.14

Sabre Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $8,050.00

Sherritt Coal,
Edmonton, AB, $2,012.00

Sherritt International Corporation, Toronto, ON, $26,498.56

Sierra Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $11,667.64

Silver Bay Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $4,733.98

Skylift Services Inc., Estevan, SK, $500.00

Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, Calgary, AB, $962.06

Spearing Service Ltd. (Mullen Group Income Fund), Oxbow, SK, $3,000.00

StandardLand Company Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,250.00

Steady Oil Production Ltd., Kindersley, SK, $500.00

Stoney Enterprises Ltd., Blaine Lake, SK, $300.00

Stream-Flo Industries Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $3,602.82

Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $3,816.56

Supreme Oilfield Construction Ltd., Estevan, SK, $1,000.00

SynOil Fluids Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,000.00

T & T Management Inc., Saskatoon, SK, $300.00

Talisman Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $21,339.80

T. Bird Oil Ltd., Estevan, SK, $400.00

T C Enterprises Ltd., Watson, SK, $300.00

Three Star Trucking, Alida, SK, $1,500.00

Titan Exploration Ltd., Calgary, AB, $500.00

Tournament Energy Ltd. (Chamaelo Exploration Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $2,448.80

TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, AB, $31,129.62

TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary, AB, $51,290.01

Trican Well Service Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Tri-City Surveys Ltd. (Meridian Surveys Ltd.), Saskatoon, SK, $482.00

Trinity Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $365.00

TriStar Oil & Gas Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

Tristone Capital Inc., Calgary, AB, $2,339.80

True Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $2,179.52

TS&M Supply (National Oilwell Varco), Estevan, SK, $470.64

Tundra Oil & Gas Limited, Winnipeg, MB, $8,000.00

Tundra Oil and Gas Limited (Sask) Ltd., Regina, SK, $2,000.00

United Safety Ltd., Airdrie, AB, $500.00

Upper Lake Oil & Gas Ltd. (Monterey Exploration Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $1,169.90

Upton Resources Inc. (StarPoint Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $37,703.20

Uranium City Resources Inc., Kirkland Lake, ON, $2,500.00

UTS Energy Corporation, Calgary, AB, $2,016.80

V & S Investments Inc., Kelvington, SK, $300.00

Valleyview Petroleums Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $12,339.12

Venture Well Servicing Ltd., Estevan, SK, $1,400.00

Viking Energy Royalty Trust (Harvest Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $596.84

Viking Management Ltd. (Harvest Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $320.00

Viking Surplus Oilfield Equipment Ltd., Estevan, SK, $1,350.00

Villanova Energy Corp., Regina, SK, $7,962.76

Villanova Resources Inc., Regina, SK, $845.56

VPC Supervision Ltd., Estevan, SK, $500.00

Wascana Energy Inc. (Nexen Inc.), Regina, SK, $1,032.00

Waterflood Service and Sales Ltd., Estevan, SK, $984.00

Watson Land Services Ltd., Estevan, SK, $500.00

Wave Energy Ltd. (Crescent Point Energy Corp.), Calgary, AB, $2,761.31

WaveForm Energy Ltd. (Second Wave Petroleum Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $346.60

W D M Resources Ltd., Alberta, $898.42

Wedona Energy Inc., Emerald Park, SK, $1,754.74

Western Canadian Consulting Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,250.00

Western Lakota Energy Services Inc., Calgary, AB, $5,000.00

WestFire Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $4,601.11

Wilf's Oilfield Services Ltd., Swift Current, SK, $500.00

Wil-Tech Industries Ltd., Estevan, SK, $679.23

Wrangler Tanker Service Ltd., Coleville, SK, $550.00

Grand Total: $1,298,598.73

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wall, Boyd attend resource investment conference in Saskatoon; Saskatchewan Party supporting CEO gives insulting keynote presentation

The Saskatchewan Party government has become its own worst enemy. The air of confidence that ushered in the young government just 30 months ago has turned to one of arrogance, contempt and superiority. The end result is the almost regular beating the Wall government takes in the newspaper.

In his May 5, 2010, column, the Leader-Post’s Murray Mandryk unloaded on Health Minister Don McMorris and the Wall government’s behaviour over its decision to allow hospital foundations to send fundraising letters to former patients. At issue is McMorris misleading the legislature on April 12, 2010, saying that he had consulted with the privacy commissioner four different times on the new legislation when it turns out he hadn’t.

Here is a snapshot of the words Mandryk used in describing the major players and their actions: “dishonest” “refuse to listen” “mislead the public” “alarming” “narrow-minded” “obstreperous” “insular” “out-of-touch” “dishonest” “deception” “arrogance” “lying to the house” “unbelievable” “misleading the people of Saskatchewan” “defending the indefensible” “didn’t consult” “misled citizens” and “creating a bogus argument.” [Premier needs to take stock (StarPhoenix, May 5, 2010)]

On May 8, 2010, Mandryk took aim at Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris, who has been engaged in a non-war stop with labour almost since the day he was sworn in on November 21, 2007.

Norris’s latest attack on working people is with Bill 80 – the government’s controversial and unwarranted legislation affecting the construction industry. According to Mandryk, Norris had recently met with Terry Parker, the business manager for the Saskatchewan Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council, and confronted him over an encounter Premier Brad Wall had had with angry Building Trades Council members when he and his family were checking into a Regina hotel for the Saskatchewan Party’s convention in March.

“Suffice to say, things didn’t go well,” Mandryk said.

This is how Mandryk described Norris and the Wall government in general: “pompous” “partisan” “annoying” “controversial” “not listening” “doesn’t like union members” “retaliation” “woeful performances” and “ineptitude.” [When last become first, worry (StarPhoenix, May 8, 2010)]

And then there’s the premier himself spinning a web of deception and hypocrisy over the government’s recent signing of the New West Partnership agreement with Alberta and British Columbia.

Wall is certainly not doing himself or his government any favours by associating with seemingly extreme and nasty people, either.

Tom MacNeill is the founder, president and CEO of 49 North Resources Inc., a Saskatoon-based, Saskatchewan focused investment company with strategic operations in financial, managerial advisory and merchant banking. The company provides diversified exposure to oil & gas, potash, uranium, diamonds, coal, base & precious metals, and rare earth elements.

In an interview with the StarPhoenix last year, MacNeill described himself as a “right-wing, private industry capitalist.” [Expansion of mining predicted (StarPhoenix, May 11, 2009)]

49 North is a supporter of the Saskatchewan Party. Since 2008, the company has donated $2,092 to the political party. Tom’s brother, Ken MacNeill, is the president and CEO of Shore Gold Inc., and is a former member of the Enterprise Saskatchewan Minerals Sector Team.

MacNeill abhors socialism. That message comes through loud and clear on the 49 North website.

MacNeill appears to blame the people living in cities for electing a succession of “socialist” governments, which he says “have shaped, and in some instances, profoundly hindered the Province’s economic development path.”

“Although the Province’s population is relatively conservative by nature, polarization between left and right factions in urban and rural areas respectively, has often led to election results that run counter to the generally centrist popular sentiment. In fact, the left wing New Democratic Party and its predecessor, Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, have held the seat of power approximately 75% of the time since World War II with the right wing Conservatives 16% and Liberals 9%,” the website states.

This seems like an odd way to promote a company to potential investors – denigrate and insult half the people living in the province where your business is headquartered.

The last conservative government in Saskatchewan left the province in ruins.

The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan notes that the Grant Devine Tory’s ran consecutive deficit budgets, accumulating a debt of over $1.5 billion its first four years in office. The PCs ran up a deficit of over $1.2 billion in 1986–87, a far cry from the deficit figure of $389 million that had been presented in the 1986 pre-election budget.

The fiscal crisis led to cutbacks in services, cancellation of programs, and firing of employees, the encyclopedia states.

By the end of the 1980s it was running a surplus on operating expenses excluding debt charges, but interest payments drove the province deeper into debt each year. By 1991–92 the accumulated debt was over $15 billion, and annual interest payments exceeded $500 million, the third-largest item in the budget after health and education.

The greatest failure of the Devine years was the accumulation of an unprecedented debt, much of it attributable to tax cuts and unwise election spending. The government lost power in 1991, winning only 10 seats and 25% of the popular vote. After the election, a scandal came to light, resulting in the conviction of several former Conservative MLAs on fraud charges. [James M. Pitsula; The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

This is the world that Premier Brad Wall, who served as a ministerial assistant in the final years of Grant Devine’s Tory government, grew up in but the 49 North website acknowledges none of it.

The 2010 Saskatchewan Investment Conference held May 6-7, 2010, at the Saskatoon Inn Hotel and Conference Centre was sponsored by 49 North.

Organized by Vancouver-based investor conference specialists Cambridge House International, the two day event focused on investment opportunities in energy and agriculture in Saskatchewan. Attending the conference were over 10 market resource analysts participating in panels, workshops and keynote presentations, and over 40 public companies representing the world’s top mineral exploration and development management teams. Among the exhibitors was Enterprise Saskatchewan.

The agenda for May 6 included a luncheon Q & A and panel discussion with Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd. The dinner itinerary featured Premier Brad Wall fielding questions from a panel of industry analysts.

Earlier in the day, MacNeill gave a corporate presentation entitled Saskatchewan Politics and Economics… Why Growth Was Stunted. It showed that Saskatchewan’s resource industry supplies one third of the world’s potash and one quarter of the world’s uranium. It’s also the second largest oil, third largest natural gas, and third largest coal producing province in the country. Saskatchewan has significant oil sands potential and has the world’s largest diamond bearing kimberlite field.

One slide asked the question: “If we have all of this then why were we a have-not Province?” The answer: “Socialism.”

MacNeill’s presentation went on to compare the post-World War II differences in development between Saskatchewan and Alberta, slamming the supposed evils of socialism, things like Crown corporations, higher taxes, government oversight, and focusing on jobs not wealth creation.

Covering the event were StarPhoenix reporters Jeremy Warren and Jeanette Stewart who said MacNeill told the crowd that socialists are good for one thing.

“The one thing socialists are good at is building things: Power lines, roads, infrastructure,” MacNeill said.

But socialism’s positive contribution to society stops where the pavement ends because the political and economic philosophy has impeded the growth of Saskatchewan’s natural resource sector, MacNeill said.

Socialism killed private investment in Saskatchewan’s mining and oil and gas industries, he said.

“Socialism is an active enemy of business,” said MacNeill. “It changed our economic landscape forever.”

MacNeill would like to see 10 times more mines operating in Saskatchewan, but the province has to first shed its socialist past, he said.

After six decades, Saskatchewan’s resource sector is poised to catch up with the rest of Canada, MacNeill said.

“All that stuff that socialism kept in the ground is there for the taking now,” he said. “We’ve only scratched the surface in regards to resource extraction in this province.” [Sask. stalled by socialism, CEO says (StarPhoenix, May 7, 2010)]

Saskatchewan’s Crowns sure came in handy this year, though, when the right wing Wall government stripped them of nearly all their profits (except for SaskPower) to help offset the government’s $2.1 billion potash miscalculation, the biggest financial mistake in the province’s history. [Gov’t avoids best explanation (StarPhoenix, April 30, 2010)]

Wall Street was only too happy to accept a bailout of $700-billion in public funds when socialism came to its rescue in late-2008.

Never mind that taxes help build the schools, libraries, swimming pools, sports fields, local hockey arenas, museums, affordable housing, playgrounds, community centres, roads, transit, hospitals, and public parks that residents hold dear.

Never mind that “government oversight” protects peoples’ rights, culture, health, the environment, and help provide better wages, working conditions, worker safety, and a decent standard of living.

For people on the far right like MacNeill, the idea of the public good is way down on the list of priorities, which always begins with profit and wealth. It’s a survival of the fittest mentality driven by greed with little social responsibility or being a good corporate citizen.

The scary thing is the Wall government embraced the conference with fervor sending two of its biggest names along with its flagship economic development agency as an exhibitor.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Deception, hypocrisy, betrayal, and the New West Partnership; Premier Brad Wall misrepresenting labour’s role on Enterprise Saskatchewan board

“I think there’s been a lot of consultation on this.”
– Premier Brad Wall commenting on the New West Partnership,
Global Regina, April 30, 2010
Premier Brad Wall and his good friends at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce say the recently signed New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) is critical because it will eliminate the barriers to trade that exist between Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. What trade barriers?

On April 3, 2007, two days after the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) began its three year phase in, the Edmonton Journal, in an editorial commenting on the trade pact, pointed out that “there was little in the way of genuine trade barriers remaining between the two westernmost provinces.” In a news release that day concerning TILMA, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said that Saskatchewan was “the lowest cost jurisdiction… with fewer trade barriers and restrictions than either B.C. or Alberta.”

At no point since April 28, 2006, when TILMA was signed in Edmonton, has Wall, the Saskatchewan Chamber, or BC and Alberta governments produced a detailed list of genuine trade barriers that exist between the provinces. They talk about them ad nauseam but never say what they are. Why do you suppose that is?

It’s probably because they don’t exist, and even if they did, it is likely in such small numbers that it would put the supporters of TILMA and the New West Partnership to shame.

The Saskatchewan Chamber is enthusiastic about the new agreement.

“We applaud the government for this initiative and look forward to its full implementation,” said the lobby group’s CEO Steve McLellan in a media release.

The news release goes on to say that the organization “is pleased that regulatory simplification is a focus of the partnership agreement. The elimination of unnecessary differences in provincial business and occupation-related regulations and standards will support economic growth and enhance the competitiveness of Saskatchewan businesses in larger western markets.”

As with the phantom trade barriers, the Saskatchewan Chamber fails to provide a comprehensive list of the “unnecessary differences” in question.

The focus on regulations and standards gets us closer to the heart of the matter, and the real reason behind agreements like TILMA and the NWPTA: to pressure government’s to reduce standards and regulations to the lowest common denominator, or abandon them altogether. The agreements are by intent, design and structure no more than instruments for de-regulation.

Another red herring is labour mobility.

In a web-exclusive op-ed posted on The Globe and Mail’s website, the three western premiers said the new agreement will enhance the region’s competitiveness by removing barriers to labour mobility. “A skilled worker from one province will not have to unnecessarily prove their qualifications in another province,” the trio said. [We are stronger as one than if we stand apart (The Globe and Mail, May 1, 2010)]

The premiers either have a short memory or are purposely ignoring the fact that issues around labour mobility were largely addressed by the Council of the Federation on January 16, 2009, when all of Canada’s First Ministers signed a declaration revising the labour mobility chapter of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) to enable any worker certified for an occupation by a regulatory authority of one province to be recognized as qualified to practice that occupation by all other provinces.

On February 2, 2009, the Wall government issued a news release announcing it had “approved and will sign protocols” to the AIT that will amend the labour mobility resolution chapters.

As a result, workers will not face mobility barriers within Canada. The amendments affect all regulated occupations, including (but not limited to): health professionals, engineers, accountants and people working in the skilled trades, the news release said.

“Agreement by all jurisdictions on labour mobility is a significant victory for Saskatchewan,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Bill Boyd said. “It will help our province attract much needed skilled workers and, together with our investments in skills training, these changes will lead to a more secure and prosperous Saskatchewan.”

The new labour mobility provisions became effective April 1, 2009. The level of importance the provinces are placing on this issue in connection with the New West Partnership is not warranted.

According to the StarPhoenix, Wall said at the signing ceremony that the new agreement covers all public-sector entities, there are specific areas -- including aboriginal issues, water, taxation, labour standards and support for the cultural sector -- where a jurisdiction’s ability to set policy will not be affected.

“There is in those exemptions just a lot of room for governments to continue to do what they’ve done to respond to the local realities,” Wall said.

He said the New West Partnership also addresses concerns that kept the Saskatchewan Party from endorsing TILMA a few years ago. Municipalities will be still be able to offer tax incentives to promote growth and the ability to operate Crown corporations will not be affected, Wall said. [A western powerhouse (StarPhoenix, May 1, 2010)]

Wall is misleading the people of Saskatchewan by only telling part of the story.

Like TILMA, the New West Partnership through Article 17 requires the provinces to establish a “ministerial committee” to review annually the exemptions listed in Part V of the agreement “with a view to reducing their scope.” In other words, nothing is safe. And the few examples given by Wall are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s at stake. The so-called exemptions (or exceptions as they’re called in the agreement) also include:

▪ Regulated rates established for the public good or public interest;

▪ Social policy, including labour codes, minimum wages, employment insurance, social assistance benefits and worker’s compensation;

▪ Measures adopted or maintained to provide compensation to persons for losses resulting from calamities such as diseases or disasters; assistance for recreation, academic research, or to non-profit organizations;

▪ Measures adopted or maintained relating to the licensing, certification, registration, leasing or other disposition of rights to the harvesting of forest or fish resources; the management or conservation of forests, fish and wildlife; or requirements that timber be used or manufactured within the territory of a Party; and

▪ Measures adopted or maintained relating to the management and disposal of hazardous and waste materials.

On the issue of municipalities, the New West Partnership does indeed include an expanded definition of business subsidies. That definition specifies that if a subsidy program is designed with objective eligibility criteria, and only one company gets the subsidy, that provision of financial support would not contravene the agreement.

However, municipalities can still be challenged if a bylaw, regulation, standard, directive, requirement, guideline, program, policy, administrative practice or other procedure restricts or impairs trade, investment or labour mobility between or among the three western provinces. Municipal governments will also be subject to the agreement’s procurement rules. With thresholds set so low ($75,000 for goods and services, and $200,000 for construction) the cost of administering and complying with them could prove extremely cumbersome and create a huge volume of paperwork for even routine purchases.

On the issue of Crowns, trade ministers have signed a joint decision clarifying governments have the “ability to create, maintain or designate a government entity,” including Crown corporations. The good news ends there. Just so there is no confusion, the joint decision includes a second clause stating that nothing in the decision “is intended to alter the obligations of government entities once created, maintained or designated.” This means the Crowns are still subject to the agreement and are responsible for complying with it.

There is nothing in the trade agreement to stop the Wall government from selling or shutting down a Crown corporation. Furthermore, Saskatchewan has until July 1, 2012, before the Crowns are subject to the agreement’s procurement rules. In short, the Crowns can remain publicly owned while the crap gets beat out of them.

Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers union, made an excellent observation recently noting that other trade deals that cover provincial procurement, such as the longstanding Agreement on Internal Trade and the Canada-US Agreement on Government Procurement, do not apply to Crown corporations. As far as he knows, the NWPTA will be the first trade deal to restrict procurement by Saskatchewan Crowns.

Weir points out that since Saskatchewan has a much wider array of Crown corporations than Alberta and BC, it is committing much more. For example, Alberta and BC businesses will gain a legally enforceable right to access SaskTel’s procurement. But Saskatchewan businesses will have no parallel right to access procurement by Telus, the main telephone company in Alberta and BC.

Weir’s analysis also reveals some interesting facts buried in the government’s five-page backgrounder: “The second page provides for “financial penalties of up to $5 million if a government is found to be non-compliant with its obligations.” In case the reader still doubts that NWPTA replicates TILMA, page four helpfully notes that “British Columbia and Alberta fully comply with the agreement” already and then lists a series of “Saskatchewan-Specific Transition Measures.”

“There is no quid pro quo: only Saskatchewan has to change its tendering system, regulations and standards. There is no compromise: Saskatchewan must harmonize to the existing Alberta-BC model.”

As the premiers signed the new trade agreement in a ceremony at Government House in Regina on April 30, 2010, dozens of protestors gathered outside, blowing whistles, to condemn the Wall government’s lack of public consultation.

“We’re blowing the whistle on this premier,” said Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich. “He has an obligation to engage in meaningful broad-based consultation when he is going to tie Saskatchewan to these broad and sweeping trade agreements.”

Wall arrogantly dismissed the concern. According to the StarPhoenix, the premier said the people of Saskatchewan had a say during public hearings on TILMA in 2007, which took place under the previous NDP government. [A western powerhouse (StarPhoenix, May 1, 2010)]

Global TV in Regina served up this quote by Wall on the evening news: “When we signed the MOU for this agreement, we have sent it out to third parties, to the municipalities, post secondary, health care, to Enterprise Saskatchewan which has – a certainly – a labour representation on it. I guess I just don’t agree. I think there’s been a lot of consultation on this.” [Three Province Trade Agreement Signed (Global Regina, Evening News, April 30, 2010)]

This particular comment is not only absurd and extremely hypocritical it’s also blatantly wrong.

In the spring of 2007, the Opposition Saskatchewan Party demanded the NDP government consult with the public before deciding whether to join TILMA.

In a letter to the editor published in the Leader-Post on March 10, 2007, the party’s labour critic and deputy leader, Ken Krawetz, said a future Saskatchewan Party government would not sign on to the agreement unless certain it was in the best interests of Saskatchewan people.

“Given the impact of TILMA across the province, we also believe the provincial government has an obligation to consult with stakeholders and the public prior to accepting or rejecting Saskatchewan’s participation in TILMA,” Krawetz said. [TILMA contains no threat to labour (Leader-Post, March 10, 2007)]

Three weeks later, on April 3, 2007, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall in a news release called on the NDP government to release the Conference Board of Canada economic impact study on TILMA, “so the people of this province can make an informed decision about whether to join the agreement.”

With the NWPTA, though, the Wall government betrayed the general public completely, negotiating the agreement behind closed doors with no public consultation or legislative debate. There was no “informed decision” to be had because the public never saw the trade deal until after it was signed. The hypocrisy is incredible.

It’s important to note that in an interview on April 27, 2010, Wall said the new agreement is “not TILMA.”

On the idea of further public consultation, Wall said there has “been a lot of debate on this issue,” including the legislative committee hearings on TILMA.

But Opposition NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter questioned how the new agreement can be “not TILMA,” but the consultation process around the older deal is adequate, the StarPhoenix said. [Sask. close to signing trade deal, Wall says (StarPhoenix, April 28, 2010)]

For Wall to suggest that Saskatchewan’s 95,000-plus unionized workers were consulted on the agreement by virtue of having one representative on the Enterprise Saskatchewan board is ludicrous.

In the legislature on April 29, 2010, Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd indicated that the government consulted with the big city mayors, city managers, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology. The question that needs to be asked is why? If Wall’s logic is to be applied evenly then these groups should not have been consulted since the Enterprise Saskatchewan board includes three individuals representing post secondary, rural municipality, and urban municipal.

As important as they might be, the groups the province consulted with in private come to the table with their own agendas and do not speak for the average citizen.

Wall’s assertion also appears to contradict the position put forward by the former Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation during the nomination process for the Enterprise Saskatchewan board. Ministry officials issued a news release on January 4, 2008, advising that over 300 invitations had been sent out to organizations inviting them to submit nominees to the board. The news release states: “The Board members selected from nominations will represent all aspects and sectors of the provincial economy, rather than concentrating on their own organizations or particular interests.”

The current labour sector representative on the board is Hugh Wagner, the general secretary of the Grain Services Union (ILWU • Canada), who was nominated by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. Clearly, Mr. Wagner is on the board to represent labour as a sector of the provincial economy not trade unions or workers.

Wall is misrepresenting labour’s presence on the Enterprise Saskatchewan board to justify his government’s repugnant behaviour towards the general public.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Botting earning $15,000 per month plus expenses as consultant to Enterprise Saskatchewan, contract suggests direct line to Premier Brad Wall

The Wall government’s announcement on March 15, 2010, that Dale Botting was stepping down as CEO of Enterprise Saskatchewan (ES) caused barely a ripple in the news media. A 400-word story in the Leader-Post the next day was pretty much it as far as coverage goes.

NDP Enterprise and Innovation critic Len Taylor told the newspaper he was “surprised” to learn Botting would be leaving and wondered whether there was something wrong at ES.

Taylor said that ES “has no focus, no real vision,” and appears to be “going nowhere with this government.”

“This big idea of Enterprise Saskatchewan ... is not turning out to be what anybody thought it would be.” [Botting to step down in April as CEO (Leader-Post, March 16, 2010)]

Botting may be gone but he’s not far away.

Starting April 1, 2010, under a six-month, renewable contract to ES, Botting will oversee the completion of several investment attraction projects and will continue to advise the provincial government on issues ranging from innovative partnerships to competitive intelligence, a government press release said.

Chris Dekker, the agency’s vice president of marketing and communications, is serving as the interim CEO until the ES board finds a replacement.

In his formal letter of resignation, which was obtained through a freedom of information request, Botting thanked the board for “allowing” him to move on.

“I wish to convey my deep gratitude to the Board in understanding and accommodating my personal desire to now return to the private sector. I pledge to still serve you well in a more specialized capacity as a Global Investment Attraction Specialist, and to execute and honour all goals and obligations as outlined in my new contract with great diligence and integrity,” Botting said.

This seems to sound like someone that really wanted to get out of their present situation.

It’s interesting to note that, aside from an 11 year stretch with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (1985-96), Botting doesn’t seem to stick around at jobs for too long.

Prior to his 28-month stint with the Wall government, Botting was the CEO of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership for just over two years. Before that he was the CEO of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) for just over 3 years. Before joining SREDA, Botting spent a year or so working for the newly reorganized Yellowhead Region of the old Department of Economic and Co-operative Development as its first permanent executive director. Prior to that job he served as CEO of the Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres for about two and a half years. Why all the moving around?

According to the contract between ES and Botting Leadership & Development Corporation, dated March 12, 2010, Botting will be paid a sum of $15,000 per month for each month of the agreement. As the consultant, Botting “must submit a report to the Minister and CEO of ES on the activities undertaken during that calendar month and an invoice stating the number of hours of service provided during that calendar month and the allowable expenses, with copies of receipts, incurred in providing the services.”

Travel, sustenance and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed at Public Service Commission approved rates.

Botting’s contract does not “preclude the possibility of separate and different contract opportunities to serve the added needs of Enterprise Saskatchewan, or to assist with other contracts and projects in other Ministries or Crown Corporations.”

In other words, Botting’s new arrangement could allow him to make a lot more money than if he were still employed by the agency.

The services to be provided by Botting’s company are as follows:

▪ To provide advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options to ES for the use of ES and members of the Executive Council of Saskatchewan;

▪ To prepare or assist in the development of positions, plans, procedures, criteria or instructions for the purpose of contractual or other negotiations by or on behalf of ES or the Government of Saskatchewan; and

▪ To provide such other services as may be requested by ES from time to time with respect to economic development matters in Saskatchewan.

Botting’s contract includes a five-page statement of work entitled ‘Project Touchdown.’

Starting April 1, 2010, to September 30, 2010, Botting’s company “will focus, as an independent contractor, on major investment attraction efforts and the successful completion of project development as a dedicated and accelerated effort to help the Government move toward more visible culmination of its successful business climate.”

Some of the 14 “major projects poised for final investment decisions” in 2010-11 are:

▪ Accelerate the final head office decision of Mosaic Corporation and other major corporate office decisions in to Saskatoon and Regina;

▪ Move key research and development jobs of Dow Agro Sciences from Indiana to Saskatoon;

▪ Finalize development of Clear Vistas and other major new property developments;

▪ Needed support to add on and secure CN/Loblaws developments and assist the Global Transportation Hub Authority (GTHA) in its added marketing and investment attraction efforts;

▪ Secure financing and final supports fort the CCRL Aquistore Project in Regina;

▪ Complete the Bioxx Expansion in Saskatoon; and

▪ Secure added markets for Whitemud Resources in Saskatchewan.

“As further project challenges arise from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development, or directly from the Minister or the Premier, [the consultant’s] retainer will provide added executive level capacity as further required on as needed basis,” the agreement states.

So Botting might have a direct pipeline to Premier Brad Wall. How many consultants can boast that?

One nagging question, though, is why can’t Botting oversee this work and still be the CEO of ES? Maybe NDP MLA Len Taylor is right and there is something wrong at ES.

Botting’s departure is the second major hit the agency has taken in less than ten months. In a cabinet shuffle on May 29, 2009, Premier Brad Wall gave Lyle Stewart, elected in 1999, the boot from enterprise and innovation. He hasn’t been on cabinet since. Stewart was replaced by Ken Cheveldayoff, a close friend of Wall’s since their university days. [Wall opts for youth movement (StarPhoenix, May 30, 2009)]

ES was announced to big fanfare when Stewart introduced the Enterprise Saskatchewan Act in the legislature on December 17, 2007. Botting had been appointed as deputy minister on November 27, 2007, to lead the “design-build” phase of the new economic development agency at a salary of $160,000 per year. The new ES board later appointed Botting as its founding CEO when it was officially formed on July 29, 2008.

On November 18, 2008, Stewart officially launched 18 sector teams specifically dedicated to an economic sector of the Saskatchewan economy. The sector teams are accountable for identifying and reporting on the barriers to growth, making recommendations to remove barriers, prescribing prioritized action, and reporting on the progress on an annual basis.

ES has also established three strategic issues councils to provide advice to government on broad concerns that impact multiple sectors of the economy. Individual councils concentrate on a central issue where strategic actions by government can improve the competitiveness of Saskatchewan’s economy. Councils have been established for the following issues: Regulatory Modernization, Youth Economic Engagement, and Entrepreneurship.

According to the March 15 news release, Botting “played an instrumental role” in assisting the ES board make more than 50 recommendations to the provincial government. This sounds impressive until you consider that it works out to less than three recommendations per sector team and strategic issues council.

What the public isn’t being told is how many recommendations have the sector teams and strategic issues councils made to the board, what are they, and for the ones that didn’t make it to government, why?

Furthermore, ES refuses to make its board meeting agendas and minutes public. The board's progress reports only offer a selective, sanitized version of events created for public consumption.

As the Wall government’s flagship department, ES has received little coverage in the province’s two major newspapers. Since January 2009, the agency was referenced in 13 articles in the StarPhoenix and 15 in the Leader-Post.

The one high profile issue that happened on Botting’s, Stewart’s and Cheveldayoff’s watch turned out to be the agency’s biggest flop.

It started with a press conference in Saskatoon on June 17, 2008, when Bruce Power President and CEO Duncan Hawthorne, with Stewart and Cheveldayoff at his side cheering him on, unveiled the company’s Saskatchewan 2020 initiative, a feasibility study into bringing nuclear energy to the province.

It continued with the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), a government appointed panel stacked with pro-nuclear members mandated to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry; and the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan public consultation process chaired by former senior civil servant Dan Perrins. Both were fiascos with little public trust in either. The Wall government blew nearly $3.7-million on two reports confirming what was already known: that the nuclear industry and business lobby groups support spending billions of dollars on a reactor and to store nuclear waste in Saskatchewan, but the public doesn’t.

The debacle concluded on December 17, 2009, when the Wall government announced that it would not support the UDP recommendation to accelerate plans for nuclear power, nor Bruce Power’s November 2008 proposal for a large scale nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan at this time.

ES has issued three board progress reports since its inception. Botting’s presence seems to have diminished over time. The first issue (September 2008) included a message from Botting as the CEO. He also appeared in a board photo standing next to Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart.

The March 2009 report contains a message from Botting, but he’s absent from the group photo. Premier Brad Wall is there instead.

Finally, in the September 2009 progress report, Botting is gone altogether. He’s not mentioned once. Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything, but for a guy that reportedly played such a pivotal role in creating the agency it sure seems odd that as the CEO he’s not included. Premier Brad Wall on the other hand is named five times in the report. And ES is supposed to be arm’s length from government. Maybe that’s the problem, too much political meddling.

On at least two occasions Wall has approached the ES board directly. The first was at the board’s inaugural meeting on March 31, 2008, when he asked them to make identifying uranium value-added opportunities a priority. The second time was prior to the trilateral cabinet meeting between Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia on September 11, 2009, when he asked the board for opinions about the Western Economic Partnership (WEP), now called the New West Partnership. The board dutifully said yes to the first and threw its support behind the second. What else could they do, tell the premier no?

It makes you wonder who’s really running the show.