Monday, February 18, 2008

Saskatchewan Party: Energy industry contributed over $445,000 to party from 2003-06, majority of donors in Alberta; Premier Wall cozying up to CAPP

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall & CAPP President Pierre Alvarez

The energy industry has been good to the Saskatchewan Party. In the four-year period from 2003-2006 the party received over $445,000 in contributions from 114 corporations and organizations. Approximately 76 of those are located in Alberta.

The figures were drawn from the Saskatchewan Party’s annual registered fiscal period return filed with Elections Saskatchewan and include only those corporations that contributed in excess of $250.00.

The top three contributors are Calgary-based: EnCana Corporation – $65,638.14, Nexen Inc. – $40,722.57 and Enterra Energy Corp. (Enterra Energy Trust) – $26,500.00.

Cameco Corporation, which ranked fourth with $20,524.02, represents the only Saskatchewan contributor in the Top Ten.

The remaining six include:
TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary, AB, $20,199.43

Sherritt International Corporation, Toronto, ON, $15,000.00

Upton Resources Inc. (StarPoint Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $12,743.20

TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, AB, $11,103.54

Talisman Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $11,000.00

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Calgary, AB, $10,445.12
Why does the Saskatchewan Party collect so much money from Alberta?

According to Reg Downs, Premier Brad Wall’s chief of staff, it’s “because Saskatchewan’s private sector is so small.”

“A lot of these companies are run by guys who have left the province,” Downs said.

“They are interested in having a government interested in growing the economy.”

Downs made the comments when he was chief of staff to former party leader Elwin Hermanson. [Sask. Party looks to Alberta (Leader-Post, Oct. 17, 2003)]

On June 7, 2004, five B.C. cabinet ministers, along with five mayors and 40 companies from the province’s oil and gas-rich northeast region were in Calgary to drum up business for the B.C. oilpatch service sector with a trade show, luncheon and a series of private meetings.

In B.C. woos Calgary oilpatch: Area hoping to lure business to energy- rich northeast (Calgary Herald, June 7, 2004) Geoffrey Scotton reported that B.C. was working closely with major energy industry lobby groups, including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC), the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC), the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC) and the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC).

Greg Stringham, vice-president of markets and regulatory affairs at CAPP said the B.C. government has been doing all the right things to cultivate their energy sector through reduced or eliminated taxes, increasing road spending and other measures.

“They have listened very carefully to what we have asked for and we’re satisfied almost everything we’ve said needs to be done to become competitive, they’ve moved ahead on,” said Stringham.

Saskatchewan residents would do well to remember these influential lobby groups because they will surely play an integral part in Premier Brad Wall’s plans for the sector just as they have done in B.C. and Alberta.

On Sept. 23-24, 2004, just two days after releasing his economic paper The Promise of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, new party leader Brad Wall was in Calgary making an economic sales pitch to energy companies, the industry lobby group CAPP and Saskatchewan expatriates.

In Wall defends Alberta trip as economic opportunity (Leader-Post, Sept. 25, 2004) Wall said there is a great deal of interest in Saskatchewan among Calgary’s oil and gas companies because of both the large number of ex-Saskatchewan residents who work in the sector and the companies’ high level of activity in the province.

The NDP government has made strides in restructuring the royalty structure to encourage investment in the province, said Wall, but the energy sector still has a list of what it believes are barriers to growth in Saskatchewan. Those include the province’s capital tax and body of regulations.

Of course they have a list, don’t they always?

The Calgary Herald editorial board added its two-cents urging Wall to “be brave” in his next platform, ensure a “light regulatory burden, moderate tax levels” and “privatize crown corporations.” [Saskatchewan’s lonely call (Calgary Herald, Sept. 25, 2004)]

In his economic paper Wall identified oil, gas and energy production as his number one target sector for growth.

Saskatchewan accounts for almost 20% of oil production in Canada, putting us second behind only Alberta,” Wall said.

“While the government has made progress in terms of royalty rate restructuring to stimulate activity in the oil and gas sector, other irritants such as red tape, permitting processes, the PST, the corporate tax, income tax and the capital tax are deterrents to further investment.”

Fifth on Wall’s list of targets is mining which he says “is the third largest industry in the province, following oil and natural gas, and agriculture.”

“As in other industries, we need to address barriers to further economic growth. These barriers include the resource surcharge, corporate income taxes and the capital tax. We need to make clear that the role of government is not only to regulate, but to assist companies in navigating the maze of government.”

In the same document Wall unveiled the new economic development agency called Enterprise Saskatchewan, a scheme that will replace the line department economic development function of government and be mandated to “develop a systematic and ongoing process to identify and remove barriers to growth in each of our key economic sectors.”

At the Feb. 2005, Saskatchewan Party annual convention in Regina, delegates endorsed Wall’s plan “as the foundation for the economic development plan of a Saskatchewan Party government.”

Delegates also resolved that “a Saskatchewan Party government will set the goal of making Saskatchewan the energy heart of North America within ten years by assessing the potential for further development of power generation from wind, clean coal, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, coal bed methane, ethanol, solar, oil sands, co-generation, hydrogen fuel cell technology and any other power source that may be viable in Saskatchewan for provincial consumption and/or export.”

(The Saskatchewan Party government introduced legislation on Dec. 17, 2007, to establish Enterprise Saskatchewan. The credibility of the agency has been fatally undermined since Wall has already pre-determined what some of the key barriers are in the energy and mining sector.)

Speaking at the annual Saskatoon leader’s dinner on March 8, 2007, Wall said Saskatchewan should be using its massive energy resources to assert its place in Canada.

“We need to be at the table as perhaps the most resource-rich member of Confederation when B.C. and Alberta are discussing reducing barriers to trade and investment,” Wall said, referring to the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement signed by the two provinces.

“Imagine the power of the new West if it included Canada’s second- largest producer of oil, third-largest natural gas supplier (and) the world’s leader in uranium and potash.” [NDP’s good ideas come from Sask. Party, Wall says (StarPhoenix, Mar 9, 2007)]

At the time Wall’s support for TILMA was absolute and unconditional. He complained bitterly and chastised the NDP government at every turn for not being part of the closed-door discussions with BC-Alberta and for not signing the agreement in April 2006, which occurred without public or legislative debate.

It should be noted that the oil and gas industry support TILMA.

CAPP and several of its member companies participated in the B.C. government’s Gas Exploration and Production Labour Needs Survey in June 2006. Among the 18 companies sent a survey were EnCana Corporation, Nexen Inc., Talisman Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., Devon Canada Corporation, Anadarko Canada Corporation and Husky Energy Inc. All have contributed to the Saskatchewan Party.

The resulting report, Labour Market Needs in British Columbia’s Oil and Gas Industry (Apr. 19, 2007), was jointly commissioned by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and BC Innovation Council, with advice and input by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada and the Ministry of Economic Development. The analysis outlines skill shortfalls and recommends actions to ensure an adequate labour supply, sustaining the economic momentum produced by oil and gas development in British Columbia.

The study drew upon work that was done by the B.C. Oil and Gas Education and Training Consortium which include senior-level representatives from a number of groups including the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Petroleum Services Association of Canada and the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada. (All these organizations were sent Enterprise Saskatchewan board nominee packages.)

The final report found moderate support for harmonization of regulations and standards, where possible, across jurisdictions and Ministries, oil and gas industry-related policies and programs.

“This issue came up more in the interviews than the industry survey, particularly in the context of labour standards and occupational standards and mobility. Most interviewees lauded the TILMA agreement,” the report notes.

On March 15, 2007, Wall spoke at a $300 a plate Saskatchewan Party fundraising dinner in Calgary, where some 450 people attended. Compared to leader’s dinners in Calgary in previous years, this was the biggest one ever.

In Wall rakes in support at Alta. dinner: Sask. Party fundraiser attracts large crowd (StarPhoenix, Mar 16, 2007) the party leader made no apologies for raising funds in Alberta.

“Raising money for any political party outside of the province is reasonable because, of course, Saskatchewan is part of a country, and Saskatchewan will want to attract the interest of people outside the province to move here. That’s what we want to see. We also want to see investment dollars here, and so I think there’s an interest in the part of Saskatchewan people in the politics and places outside our province and vice versa,” Wall said.

Alberta Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Rodney urged people attending his own Calgary fundraising breakfast -- where Premier Ed Stelmach was the speaker -- to support the Saskatchewan Party and attend Wall’s event.

Wall said there are no links between Alberta’s Tories and the Saskatchewan Party. He said he hadn’t heard about Rodney’s comments, but he wasn’t surprised. Rodney is originally from Yorkton and spoke at the recent Saskatchewan Party convention in Regina, he said.

The Calgary Lougheed MLA said he and other Albertans support the Saskatchewan Party because it’s best placed to develop Saskatchewan’s potential.

“People in Alberta are conservative fiscally and progressive in other ways, and they see that’s what the Saskatchewan Party is all about,” said Rodney, who moved to Alberta in 1988.

On May 9, 2007, the Saskatchewan Party fundraising leader’s dinner in Edmonton attracted about 300 people.

“It was very positive. This was only the second one we’ve ever done here, whereas we’ve been in Calgary basically every year since the inception of the party (in 1997),” said Wall in an interview.

Like the Calgary event, the Edmonton dinner also saw MLAs in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government in the crowd to hear Wall speak.

Wall said there should not be concerns about Alberta money coming into Sask. Party coffers ahead of a provincial election.

“We obviously want to welcome Alberta money to help build the economy. . . I think we should be welcoming outside investment and we welcome the support, that kind of political investment that they’re making,” he said. [Sask. Party attracts 300 to Alta. Fundraiser (StarPhoenix, May 11, 2007)]

The oil and gas industry will most certainly be looking for a return on its investment. The question is what has Wall promised them?

On September 18, 2007, the Government of Alberta publicly released the final report of an expert panel asked to examine the province’s energy royalty and tax regime.

Entitled Our Fair Share, the 104-page report provides recommendations about how the government can modify the existing provincial royalty structure.

As part of the review, the panel hosted a series of five public meetings across the province and accepted over 300 submissions from Alberta residents, municipal leaders, and stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.

“Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development. The royalty rates and formulas have not kept pace with changes in the resource base and world energy markets. Albertans own the resource. The onus is on their government to re-balance the royalty and tax systems so that a fair share is collected,” the executive summary states.

“The total government take (Alberta and Canada, taxes and royalties) can be increased with Alberta still remaining an attractive investment destination.”

The panel made a number of recommendations including:
– Increase the total government take by 20% (about two billion dollars per year at current price and production levels.)

– No “grandfathering”. All recommended provisions should apply equally to all participants, and at the same time. Grandfathering causes market distortions and inequities among participants, which should be avoided.

– A severance tax, applicable to all oil sands projects, should be introduced.

– That the government of Alberta implement means to gather and assess the workings of all aspects of revenue policy and collection associated with energy resources in the province. This must be done on behalf of the citizens of Alberta, and its findings must be made public and have the highest degree of credibility. It must not be a confidential exercise internal to the government.

– That a truly independent, un-conflicted, world-renowned and highly experienced advisor be hired to consult widely, consider relevant international practices and then develop a permanent “bitumen valuation methodology” (BVM).
The initial reaction to the report from the usual suspects was one of disappointment.

“It’s way bigger than we thought -- it is a wholesale change to the entire royalty system,” said Greg Stringham, vice-president with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“It’s going to be interesting what the big investors do because capital always goes where the highest return on the money is,” said Heather Douglas, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Gary Leach, executive director of the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, said the group was still trying to interpret the potential impact on companies, but was concerned about overall increase in royalties.

“This comes at a time I can tell you a majority of companies in the junior sector are reporting losses this year, and thousands of Albertans have lost their jobs in the upstream petroleum industry,” Leach said.

“The notion that this panel should recommend across the board increases in royalties I think flies in the face of some considerable evidence that the conventional sector is struggling.” [‘It’s way bigger than we thought,’ says CAPP; Recommended changes would see province gain an estimated $2B (Calgary Herald, Sept. 19, 2007)]

Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail’s national affairs columnist, said a “Family Compact” had developed between Alberta’s energy industry and its government.

“In exchange for campaign contributions and political support from the oil patch, the Conservatives offered the lowest royalty rates, supportive tax policies and enthusiastic rhetorical endorsement.”

“Even if the new proposals were adopted, Alberta’s take would still remain below that of other jurisdictions - not of Angola or Venezuela or Iran, but of good old right-wing places such as Dick Cheney’s Wyoming and George Bush’s Texas,” Simpson noted.

“It has bordered on the comical, therefore, to hear the florid rhetoric emanating from some quarters in the oil patch and its tin drummers in the local media. The report’s charts destroy these “arguments,” since the numbers illustrate that Alberta will remain more than attractive in comparison to other North American sites.” [Savaging Alberta’s bozo years and its royalty regime (The Globe and Mail, Sept. 25, 2007)]

Predictably the oil industry went on the offensive in a big way.

On Sept. 28, 2007, EnCana Corporation, the country’s largest petroleum producer, threatened to cut $1 billion from its 2008 capital investments in Alberta, or 30 to 40 percent of the $2.5 billion to $3 billion the company had planned for Alberta-based activity.

“If the Royalty Panel’s recommendations are adopted in full...We will have no choice but to slow down our Alberta-based activity and move investments to other areas in Canada and the U.S. that are more economically attractive. As a further consequence, Alberta natural gas production will continue to fall,” said Randy Eresman, EnCana’s President and Chief Executive Officer in a company news release.

The statement went on to say that, “The proposed changes will have immediate and long-term impacts on working Albertans. The magnitude of the expected capital reductions is the tip of the iceberg. In the short term, these changes would mean extensive job losses across the industry. There will be fewer wells drilled, completed, pipelined, operated and serviced. There will be fewer hotel bookings, vehicle purchases, landowner lease payments, restaurant meals and lower property taxes in the areas where EnCana operates, and that is just about every corner of Alberta, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities. More importantly and over the long term, well-paying, permanent jobs will not materialize across Alberta.”

In Stelmach calls for calm amid royalty debate; EnCana makes $1B threat (Calgary Herald, Sept. 29, 2007) Lisa Schmidt reported that EnCana’s announcement was followed shortly by a condemnation of the report by the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.

“If MLAs in Alberta take the advice of the royalty review panel, our workers, their families and communities lose the best jobs they will ever have,” the lobby group representing Canada’s drilling and service rig sector said in a statement.

Calgary Herald city columnist Don Braid laid into the oil giant saying, “The main impression you get, reading the company’s statement, is of a terrific corporate swelled head.”

“EnCana paints an apocalyptic vision of devastation if the royalty report is implemented whole…We can imagine oil and gas executives trudging around in rags, while tumbleweeds roll past idle LRT cars converted to planters,” Braid said.

Braid went on to say that EnCana was “scaremongering” and that the company “would not exist without the Alberta government generosity that created it. If another company got those breaks today, EnCana would be the first to call it socialism.” [Alberta must show oil sector who’s in charge (Calgary Herald, Sept. 29, 2007)]

In 2006, Encana made the biggest profit in Canadian corporate history ($6.58 billion).

In the days that followed EnCana would be joined in the fight by CAPP, Crescent Point Energy Trust, Petro-Canada, Talisman Energy Inc. and Nexen Inc.

It was around this time that Saskatchewan was mentioned as an alternative to Alberta.

In Sask. eyes Alberta royalty debate (Leader-Post, Oct 2, 2007) James Wood reported that EnCana named Saskatchewan, along with British Columbia, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas, as potential recipients of the $1 billion in capital investment it threatened to pull from Alberta in 2008.

Some dismissed this as a bluff, but CAPP didn’t.

“You get into 2008 and that’s where I think it’s likely you will see -- if Alberta adopts the panel report -- that where’s you will see the activity shifting over to the other jurisdictions. So I think Saskatchewan will benefit from that analysis,” said CAPP vice- president David Pryce.

“The other thing too is that the other jurisdictions need to be marketing their fiscal regime and their resource opportunities to the companies and I think Saskatchewan has done that over the last few years to a relatively great success.”

Lyle Stewart, the Industry critic for the Saskatchewan Party, said the province should try to make itself even more attractive to the energy industry, pointing out that it has a provincial sales tax and resource royalty surcharge that aren’t in place in Alberta, as well as higher corporate taxes.

Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall would do just that a few months later in Calgary following his party’s victory in the Nov. 2007, provincial election.

On Oct. 12, 2007, opposition parties in Alberta accused Premier Ed Stelmach of buckling to oil industry pressure not to adopt contentious proposals from the royalty report, arguing the Tory leader has sold out Albertans in the process.

According to the Calgary Herald this “came the same day the chairman of the provincial royalty panel reiterated his call for government to accept the entire report, rather than “cherrypick” from it.”

Stelmach reportedly told business leaders on Oct. 11 at a private meeting in Calgary he “will not trounce existing agreements,” according to a report in the National Post. But the premier’s comments -- which aren’t refuted by his spokesman -- contradict the royalty panel’s recommendations, which urge the province not to grandfather deals struck in past years when energy prices were a fraction of what they are today.

“If you start taking things away, it has an impact on the total government take,” panel chairman Bill Hunter said on Oct. 12, repeating the call for Stelmach to accept his entire Our Fair Share report. “That’s why we told him, even before we released the report, not to cherrypick.”

He warned that if the province allows grandfathering, it creates an uneven playing field between existing and future projects, and would significantly deny Albertans the share they deserve.

Stelmach’s comments clearly indicate he’s “caving” to industry pressure, argued his political opponents.

“The Conservatives have sold us out on this issue,” NDP leader Brian Mason charged.

Mason said the Tory government doesn’t have “sufficient independence” from the oilpatch to do the right thing for all Albertans, noting the provincial Progressive Conservatives collected $580,000 from oil and gas companies in 2005 and 2006. He also assailed Stelmach – who’s repeatedly promised transparency and accountability -- for meeting behind closed doors with industry executives when the public anxiously awaits the government’s decision. [Stelmach bowing to energy industry heat: opposition (Calgary Herald, Oct. 13, 2007)]

On Oct. 25, 2007, Stelmach introduced the province’s new royalty framework. The new structure, which doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2009, is expected to deliver an additional $1.4 billion – 20 per cent more – in royalties in 2010, compared to current projections.

However, the province would collect about $464 million less than what the royalty review panel recommended.

Oilpatch firms declared the government’s framework the death of the winter drilling season, while opposition leaders and environmental groups said Stelmach caved under the relentless pressure from the province’s powerful oil and gas industry.

“There is genuine and very real concern,” said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Stelmach failed to “stand up for Albertans” by not fully adopting the royalty report.

“We think Ed Stelmach blinked,” Mason said.

Officials with the Pembina Institute, an Alberta environmental think-tank, expressed similar disappointment.

“It looks like industry has had a strong influence on what the government has come up with,” said Jaisel Vadgama, a policy analyst with the institute. “What the panel put forward is the minimum that Albertans should be accepting.” [Stelmach under fire; Industry and opposition criticize province’s new $1.4B royalty hike (Calgary Herald, Oct. 26, 2007)]

The question in Saskatchewan is how much influence will the oil and gas industry have on the new Brad Wall government? If the right-wing Saskatchewan Party’s first two months in office are any indication it appears the answer to that is considerable.

Just when Alberta seems to be waking to the fact that it’s the people of the province that own the resources and is moving to ensure they are receiving their fair share from energy resource development, Saskatchewan appears determined to move in the other direction and give oil companies whatever they want.

On Nov. 9, 2007, two days after the provincial election, Premier-designate Brad Wall said that the new government is considering a review of oil and gas royalties. But Wall is thinking about lowering, not raising, royalty rates, as his counterpart in Alberta, Premier Ed Stelmach, has done.

“I guess if the royalty rates in other provinces could be described as six feet tall, we’d like to be about five-foot, eleven (inches),”' Wall told CTV. [Views differ on Sask. oil royalty rateLeader-Post, Nov. 15, 2007) (]

In Avoiding a royalty pain (Leader-Post, Nov. 17, 2007) Bruce Johnstone, the Leader-Post’s financial editor, said Wall has stated several times that reviewing oil and gas royalties will be one of the first jobs of Enterprise Saskatchewan, his economic development uber-agency.

“Let’s make sure our royalties and our regulatory regime make us competitive, not just with conventional oil and gas, but non-conventional oil and gas (in Alberta),” Wall said during the election campaign. “And that’s a review we’d want to conduct immediately through Enterprise Saskatchewan.”

That’s the message Wall would soon take to Calgary.

A Jan. 17, 2008, government news release announced that Premier Brad Wall and Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd would be in Calgary the following week to speak to investment audiences and oil and gas industry leaders about energy and investment opportunities in Saskatchewan.

“Wall will address a sold-out luncheon meeting of the CFA Society of Calgary (Chartered Financial Analysts) on Monday, January 21 and speak at a Saskatchewan government hosted reception for oil and gas industry leaders the evening of Tuesday, January 22. The premier and Boyd will also hold individual meetings with various energy companies and industry associations during the two-day trip,” the news release states.

The very next day Wall promptly torpedoed the credibility of his government’s Enterprise Saskatchewan scheme before it even gets started saying Saskatchewan had no plans to hike royalty rates.

The Saskatchewan Party government is “simply not interested” in increasing royalties, Wall said. However, the new economic development agency being formed…may want to look at the royalty structures in place, Wall said.

“But the government will be clear that the only changes we will be interested in are those that make us more competitive, not less competitive, so we don’t see them going up,” the premier said. [Royalty hikes off the table: Wall (StarPhoenix, Jan. 18, 2008)]

Wall’s deference to the interests of the oil and gas industry couldn’t have been clearer. In his speech to the Calgary Petroleum Club on Jan. 21 Wall offered more of the same saying:
“The new government in the province of Saskatchewan will not be increasing royalties in the province of Saskatchewan.

We have said that we want a review, and I wish there was another word, but that’s the best one.

We want to review both the royalty and the regulatory structures we have in place, not just by the way in oil and gas, but in regard to potash and other resources that we’re looking at.

We want Enterprise Saskatchewan’s sector team, which will involve industry by the way, to do this review 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.

So, we’ve got to have a sharper pencil. We’ve got to make sure we are turning around permits. We’ve got to make sure that our regulatory structure is as conducive to non-conventional assets like shale gas and shale oil as it might be to more conventional assets. That will be our focus.

That will be the direction that we give to Enterprise Saskatchewan.”
As if that weren’t enough the Wall government then gave the Calgary-based oil and gas industry lobby group the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) the final word on the Premier’s two day junket to Alberta in a Jan. 23, 2008, government news release.

CAPP President Pierre Alvarez called 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. “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.”

In other words the oil and gas industry has Saskatchewan right where the want it – in their pocket.

The following are those companies within the energy industry that contributed to the Saskatchewan Party from 2003–2006:

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

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

Aldon Oils Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $500.00

Allaro Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $596.84

AltaGas Services Ltd. (AltaGas Income Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,510.24

AltaLink, L.P., Calgary, AB, $2,016.80

Anadarko Canada Corporation, Calgary, AB, $567.93

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

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

Bellport Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $400.00

Bonterra Energy Corp., Calgary, AB, $1,701.68

Bulldog Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $2,260.04

Burlington Resources Canada Ltd. (ConocoPhillips), Calgary, AB, $1,061.64

Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon, SK, $20,524.02

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Calgary, AB, $10,445.12

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Calgary, AB, $1,316.56

Canadian Green Fuels Inc., Regina, SK, $901.69

Caprice Resources Ltd, Weyburn, SK, $1,017.40

Centipede Energy Ltd., , $5,000.00

Centipede Holdings Ltd. (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $6,700.00

Centipede Resources (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $5,000.00

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

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

Cogema Resources Inc. (Areva/Cogema Resources), Saskatoon, SK, $9,027.60

Connacher Oil and Gas Limited, Calgary, AB, $500.00

Cree-Way Gas Ltd., Saskatoon, SK, $5,040.96

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

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

Diamond Energy Services Inc., Swift Current, SK, $1,872.86

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

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

D.L.M. Oilfield Supervision Ltd., Carievale, SK, $1,637.28

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

Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Calgary, AB, $9,440.88

EnCana Corporation, Calgary, AB, $65,638.14

Enform, Calgary, AB, $403.36

ENMAX Corporation, Calgary, AB, $4,481.13

Ensign Drilling Inc., Calgary, AB, $2,500.00

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

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

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

FirstEnergy Capital Corp., Calgary, AB, $1,423.42

Frank R. Lee Investments Ltd., Regina, SK, $6,719.76

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

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

Gold River Oil & Gas Ltd, Calgary, AB, $700.00

Greenslade Consulting Group Ltd., Shaunavon, SK, $1,100.00

Harvard Energy, Calgary, AB, $403.36

HTC Purenergy , Regina, SK, $352.74

Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $1,000.00

Husky Oil Operations Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,016.80

Imperial Oil Limited, Calgary, AB, $7,000.00

Industrial Electric (Weyburn) Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $400.00

JED Oil Inc., Didsbury, AB, $5,591.56

Jerry Mainil Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $2,231.32

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

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

Kiora Resources Inc., Regina, SK, $1,500.00

K-Town Holdings Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,171.56

Laredo Well Services Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $423.64

Lex Minerals Inc., Regina, SK, $926.70

Lockwell Servicing Ltd., Kindersley, SK, $3,000.00

Long View Resources Corp., Emerald Park, SK, $1,455.10

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

Luscar Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $6,289.80

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

Marjohn Minerals Ltd., Calgary, AB, $500.00

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

NAL Resources Management Limited (NAL Oil & Gas Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,750.00

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

Nexen Canada Ltd. (Nexen Inc.), Calgary, AB, $1,990.79

Nexen Inc., Calgary, AB, $40,722.57

Novitas Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $298.42

Parkland Industries LP (Parkland Income Fund), Red Deer, AB, $648.32

Pengrowth Management Ltd. (Pengrowth Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,387.36

Penn West Petroleum Ltd., Calgary, AB, $5,398.62

Petro-Canada, Calgary, AB, $403.36

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

Pilgrim Energy Inc., Regina, SK, $500.00

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

Precision Drilling Corporation, Calgary, AB, $2,904.16

Provident Energy Trust, Calgary, AB, $1,193.68

Ravens Cross Energy Ltd., Kindersley, SK, $1,000.00

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

Rockwell Services Partnership, Nisku, AB, $329.14

Sabre Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $3,000.00

Sherritt International Corporation, Toronto, ON, $15,000.00

Sierra Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $5,106.72

Silver Bay Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $2,500.00

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

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

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

Stream-Flo Industries Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $1,522.82

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

Talisman Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $11,000.00

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

TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, AB, $11,103.54

TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary, AB, $20,199.43

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

United Safety Ltd., Airdrie, AB, $500.00

Upton Resources Inc. (StarPoint Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $12,743.20

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

Valleyview Petroleums Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $5,013.92

Venture Well Servicing Ltd., Estevan, SK, $900.00

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

Viking Surplus Oilfield Equipment Ltd., Estevan, SK, $300.00

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

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

W D M Resources Ltd., Alberta, $598.42

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

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

TOTAL: $445,038.38

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Premier Brad Wall’s Petroleum Club speech confirms political meddling in economic development plan; supports Cheney visit

The Saskatchewan Party government has posted online the speech Premier Brad Wall delivered to the oil and gas industry at the Petroleum Club in Calgary on Jan. 21. While the media did report some of its highlights it is interesting to be able to read the speech in its entirety.

If the issue of oil and gas royalties is any indication Wall’s Enterprise Saskatchewan economic development plan could end up riddled with political meddling.

In his speech to a standing room only crowd Wall said (emphasis added):
The new government in the province of Saskatchewan will not be increasing royalties in the province of Saskatchewan.

We have said that we want a review, and I wish there was another word, but that’s the best one.

We want to review both the royalty and the regulatory structures we have in place, not just by the way in oil and gas, but in regard to potash and other resources that we’re looking at.

We want Enterprise Saskatchewan’s sector team, which will involve industry by the way, to do this review 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.

So, we’ve got to have a sharper pencil. We’ve got to make sure we are turning around permits. We’ve got to make sure that our regulatory structure is as conducive to non-conventional assets like shale gas and shale oil as it might be to more conventional assets. That will be our focus.

That will be the direction that we give to Enterprise Saskatchewan.”
Wall used the word ‘we’ fourteen times – meaning that it will be his ‘new government’ and not Enterprise Saskatchewan and its board or sector teams that will call the shots and largely pre-determine the outcome.

Wall’s speech should, but likely won’t, put an end to Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart’s assertions that Enterprise Saskatchewan will be free from politics.

In Selection process has begun for 10 board seats (Leader-Post, Feb. 7, 2008) Stewart “maintained that politics are not involved.”

However, in Gov’t opens nominations for Enterprise Saskatchewan (StarPhoenix, Jan. 5, 2008) Stewart said that he and another minister, along with some deputy ministers, will be part of the committee that selects the final board members. Aside from Stewart the government has not revealed who the other committee members will be.

Premier Wall has also back peddled on a pledge he made in his Sept. 2004 economic paper The Promise of Saskatchewan: A New Vision for Saskatchewan’s Economy. On page eleven, Wall said that the Enterprise Saskatchewan chairperson will be “coming from the non-government members of the board.” As it stands now Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart will be the chairperson and one other minister will sit on the board.

In May 2004, StarPhoenix columnist Gerry Klein reported on a speech given by Wall to the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) that included Enterprise Saskatchewan. According to Klein, Wall said such an organization “must be so far from the political fray in the province that it could withstand the electoral process.” [Sask. Party to lay out economic plan (StarPhoenix, May 6, 2004)]

It would seem that this was wishful thinking on Wall’s part because Enterprise Saskatchewan hasn’t even been implemented yet and it’s been front and center since the Nov. 2007 provincial election.

Two months ago in the article Enterprise Saskatchewan starts assembling board (StarPhoenix, Dec 14, 2007) Wall said, “Enterprise Saskatchewan is going to give this province the chance once and for all to get the NDP politics out of economic development.”

Solidly entrenched in its place, though, will be Saskatchewan Party politics. Wall forgot to mention that.

In Enterprise Sask. bill before house (StarPhoenix, Dec 18, 2007) Stewart said 15 of the largest sectors of the economy -- including mining, oil and gas, forestry and agriculture -- will each have a committee of experts that will provide information and recommendations to the Enterprise Saskatchewan board.”

As Wall and Stewart describe it the sector team looking at oil and gas royalties will include industry. Presumably this means the oil and gas industry. It should be noted that the following organizations were sent Enterprise Saskatchewan board nominee packages: Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC), Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Petroleum Services Association of Canada, Petroleum Technology Research Centre, and Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC).

As an aside, records filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that between 2003 and 2006, CAPP contributed $10,445.12 to the Saskatchewan Party. (During the same time period the organization donated $4,421.00 to the NDP).

CAPP represents 150 member companies who explore for, develop and produce more than 95 per cent of Canada’s natural gas, crude oil, oil sands and elemental sulphur.

Among its stated goals are to “continuously enhance the economic well-being…of Canada’s oil and natural gas industry” and “to eliminate unnecessary overlap and extra costs” and strive for “regulatory improvements.” In other words, these folks will likely get along well with Wall & Co.

On Feb. 6, 2008, the government threw a new wrinkle into Enterprise Saskatchewan by announcing the establishment of something called the “Strategic Issues Councils.” Just exactly what they are the news release doesn’t say.

The attached backgrounder states that the Councils, along with the Sector Teams, were “outlined in the Enterprise Saskatchewan legislation.” The proposed Bill that was tabled on Dec. 17, 2007, however, does not seem to mention them. While ‘Section 4 – Purposes of agency’ does say that sector teams will be established there is nothing in the legislation that refers specifically to “Strategic Issues Councils.”

Finally, on the topic of energy security Wall told his Calgary audience that, “It’s also the intention of the new government of Saskatchewan to support efforts like your premier’s recent trip to Washington where he met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and a number of other American officials to again make the case.”

This would be the same Dick Cheney that has had Articles of Impeachment filed against him by Congressman Dennis Kucinich for high crimes and misdemeanors for deceiving the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq.

Cheney, along with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and others, helped orchestrate the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which were illegal under international law and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian and military casualties. This was perhaps due not so much to satisfy America’s insatiable quest for energy security, but for control of Middle Eastern oil so as to provide, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter says, “politically critical leverage on the European and Asian economies that are also dependent on energy exports from the region.”

Yes, this is definitely the type of monster Saskatchewan wants its premier to rub shoulders with.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Enterprise Saskatchewan: Board selection process shows flaws; Strategic Issues Councils to be established but no information provided on what they are

In a Feb. 6, 2008, news release Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart said the Ministry has received more than 300 applications for the ten nominee positions available on the Enterprise Saskatchewan Board.

“A committee of senior Ministry officials will score each of the applications based on a standard set of criteria,” the release states.

“From the very positive response we have received, there will be much interest in the Sector Teams and Strategic Issues Councils, who will be of significant importance to the Board,” Stewart said.

Stewart anticipates an announcement regarding the selected nominees will be made in early March.

The government has not released the names of the committee members.

In Gov’t opens nominations for Enterprise Saskatchewan (StarPhoenix, Jan. 5, 2008) Stewart would only say that he and another minister, along with some deputy ministers, will be part of the committee that selects the final board members, but those details are still being finalized.

One thing has been confirmed, though. As suspected the organizations not selected to be part of the Enterprise Saskatchewan board could form a pool from which participants in the “sector teams” would be selected.

The backgrounder attached to the news release notes that “Individuals previously nominated for positions on the Board, or who applied for the Member at Large position on the Board, will be considered for these forums without needing to submit an expression of interest.”

A new wrinkle to Enterprise Saskatchewan is the emergence of something called the “Strategic Issues Councils.” Just exactly what they are the news release doesn’t say.

The backgrounder states that these Councils, along with the Sector Teams, were “outlined in the Enterprise Saskatchewan legislation.” In reading the proposed Bill that was tabled on Dec. 17, 2007, this does not appear to be the case. While ‘Section 4 – Purposes of agency’ does say that sector teams will be established there is nothing in the legislation that refers specifically to “Strategic Issues Councils.”

So while the government answered one question it has created another to take its place.

The majority of the Enterprise Saskatchewan board will be unelected but the sector teams will be even one step further removed from the public in terms of accountability. Given its mandate this is cause for concern.

A Jan. 18 news release illustrates the significant influence the “sector teams” will have within Enterprise Saskatchewan.

According to Stewart, “the major organizational focus of Enterprise Saskatchewan will be based on key sectors of the provincial economy. The agency’s job, through additional sector participation, will be to identify and monitor competitive advantages and disadvantages in each sector, and to prescribe appropriate actions and strategies to enhance Saskatchewan competitiveness and growth. As well, the agency is responsible for identifying barriers to Saskatchewan’s growth and making recommendations on action to removing those barriers.”

Still unanswered is whether the sector team meetings and any reports or correspondence they consider will be open and available to the public without restriction. The same goes for the board. The government’s silence on this issue seems to suggest that all meetings will be closed.

Also attached to the news release are the screening criteria for the Enterprise Saskatchewan board. Some of the ten objectives listed to be used for the selection process will likely result in a decision that was arrived at subjectively rather than objectively.

For example, the government is looking for board members that:

– are team players with a demonstrated track record of working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders.

– are innovative and forward looking.

– balance social development and environmental considerations with economic development.

How can the public be assured that the as yet unidentified “committee of senior Ministry officials” will evaluate these criteria fairly without personal or political bias creeping in?

In Selection process has begun for 10 board seats (Leader-Post, Feb. 7, 2008) Stewart “maintained that politics are not involved.”

With Stewart and another minister and deputy ministers who are politically appointed involved in the selection process how can politics not be involved?

How do Stewart and his officials define what ‘team players’, ‘innovative and forward looking’ and ‘balance’ mean?

With the recent introduction of anti-labour legislation the public doesn’t have to look very far for an example of what the Saskatchewan Party’s idea of ‘balance’ is.

Will the Board of Directors Screening Forms be made public so everyone can see how each nomination was scored?

After spending ten years in opposition the Saskatchewan Party would surely know who its friends are and more importantly its enemies.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

River Landing: Remai Ventures sells former Royal Canadian Legion property to Lake Placid River Landing Inc.

It appears the former Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63, property located at 315 19th Street East in downtown Saskatoon has been sold.

According to land records posted on the Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan (ISC) website, Lake Placid River Landing Inc. now own the two parcels of land that comprise the former Legion site. The value of each parcel is listed at $749,995.00, which means the total for both is $1,499,990.00. It appears the sale occurred on or about February 1, 2008.

The two parcels of land had been purchased by Remai Ventures Inc. in February 2006 for a reported $1-million. ISC records showed the value of each to be $500,000.00.

The two parcels in question and their size are as follows:

#144927333 – 0.21 acres
#136212779 – 0.04 acres

The total area of the two parcels is 0.25 acres, which works out to about 10,890 square feet. It would seem that Lake Placid has paid approximately $137.74 a square foot for the property.

Still in question is the city-owned laneway that is situated behind the former Legion property. According to a Dec. 6, 2006, email from the city assessor the lane is 5,881.38 square feet or 0.135 acres.

"As this is a city owned public lane, we do not place an assessment value on the land. This is the same as all other streets and lanes in the city -- there is no assessment value," the assessor said.

Any sale of land normally goes before City Council for approval in the case of a lane closure which this would be if it were sold.

Is the city contemplating selling the laneway to Lake Placid? If so, for how much?

No official announcement has been made on this or the sale of the former Legion property and there has been no word on whether Lake Placid now intends to rework its River Landing Parcel "Y" proposal to incorporate the additional land. Once again it seems the public is the last to know.

Furthermore, the city has yet to explain why the Lake Placid Investments Inc. proposal does not appear to comply with the Expressions of Interest that was issued in May 2007 or the DCD1 zoning guidelines for the area. To read more on that issue click here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Graham Parsons & Prairie Policy Centre: economist and think tank push conservative message; major players contributed to Sask. Party

At an event organized by the conservative think tank Prairie Policy Centre at the Hotel Saskatchewan on Jan. 25, the equally conservative economist Graham Parsons released advanced copies of his new book Saskatchewan Rising and gave a brief five-to-10 minute speech outlining its key concepts.

Either Parsons’ performance was riveting or it was a slow news day because the Regina Leader-Post published two identical articles on the event. The first was on Jan. 26 on the front page of the business section under the title Former Devine adviser pragmatic about Crowns. The second was on Jan. 27 under the heading Looking forward.

Parsons is a former chief economist with the Canada West Foundation and was deputy minister of economic development and chief economist with the disgraced Progressive Conservative government of Grant Devine. Parsons is also president of the Organization for Western Economic Cooperation (OWEC) in Regina.

According to the Leader-Post Parsons told the news media and other interested members of the audience that a pragmatic and professional approach should be taken in managing the province’s Crown corporations and determining their role in Saskatchewan’s economic future.

That pragmatic approach might involve expanding the scope of activities of some Crown corporations so they can act as engines of economic growth, he said. But major restructuring of other Crown corporations might be necessary as well, he added.

Parsons also advocated for infrastructure improvements, irrigation and water management projects, additional education and training, and entrepreneurship “where profits and enterprise are rewarded.”

Finally, the phony crisis of interprovincial trade barriers was once again dragged out of the closet.

“Barriers to trade also need to be torn down, Parsons said, adding that he believes Saskatchewan should have signed the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) with other provinces last year,” the article states.

Parsons’ comments about Crown corporations are puzzling because that’s not what he seemed to be saying a few years ago.

In a study he authored for the Prairie Centre Policy Institute called This Year Country: Creating Wealth in Saskatchewan (March 2002), Parsons complained that “Crown and government involvement has “crowded out” the development of a strong and growing private sector in Saskatchewan.”

In many sectors Parsons believes Saskatchewan “is constrained by the province’s excessive dependence on the commercial crown sector and its role in weakening the ability of private sector companies to act more quickly.”

Parsons also questioned “whether such crown activities as telephones, power, natural gas, and insurance are most efficiently delivered through the state. In most places in the industrial world, many of these public services are delivered through the private sector within a public regulatory framework.”

Saskatchewan “requires a total rethinking of the role of government in its society and economy” and “the size, inefficiency and scope of government” is a “key factor that directly affects the macro economic framework facing the Saskatchewan economy and its fiscal burdens,” Parsons said.

Saskatchewan’s economic policies are “inward-looking” and it should open its doors to “freer trade, external investment and a restructured role for government.”

“Economic policies in Saskatchewan have for too many years been seen in terms of wealth redistribution, rather than wealth creation. Federal equalisation, provincial fiscal policies, regulations and pricing have strongly supported redistribution. Social policies and spending have taken priority over economic and infrastructure spending to create wealth,” Parsons said.

The worldview peddled by Parsons seems to be one that is most supported by conservative think tanks members and donors and special interests like business federations. This would include a wide array of fiscally conservative and business-oriented, socially conservative and free-market-oriented approaches to public policy questions.

There certainly appeared to be no advocacy for expanding the scope of Crown corporations in Parsons’ report or suggestion that some Crowns “might” need restructuring. He seemed pretty definite on what should happen.

In Sask. population drop blamed on Crowns, taxes (Leader-Post, March 13, 2002) business editor Bruce Johnstone covered the event and reported that Parsons said some Saskatchewan Crown corporations should be sold if they have fulfilled their public policy purpose or compete directly with private business.

For much of the last century, “Saskatchewan experimented with policies towards the economy that systemically weakened the province,” said Parsons.

“In my view, the experiment in economic socialism failed,” he said, referring to Saskatchewan’s reliance on Crown corporations, dating back to the T.C. Douglas-CCF government of the 1950s.

“Jurisdictions, like Ireland, with low tax rates, few trade barriers, modern infrastructure, deregulated markets, and a vibrant private sector tend to enjoy strong economic growth,” he said.

It should be mentioned that according to the annual United Nations Human Development Report, for most of the past decade Ireland has held the dubious distinction of having one of the worst poverty rates in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Of the 19 selected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries listed in the report’s 2007 Human Poverty Index only Italy is worse with the United States not far behind.

Despite having the second highest GDP per capita among the EU Member States in 2005, Ireland’s Central Statistics Office noted in its Measuring Ireland’s Progress, 2006 report that, “The proportion of Irish people at risk of poverty, after pensions and social transfer payments were taken into account, was 20% in 2005. This was one of the highest rates in the EU 27. The effect of pensions and social transfers on reducing the at-risk-of-poverty rate was low in Ireland compared with other EU 27 countries. In 2004, social protection expenditure in Ireland was 17% of GDP. This was just over half of the rate in Sweden.”

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reported in March 2007 that the gap between rich and poor in Canada is getting wider. The CCPA study found that only the richest 20% are experiencing gains from Canada’s economic growth, and most of those gains are concentrated in the top 10%. The share of income going to the bottom 80% of Canadian families is smaller today than it was a generation ago, in both earnings and after-tax terms.

A subsequent CCPA report released in December 2007, found that Canada’s 100 best paid CEOs of public companies made an average salary of $8,528,304 in 2006, an amount more than 218 times as much as a Canadian working full-time for a full year at the average of weekly employment earnings ($38,998).

The study’s author, Hugh Mackenzie noted a September 2007, Statistics Canada report which shows that most Canadians’ real incomes did not increase from 1992 to 2004. That story changed in the highest-income 10% of Canadians. The bottom half of the top 10% maintained its share of total income: their income grew at the same pace as the average. But in the top 5%, the share of total income increased from 21% to 25%. More than 90% of that gain actually went to the top 1% — the richest of the rich.

So, yes, by all means, let’s have the private sector run things in a world where only the strong prosper and survive.

This brings us to TILMA.

Parsons told his audience on Jan. 25 that barriers to trade need to be torn down but, judging by the Leader-Post article, none of these phantom menaces were identified.

Parsons contributed an article to the special Winter 2007 edition of the Canada West Foundation publication Dialogues, that was devoted solely to TILMA. (The issue included 14 pro-TILMA articles with two against.) In Raising the Dead: Breathing Life into Canada’s Internal Trade Agreements, Parsons said Canada’s internal trade framework is “archaic” and called trade barriers “a silent killer of productivity and jobs” but provided no examples.

For the umpteenth time in this blog it should be noted that on April 3, 2007, the Edmonton Journal admitted there is “little in the way of genuine trade barriers remaining between the two westernmost provinces,” and Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said in a news release that Saskatchewan is “the lowest cost jurisdiction…with fewer trade barriers and restrictions than either B.C. or Alberta.”

Both Wall and the Edmonton Journal are staunch supporters of TILMA but shot themselves in the foot and exposed the trade agreement for what it really is: a regime of harmonization and deregulation that aims to put the interests of private investors and profiteers ahead of the public good.

While the Leader-Post article skimmed over Parsons’ past it said nothing about the Saskatoon-based Prairie Policy Centre.

The organization was originally incorporated as the Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture in 1993. In 2001, the name was changed to the Prairie Centre Policy Institute and then in 2006 to its current incarnation the Prairie Policy Centre.

The institute relies on the support of individuals, corporations, other organizations, as well as by the sales of its publications. Like most think tanks the identity of its donors and the amounts contributed aren’t revealed. Its annual reports don’t seem to be available online. There appears to be little transparency in the organization.

An April 10, 2007, press release by the institute claims it is “an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization that advances ideas on wealth creation in order to enhance the economic and social well-being of Saskatchewan, the prairie region, and Canada as a whole.”

The present board of directors include:

Barry Ghiglione, (President), The Handy Group of Companies, Saskatoon
Ron Olson, (Past President)
Dean Gagne, (Vice-President), Checkmate Strategic Inc., Regina
Robert Fisher, (Secretary-Treasurer), Saskdata Systems Ltd., Saskatoon
Curt Kunkel, Alto Construction, Saskatoon
Ravi Maithel, Clevor Technologies, Saskatoon
Jim Nowakowski, JNE Welding, Saskatoon
Herb Pinder Sr. Retired, Saskatoon
Del Reimer, FedEx, Regina
Norm Wallace, Wallace Construction Specialties, Saskatoon
Ken Ziegler, Robertson Stromberg Pederson LLP, Saskatoon

The organization once got upset when former Economic and Co-operative Development Minister Eldon Lautermilch dismissed the institute as a “right-wing think-tank,” recycling policies of the Devine government of the 1980s. The comment was made following the release of Graham Parsons study in March 2002.

In a March 25, 2002, letter to the editor Ken Dillen, a director of the institute, said the organization “is made up of people with diverse backgrounds” that don’t “participate in partisan or ideological bickering.”

Dillen went to say that the “keys to a healthy economy” were low taxes, trade barriers removed, markets deregulated, infrastructure upgraded, the private sector strengthened and government intervention in the economy minimized – all classic conservative traits.

Prof. Martin Thunert, a senior research associate at the Center for North American Studies, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt, released a fascinating study on think tanks in 2003 called Conservative Think Tanks in the United States and Canada.

Thunert said “a think tank may be labelled ‘conservative’ or ‘right-of-centre’, if it promotes a combination of at least two of the following issues and concepts: the free market system (including low taxes, privatisation and deregulation), limited government, individual liberties and values, and/or strong religious expression, traditional family values, and a strong defence.”

Applying Thunert’s criteria to the Prairie Policy Centre shows that the think tank passes with flying colours. Lautermilch was right after all.

As for the claim to be non-partisan this might be debatable.

A commentary by Norman Wallace, owner of Wallace Construction Specialties Ltd. in Saskatoon and a founding Director of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute, was posted on the Enter Stage Right website on May 19, 2003.

Enter Stage Right a non-profit journal published from Sudbury, Ontario that “promotes unfettered capitalism, liberty and individualism as expressed by thinkers like Ayn Rand and Aristotle. Our guiding principle is to present a more consistent approach to conservative thought by following through with what we feel are its expressed core principles.”

In the article Wallace rails against the NDP saying it “has been in power for about 10 years and our population has not grown; according to many, it has declined. If there has been no growth in the past 10 years, why dare to believe that growth will occur in the next 10 years?

“The theme “Our Future is Wide Open” is pure propaganda. This is not a Saskatchewan theme; it is a New Democratic Party re-election theme that will be a large Styrofoam plank in its election platform.”

“It’s time Saskatchewan dismissed its penchant for Soviet-style government economic intervention by Crown corporations and embraced a “free market” economy by encouraging private- sector investment. In addition, every legislative, regulatory and administrative impediment to investment freedom should be immediately eliminated,” Wallace said.

Wallace’s article originally appeared as an op-ed in the May 9, 2003, edition of the StarPhoenix under the title Gov’t intervention in economy killing province.

On Dec. 16, 2004, the StarPhoenix published an op-ed by Ken Ziegler, a lawyer in Saskatoon and president of the Prairie Centre Policy Institute.

“Add our voice to the growing number of people concerned with the overall anti-business policies and attitudes within the provincial NDP government. The current debate over implementation of old “available hours of work” labour legislation is but one further example of this anti-business attitude,” Ziegler said in the first paragraph.

According to Ziegler business owners are “being hampered by restrictive regulations, uncompetitive taxes and a host of other costs that feed government.”

“This ongoing attack on business leads many to look for alternatives in other places,” Ziegler said.

“It’s imperative that the government engage in meaningful dialogue with the private sector on a broad range of issues and deal with the perception and the reality of its anti-business attitude.”

“Remember, you can’t be a socialist without money,” Ziegler closed.

And this is just a sampling of the anti-NDP commentaries posted on the Prairie Policy Centre website.

It is interesting to note that, along with economist Graham Parsons, several of the Prairie Policy Centre directors or their companies appear to have contributed to the right-wing Saskatchewan Party.

According to the Saskatchewan Party’s Registered Political Party’s Fiscal Period Return (E-521) Parsons appears to have contributed $500.00 to the party in 2003, $312.82 in 2004 and $325.08 in 2006.

Parsons is also a vice-president with Clifton Associates Ltd. in Regina, which seems to have donated $324.16 in 2003, $304.94 in 2005 and $1,300.32 in 2006.

Prairie Policy Centre President Barry Ghiglione is the owner and president of The Handy Group of Companies. He is also a past president and board member of the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA). Records show that Handy Group contributed $315.06 in 2006 and Handyman Rental Centre Ltd. donated $901.69. The latter also contributed $1,397.59 in 2005, $926.70 in 2004 and $927.97 in 2003.

Jim Nowakowski is the owner of JNE Welding and a former president of the North Saskatoon Business Association. It appears his company contributed $2,183.24 in 2006 and $1,436.46 in 2005.

Norm Wallace is the owner of Wallace Construction Specialties Ltd. in Saskatoon. He is a founder of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and the Prairie Centre Policy. His company appears to have contributed two amounts in 2003: $1,075.00 and $294.40. In 2004, the company contributed $293.46. In June 2004, Wallace contributed $300.00 to Carol Skelton, the Conservative Party candidate for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, and another $400.00 to her campaign in Dec. 2005.

Kenneth Ziegler is a past president of the Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce. Ziegler is also a member of the North Saskatoon Business Association, the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority, a representative member of Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, and a former Director of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. He appears to have contributed $469.40 in 2003.

Dean Gagne is President & CEO of Checkmate Strategic Planning Inc. in Regina. His company appears to have contributed $355.84 in 2003.

Lastly, Wallace ($1,000), Ghiglione ($500) and Curt Kunkel ($1,000) contributed to Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison’s 2006 re-election campaign. Atchison is cut from the same conservative cloth as Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall.

For any of the major players involved in this saga to suggest that they’re non-partisan or non-ideological seems a little preposterous. Like the old proverb says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.”