Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall ducks tough questions on Enterprise Saskatchewan; Industry and Resources employees could lose jobs

The adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” seems increasingly more applicable.

As Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall continues to avoid specifics about his Enterprise Saskatchewan scheme an NDP news release today reported that Wall had trouble answering “media questions about the make-up of Enterprise Saskatchewan, but he did admit that employees working on economic development within the department of Saskatchewan Industry and Resources would face uncertain futures. When asked how many employees that would be, Mr. Wall replied “Well, I don’t know how many are in the department today, specifically…”

“Mr. Wall has not provided costs for Enterprise Saskatchewan in his platform, and he has no idea how many people it would take to run this mystery agency despite publicly stating that it would be operational within the first week of a Sask Party government,” said Premier Lorne Calvert.

“What is the mandate of Enterprise Saskatchewan, and how will it be held accountable to Saskatchewan taxpayers? Is Mr. Wall refusing to answer questions because he’s making this up as he goes, or, and I believe this to be more likely, is he hiding the true intent of this body?”

According to the news release Wall skirted questions “of whether the President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) would be represented on the board, but did say several times that he would likely ask the Saskatchewan Construction Association to participate. The Saskatchewan Construction Association is on record as supporting the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA).”

This stunning news comes on the heels of Tuesday night’s leaders’ debate when time and again Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall ducked tough questions on Enterprise Saskatchewan.

In Karwacki comes out swinging (SP October 31, 2007) Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk noted Wall’s approach to the debate was “cautious” and that “he endured a couple of shots from both [Liberal Leader David] Karwacki and Calvert.”

“One such broadside was Calvert’s shot at the makeup and role of Wall’s Enterprise Saskatchewan -- a body Calvert repeated is a thinly veiled vehicle to carry out privatization. The lack of a direct answer from Wall will do little to dissipate the suspicions created by Calvert in some minds that an alternative agenda is at work.”

In Leaders pump up the volume (SP October 31, 2007) James Wood and Angela Hall of the Saskatchewan News Network reported that Wall “came under fire from both Calvert and Karwacki for his plan to supplant the industry and resources arm of government with Enterprise Saskatchewan, a public-private board the Sask. Party has said would provide direction to government on economic development.

“What we will not do is . . . turn over the decision-making in this economy to a group of hand-picked friends called Enterprise Saskatchewan, to turn over the future of our economy to people who are unelected,” said Calvert, demanding several times that Wall say who would be appointed to the board.”

Apparently the answer never came.

Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall unveiled his Enterprise Saskatchewan plan on September 21, 2004, as a part of The Promise of Saskatchewan: A New Vision for Saskatchewan’s Economy, which was later rolled in its entirety into The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book (February 2007).

Delegates at the Saskatchewan Party’s 2005 convention in Regina resolved to endorse Wall’s plan “as the foundation for the economic development plan of a Saskatchewan Party government.”

Wall has had more than three years to bring Saskatchewan residents up to speed on Enterprise Saskatchewan but has failed to show any meaningful transparency on the issue.

The Saskatchewan Party has not released the complete terms of reference for Enterprise Saskatchewan or clearly explained the process of how its chair, vice-chair and members of the board will be selected.

Wall has not said whether the Enterprise Saskatchewan board meetings and agendas will be open to the public nor has he supplied a definitive list of the groups or individuals that will comprise the Enterprise Saskatchewan board.

Wall has not identified who will comprise the “sector teams” that are to be tasked with studying each sector of the economy to identify barriers to growth for removal nor has he provided costs for Enterprise Saskatchewan.

Why the secrecy?

Further evidence to support that the concerns about Enterprise Saskatchewan are justified can be found in the Saskatchewan Party’s response to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) 2007 Leaders’ Survey on Small Business Issues that was sent to party leaders’ on October 12, 2007. The results were released on October 29, 2007.

The CFIB represents 5,250 small- and medium-sized business in Saskatchewan and 105,000 across Canada and is an organization that appears to have a very close relationship with the Saskatchewan Party.

(A March 31, 2004, letter from party leader Brad Wall to Marilyn Braun-Pollon, the CFIB’s Director of Provincial Affairs Saskatchewan states: “My party has had a very good relationship with your organization through the years and that will absolutely not change under my leadership. The position the CFIB puts forward, for the most, reflect our own.”)

In five of the survey questions the Saskatchewan Party seem more than prepared to simply defer matters concerning small business corporate tax rates, personal income tax rates, the shortage of skilled labour, provincial regulations on business and the reduction of fees, forms and regulations on business to Enterprise Saskatchewan – a body that does not yet exist and will be governed by a unelected board completely unaccountable to the people of Saskatchewan.

On the matter of Crown corporations (Question #13) the CFIB survey asks: “Will you introduce legislation to prohibit direct public sector investment in new or existing businesses?”

The Saskatchewan Party response: “The Saskatchewan Party does not feel legislation is required in this area. A Saskatchewan Party government will not expand or introduce new government competition with the private sector, while ensuring that Saskatchewan’s Crown Corporations and their subsidiaries remain publicly owned and continue to be competitive in the products and services they offer.”

This is contrary to what Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall has said in the past and runs counter to the party’s policy book.

In a speech to the North Saskatoon Business Association on December 8, 2005, Wall said:

“The terms of reference of Enterprise Saskatchewan also include the end of government picking winners and losers in the economy.

“These initiatives are non-negotiable and are hard wired right into Enterprise Saskatchewan. Legislative changes where necessary will be readied for the first Legislative session.

In a speech given at the Saskatoon Leaders Dinner on March 2, 2006, Wall said:

“Most recently, I got into the specifics of [Enterprise Saskatchewan] at the North Saskatoon Business Association December meeting where I laid out the details of what we were proposing and the first 180 days of a Saskatchewan party government.

“This includes reforming the labour legislative environment in the first session of the House, implementing Vicq’s recommendations on lower taxes on growth, and stopping government intervention in the economy.”

Enterprise Saskatchewan is designed to remove barriers to growth. The Saskatchewan Party has pre-determined that the Crowns are a barrier and its support for The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act clearly applies only to the four major Crown utilities.

The Saskatchewan Party Policy Book it states:

“A Saskatchewan Party government will maintain Saskatchewan’s four major utilities (SaskPower, SaskTel, SaskEnergy and SGI) as government-owned Crown corporations and they will play a key role in the implementation of the Enterprise Saskatchewan Plan.” [Page 45]

Enterprise Saskatchewan will develop a systematic and ongoing process to identify and remove barriers to growth in each of our key economic sectors.” [Page 43]

“[N]on-tax barriers that will require the attention and diligence of Enterprise Saskatchewan include direct competition to business from various government agencies and Crowns attempting to diversify from core functions, as well as policies of the Crowns themselves.” [Page 48]

“CC05-1. Keeping the Major Crowns Public – Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government supports The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act and will retain public ownership of our major Crown corporations as important tools in the provision of utility services to Saskatchewan families and businesses and important partners in the economic development of Saskatchewan.” [Page 11]

“EC05-2. Rethinking Direct Government Investment and Intervention in the Economy – Be it resolved that a Saskatchewan Party government will replace direct government investment and intervention in the economy with…Enterprise Saskatchewan…and…The removal of barriers to private sector investment in Saskatchewan’s key economic sectors.” [Page 13]

“EC05-3. Establishing the Right Economic Development Priorities – Be it resolved that the economic development priorities of a Saskatchewan Party government will be to…Maintain public ownership of Saskatchewan’s major crown utilities focused on the provision of power, telecommunications services, natural gas transmission and distribution and insurance services to Saskatchewan families and businesses at the lowest possible cost.” [Page 13]

When it comes to Enterprise Saskatchewan and Crown corporations the Saskatchewan Party and its leader Brad Wall appear to be misleading the people of Saskatchewan in a very big way.


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