Monday, May 26, 2008

Sask. Party government refuses to disclose contract and correspondence with MacPherson Leslie Tyerman lawyer Kevin Wilson; Norris dodges questions

The Saskatchewan Party government is hiding behind The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to deny access to records concerning its involvement with MacPherson Leslie Tyerman (MLT) lawyer Kevin Wilson.

On Mar. 20 an access to information request was submitted to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour for “a copy of the contract or agreement between the Ministry and lawyer Kevin Wilson and copies of all correspondence between the Ministry and Kevin Wilson that occurred from November 8, 2007, to February 29, 2008.”

The ministry received the request on Mar. 25.

The Apr. 21 response from Deputy Minister Wynne Young stated that “the 30 day response period has been extended an additional 30 days…as your application involves searching a large number of records and completing the work within the original period would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the Ministry.”

Young’s letter did not suggest there was a problem with releasing the information that was being requested.

Then came a letter from the deputy minister dated May 13 with a completely different tone indicating that “Your access to these records is being denied pursuant to clauses 22 (a) and (b) of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as outlined below because it:

“(a) contains information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege; and

“(b) was prepared by or for an agent of the Attorney General for Saskatchewan or legal counsel for a government institution in relation to a matter involving the provision of advice or other services by the agent or legal counsel.”

The clause cited by the ministry is a discretionary exemption meaning the government is not required to withhold the information. Rather than disclose some or all of the records the government has instead chosen secrecy over openness and transparency.

It should be noted that during the 2007 provincial election the Saskatchewan Party promised “more transparency and accountability than any previous government.”

On Mar. 17 Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris said his ministry had hired Wilson on retainer at a rate of $305 an hour -- since bumped to $325 -- in late November or early December.

According to the article Calvert questions role of lawyer in crafting Sask. Party labour laws (StarPhoenix, Mar. 18, 2008) Wilson had “been hired to provide legal advice to the minister responsible for the government’s labour agenda.”

The article went on to note:
Internal government e-mails obtained by the Canadian Union of Public Employees show the involvement of Wilson in discussions of the government’s essential services legislation and amendments to The Trade Union Act before they were tabled in December.

NDP Leader Lorne Calvert said that raises questions about Norris’ comments the Ministry of Justice had drafted the bills without outside consultation.

The Opposition leader said it was highly unusual for the government to use outside lawyers in that way and questioned Wilson’s impartiality.

“If we’ve reached the circumstance now where we have to contract that work to be done, why would you go to an individual who is clearly biased?” he said to reporters after question period.

But Norris said Wilson was acting in the employ of the government in his activities so there was no contradiction in his statements. He said the lawyer for MacPherson, Leslie, Tyerman did not take part in consultations.

“We didn’t consult him. What I needed was extra legal advice as we moved forward,” Norris told reporters.

“(The legislation) was drafted by Justice officials with input from executive council and my ministry and Kevin Wilson offers legal advice to me.”

The government was unable to immediately say how much Wilson has been paid to date, but Norris said he would continue on retainer indefinitely. Late Monday, government communications staff said Wilson is the only outside lawyer they could find put on retainer by a minister.

When asked whether Wilson provided advice to him on the firing of the chair and two vice-chairs of the labour relations board, Norris said “not to my knowledge.”
Interestingly, the Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘consult’ as to “seek information or advice from.”

It should also be noted that Wilson’s involvement with Norris’ ministry only came to light after CUPE disclosed the e-mails.

This led Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk to ask, “Shouldn’t we have known this earlier?”

Mandryk described Wilson as “a labour management lawyer who has long advocated labour legislation changes.” This would seem to justify the concerns Calvert raised.

Mandryk said the Saskatchewan Party’s “handling” of the essential services legislation and the amendments to the Trade Union Act and the changes to the LRB “has not only been a huge distraction, but also something that has done serious damage to this young government’s credibility.”[Making hard work of labour changes (Leader-Post, Mar. 18, 2008)]

On Apr. 8 the government’s executive director of communications said that to the end of January, the government had paid $50,140 to Wilson. [Opposition curious about payouts (Leader-Post, Apr. 9, 2008) ]

Wilson is a Saskatchewan Party supporter since he appears to have contributed $800 to the party over the past two years. Party financial statements filed with Elections Saskatchewan also show that from 1999 to 2007 MLT donated over $56,000.

Wilson’s ties to the business community are significant. He was co-chair of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce’s human resources committee when the NDP government introduced proposed amendments to The Labour Standards Act and The Trade Union Act as Bills 86 and 87.

According to the Chamber’s website the committee “assembles information and express viewpoints of Saskatchewan business with respect to labour relations and labour legislation, lobbying for balanced regulation in the activities of management and labour.”

The Chamber said it was “very concerned” and immediately went on the offensive attacking the government and organized labour.

“These changes represent a significant departure from the norms in other jurisdictions, and as such, will have a detrimental impact on economic development in Saskatchewan. They come at a time when Saskatchewan enterprise is already struggling to grow and survive, and do nothing to encourage investment in the Province. At best, they serve the very narrow interests of organized labour and do not, in any way, reflect the concerns of the business community.” said Chamber president Warren Michelson in a Nov. 19, 2004, news release.

Michelson directed the co-chairs of the human resources committee, Kevin Wilson and Mike Carr, to conduct a full review of the proposed legislation. Wilson’s MLT office was listed as a contact.

Michelson is now the Saskatchewan Party MLA for Moose Jaw North while Carr, a former vice-president for IPSCO Saskatchewan Inc., is conveniently ensconced as associate deputy minister in the labour, employee, and employer services division of the Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour.

It seems that through these three gentlemen the Chamber has a direct line to government.

During the 2003 provincial election Wilson was a member of the Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce labour laws subcommittee.

The committee held discussions with Chamber members over the summer regarding labour relations issues in the province and compiled a report on the findings. [Business View, July-Aug. 2003]

The Chamber’s Sept. 2003 newsletter Business View indicated that Wilson “circulated his report on provincial labour issues and received a positive response from the committee. The report documents disenchantment with the current labour laws and regulations.”

The Chamber’s government affairs committee planned to meet the Saskatoon candidates in the upcoming provincial election to discuss the issues raised in the report.

During the week of Oct. 20 Dan Anderson, President of the Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce, and Coni Evans, representing the Government Affairs Committee, led meetings with provincial election candidates to present information on election topics that the Committee had been working on. Kevin Wilson presented a report on the current Labour Laws of Saskatchewan and the changes the Chamber would like to see while Blair Knippel presented on education property taxes and government competition with private business. [Business View, Nov. 2003]

In Jan. 2004 Wilson worked with the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce to arrange a meeting with Premier Calvert to inform him that in the view of the Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce and the Saskatchewan Chamber the government should not amend provincial labour laws to make them any more restrictive on employers. A meeting with the Deputy Minister of Labour on this issue was scheduled for the end of January. [Business View, Jan. 2004]

Just exactly when the Wall government hired Wilson seems to be a bit of a moving target.

In the Saskatchewan legislature on Mar. 17 Labour Minister Rob Norris said Wilson “was retained by this government very early on in our mandate.”

Yet at the Apr. 30 meeting of the legislature’s human services committee Norris said that “The service that Mr. Wilson offered to our ministry only began long after I was sworn in.”

Norris was sworn in on Nov. 21, 2007.

Wilson’s work with the government was discussed by the human services committee on at least four occasions: April 16, 17, 24 & 30. Wilson’s former colleague at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, Mike Carr, was present at the meetings.

At the committee Norris provided little in the way of meaningful substance as to why Wilson was hired, what his role was within the ministry or whether he had any input in developing the government’s two pieces of labour legislation. Norris seemed to spend a considerable amount of his time avoiding giving direct answers to questions or providing answers that bared little resemblance to some of the questions that were asked.

At the Apr. 16 committee meeting Norris stated: “Kevin Wilson from time to time offers me advice and insight that his expertise affords him, and so I certainly in those early days, as all governments — we don’t need to get into specific examples, although there are examples — all governments utilize legal advice and expertise. So the drafting was done by the Ministry of Justice, and Kevin Wilson again from time to time offers advice and insight based on his experience.”

On Apr. 17 Norris said: “[T]he drafting occurred within the Ministry of Justice…There were, I believe, 10 individuals within the Ministry of Justice. Obviously there were also officials from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour involved. There were individuals from Executive Council involved.

“Regarding specifically Mr. Wilson — again a very respected lawyer within not just his profession but within the community of Saskatchewan — Mr. Wilson offered myself and other officials within the ministry advice and provided some research. But just for the record, I mean, he did not draft the legislation. That was drafted within Justice.”

But was the draft – or any draft for that matter – based in part on “advice” made by Wilson?

At the meeting Norris also noted that Wilson “offered advice and research on issues pertinent to Bills 5 and 6 as well as a number of other issues.”

What the “other issues” are Norris has not said.

Furthermore, Norris’ response seems to differ from what the StarPhoenix reported on Mar. 18, that Wilson was hired to provide advice to Norris. Nothing was said about to “other officials within the ministry” as well. How many people was Wilson in regular contact with and who were they?

On Apr. 30 Norris said: “[T]he Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour retained Mr. Wilson to provide research and advice on matters concerning, especially, labour legislation. That occurred…only after I was sworn in.”

Still unknown is what that research consisted of or what specific advice he gave.

On several occasions opposition members asked that Wilson appear before the committee as a witness to answer questions that Norris either couldn’t or wouldn’t.

Norris appeared to want no part of this and on Apr. 30 said “Mr. Wilson began his work with the ministry only after I was sworn in, so he would have little to offer as far as the question.”

As best can be determined Wilson did not appear before the committee and the ministry has provided no further details or updates on his employment with the government.

One of the more ridiculous claims put forward by Norris at the Apr. 30 meeting was that by introducing essential services legislation his party was simply following its mandate.

“Page 20 of our campaign document that we campaigned on said that we would ensure essential services,” said Norris.

What the Saskatchewan Party 2007 election platform actually states is that: “A Saskatchewan Party government will establish a fair and balanced labour environment in Saskatchewan that respects the rights of workers and employers by…Protecting public safety by working together with the province’s public sector unions to ensure essential services are in place in the event of a strike or labour action.”

There was absolutely no mention that the heavy hand of legislation would be the tool used to achieve that end.

On Oct. 26, 2007, during the election campaign leader Brad Wall promised that a Saskatchewan Party government would “reach out” to labour. [Wall claims momentum with Sask. Party (StarPhoenix, Oct. 27, 2007) ]

What happened following the election, however, was a different story. Within days of being sworn in the Saskatchewan Party government announced sweeping changes to labour legislation. No prior public consultation had taken place. [New labour laws called 'worst' in the country (Leader-Post, Dec. 20, 2007) ]

With the denial of access to records concerning lawyer Kevin Wilson, it seems clear that the Wall government has no intention of providing the public with any meaningful information on the subject. It would rather hide behind The Freedom of Information and Protection to Privacy Act to keep it secret.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sask. Party: Energy industry donations top $1-million; SEPAC, CAPP, CAODC & PSAC lobby Premier Wall and cabinet ministers in Calgary and Regina

“[The B.C. government] 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.”
– Greg Stringham, vice-president of markets and regulatory affairs Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Calgary Herald, June 7, 2004

“We were pleased Premier Wall and Minister Boyd were able to meet with us so early in their new mandate…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.”
– CAPP President Pierre Alvarez in a Jan. 23, 2008, Government of Saskatchewan news release following private meetings with the new Wall government in Calgary

“It was important to the industry that there aren’t any plans to do a royalty review.”
– David Pryce, vice-president of Western Canada operations for CAPP, following Premier Wall’s promise to the oil and gas industry in Calgary that royalties would not be increasing under his government in Saskatchewan, StarPhoenix, Jan. 24, 2008

On Apr. 14, the Saskatchewan Party government accused NDP members of opposing labour bills because several unions had donated cash to their election campaigns.

The government claimed unions contributed about $281,000 to various NDP campaigns during the 2007 provincial election.

“I think it begs the question, especially on essential services or on the trade union act amendments, for whom is the (NDP) opposition speaking?” said Premier Brad Wall.

Wall said corporate donations the Saskatchewan Party receives each year do not have an influence on his government’s positions.

On Apr. 15, Sask. Party MLA Tim McMillan stood in the legislature to read a member’s statement, in which he said "there are “281,000 reasons” the NDP is criticizing the labour legislation.

“They are puppets doing the bidding for their union masters,” McMillan charged.

Wall suggested that because individual union members don’t have a say in who their union leadership contributes to, union contributions to political parties differ from those of businesses or individuals. [Wall accuses NDP of favouring labour unions (Leader-Post, Apr. 16, 2008)]

Wall failed to mention that records filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that Saskatchewan Party candidates reported nearly $650,000 in corporate donations during the same campaign – nearly matching the $668,016 in corporate money that the party received in 2006.

Wall also neglected to mention that employees likely don’t have a say when businesses they work for donate to his right-wing party.

For example, the Regina-based Brandt Group of Companies is the largest privately held company in Saskatchewan with revenues approaching one billion dollars. It is owned by Gavin Semple and employs over 1,200 people.

According to annual returns filed by the Saskatchewan Party the Semple family and Brandt companies contributed over $204,000 to the party from 1999 to 2007. During the 2007 election donations totaling $3,900 went to the campaigns of Warren Michelson, Don Saelhof, Laura Ross and Christine Tell.

On Feb. 29, the Wall government appointed Semple as the deputy chair and business representative of the new Enterprise Saskatchewan Board of Directors. One of the group’s that nominated Semple was the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce where he was once a board member.

Dave Dutchak is the Chamber’s immediate past president. He is the president and CEO of M.D. Ambulance Care Ltd. in Saskatoon. M.D. Ambulance donated $1,255.28 to the party in 2007 while Duthchak’s M.P.D. Holdings Ltd. contributed $12,600, with $3,500 going to Saskatoon Southeast candidate Don Morgan’s campaign.

Holly Hetherington is the Chamber’s 1st Vice President. She is also president of Regina-based Executive Source Inc. which donated $14,629 to party in 2007, with $8,000 going to at least four candidates: Ken Krawetz, Wayne Elhard, Ken Cheveldayoff and Brad Wall.

The Chamber is a staunch supporter of the Saskatchewan Party government’s two pieces of anti-labour legislation which contains much of what the lobby group had been demanding over the years. It seems to be a case of friends helping friends.

Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk took Wall to task saying a simple solution to the Saskatchewan Party government’s concerns over the undue influence union donations are having on the NDP would be to “ban donations from all unions and corporations.”

Mandryk called the government’s attack “cheap hypocrisy and cheesy sanctimony” and said “the problem with the Saskatchewan Party’s simplistic sanctimony over the NDP being in the pockets of the unions is that it sets it off on a rocky path that ends at a cliff.”

“After all, if labour money can buy off the NDP, why wouldn't we assume that the Saskatchewan Party’s $668,016 in corporate donations [in 2006] has influenced its policies? Wouldn’t we also assume that the tens of thousands of dollars the Saskatchewan Party has received over the years from implement manufacturers (who demanded changes to the union certification laws) or from former media baron Conrad Black (who loved to crush unions) is the driving force behind Bills 5 and 6?

“Wouldn’t the millions Wall has raised in Alberta make him a puppet to the oil patch? Is that the only reason this government is refusing to raise oil royalties?” [So is the Sask. Party a puppet of business? (Leader-Post, Apr. 18, 2008)]

Now there’s an interesting question.

On May 1, following the release of its 2007 financial statement, Saskatchewan Party executive director Bob Mason made a comment equally as dumb as Wall’s saying the $3 million in corporate donations — about 62 per cent of total contributions — that the party raked in doesn’t make them beholden to the businesses that gave it.

“There was no promises or no indication given at all in any of our fundraising efforts,” he said. [Most Sask. Party money came from companies (CBC News, May 2, 2008)]

So during all the fundraising junkets to Alberta and private meetings with oil and gas companies and lobby groups that the party has conducted over the last ten years the public is supposed to believe that no promises of any kind were made?

Back in Sept. 2004, on one of his many forays to Calgary, Wall, as leader of the opposition, met with energy companies, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Saskatchewan expatriates to discuss his new economic plan The Promise of Saskatchewan.

In the article Wall defends Alberta trip as economic opportunity (Leader-Post, Sept. 25, 2004) Wall said the energy sector has a list of what it believes are barriers to growth in Saskatchewan. Those include the province’s capital tax and body of regulations.

Wall said his plan for Enterprise Saskatchewan -- an economic development agency at an arms-length from government -- would create a permanent system within government that would identify those barriers to growth and allow the government to quickly act on them if it so chooses.

In a Jan. 31, 2006, report to Ted Mitchell, the then CEO of Saskatoon REDA, Wall expanded on those plans discussing a recent trip he made with a group of Saskatchewan Party MLA’s to Fort McMurray, Alberta. The group included Deputy Leader Ken Krawetz and MLA’s Lyle Stewart, Wayne Elhard and Mike Chisholm.

“We wanted to determine the potential for Saskatchewan to benefit economically from the $100 billion mega-project that the oil sands development presents, and we wanted a first-hand look at the project, the community and the region. Additionally, we wanted to investigate the potential for oil sands development on the Saskatchewan side of the border,” said Wall.

“Should the formation [on the Saskatchewan side of the border] prove commercially viable for development, the Saskatchewan government should proactively be looking at ways to encourage investment with consideration of royalty structures, energy requirements and infrastructure demands. Companies interested in any Saskatchewan oil sand development will also be considering whether the tax regime, labor environment and economic stability of the province will make an investment worthwhile over the long term and the provincial government must move to ensure Saskatchewan is competitive.”

Wall noted that “The foundation of the Saskatchewan Party’s Economic Plan, Enterprise Saskatchewan, is designed to be the catalyst that ensures economic opportunity can be created and realized in our province. It will be the body that ensures a Saskatchewan Party government would not only be removing barriers for Saskatchewan businesses and individuals to take advantage of supplying the Fort McMurray market, but would be proactively and aggressively networking with that market to create even more opportunities.”

In looking at the areas where the new Saskatchewan Party government has been focusing its attention during its first six months in office it appears Wall & Co. are diligently working on delivering what the energy sector in Alberta has been asking for.

No where has Alberta’s influence been more apparent than on the issue of royalty rates.

In his column Avoiding a royalty pain (Leader-Post, Nov. 17, 2007) Leader-Post financial editor Bruce Johnstone said “Premier-designate Brad 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.””

Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd backed that up in a scrum following the cabinet swearing in ceremony on Nov. 12, 2007: “The Premier said through the election campaign that he would be looking at asking Enterprise Saskatchewan at an early opportunity to review those rates. I think it would be a prudent thing to do and we’ll be looking to deal with that in a very short period of time.”

It wasn’t long before Wall and Boyd began fine tuning their story.

In Huge oil play boosts land sales (Leader Post, Dec 7, 2007) Boyd commented on the record $250 million in land sale revenues for the province in 2007, shattering the previous record of $199.7 million set in 1994.

“Certainly, we are doing a good job right now and we want that to continue,” Boyd said in an interview.

“We’re not in a position where we think the oil royalty structure needs to be changed.”

In Jan. 2008, on the eve of a two day visit to Calgary to pimp Saskatchewan’s resources to investment audiences and oil and gas industry leaders, Premier Wall torpedoed Enterprise Saskatchewan’s credibility as an independent agency saying the Saskatchewan Party government is “simply not interested” in increasing royalties. 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 (Leader-Post, Jan. 18, 2008)]

In his speech to the Calgary Petroleum Club on Jan. 21, 2008, Wall said bluntly that “The new government in the province of Saskatchewan will not be increasing royalties in the province of Saskatchewan.”

As for Enterprise Saskatchewan, Wall drilled another nail into the fledgling agency’s coffin saying: “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…That will be the direction that we give to Enterprise Saskatchewan.”

At a press conference on Apr. 10, 2008, came the coup de grace when Boyd said that the Saskatchewan government will not consider hiking royalty rates for at least 12 years.

The CBC News reported that “An independent report found Albertans weren’t getting enough for their natural resources. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach later announced royalties would go up, prompting oil and gas companies to say they were cutting back their activities in the province.

“There will be no similar study in Saskatchewan, Boyd said. A Saskatchewan Party government won’t consider the matter for at least three or four four-year terms, he said.

“Boyd indicated he and Premier Brad Wall are on the same page about royalties.

“I guess you’d have to ask him after three or four terms of his administration whether he would consider it, but certainly in the very near term, medium term and long term I don’t think we would want to see something like that,” he said.” [Sask. rules out royalty review for more than a decade (CBC News, Apr. 11, 2008)]

Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk reported that Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart went even further by saying Enterprise Saskatchewan will never examine royalty rates. [New gov’t making decisions on the fly (Leader-Post, Apr. 16, 2008)]

It’s hard to dispute what was happening and why but that’s exactly what Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd seemed to be doing at committee meetings.

During debate of the Ministry of Energy and Resources 2008-09 budget at the Apr. 10 meeting of the legislature’s standing committee on the economy NDP MLA Len Taylor asked Minister Boyd about his comments following the 2007 election “that the royalty rates in Saskatchewan should be reviewed, and it should be referred to Enterprise Saskatchewan for that review to take place.”

Boyd claimed he didn’t remember and seemed to blame the media for his troubles: “I would be interested in where you got that information. I don’t recall saying anything of the kind.”

“Sometimes media reports are a little bit misleading as I’m sure the member would know, and sometimes taken out of context, but I think if there are any kind of media reports, that would be something I’d be interested in.”

Boyd’s responses make it pretty clear that the Saskatchewan Party was in close contact with Alberta’s energy sector throughout the election period:

“During the election campaign, we made it, I think, abundantly clear that we felt that the royalty structures were appropriate. We had the unfortunate experience of receiving reports out of Alberta, very erroneous reports out of Alberta from industry players that there was a very incorrect interpretation of where we wanted to go with respect to royalties. We have advised that association that that was not where we wanted to go, and we made that very clear during the election campaign to industry players that that was not what Enterprise Saskatchewan would be embarking upon.

“We were certainly dismayed to find that that view was continually being presented. We took every step we could to address that concern. We were certainly concerned that this may be directed as a campaign waged against us in a political fashion, and we were certainly, as I say, took steps to address that as a consideration during the election campaign. So any kind of reports that were out there were erroneous and not a direction that we wanted to move. Shortly after the election, we made those continued representations to the industry and to industry associations. I think they got the message loud and clear that that wasn’t something that was correct, that it was being, I think as I say, waged on a political level that we were certainly not supportive of. So that’s the clear direction that we moved in that area.”

Boyd said his party “took every step” to address the concerns and the alleged campaign of misinformation that was being waged against them, but a search of StarPhoenix and Leader-Post for stories to support the minister’s claim that they pulled out all the stops to set the record straight turned up empty.

Most damning is the fact that there appears to be no mention of the issue in the Saskatchewan Party news release archive. If the party were that interested in setting the record straight during the election one would think they’d have tried harder to get the message out.

The Saskatchewan Party seemed to be far more interested in keeping the oil barons in Alberta happy and informed than it did the people of Saskatchewan.

It doesn’t end there, though.

The close relationship between the Alberta energy industry and the Saskatchewan Party is evident in the Winter 2008 edition of the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC) newsletter Explorer.

Under the heading “New Saskatchewan Government rolls out welcome mat for petroleum industry” the lobby group said it hosted a meeting in late January in Calgary with Energy Minister Bill Boyd, his top department staff, Glenn Veikle, Acting Deputy Minister and Trevor Dark, Assistant Deputy Minister, Petroleum & Natural Gas, and Bill Cooper, Chief of Staff.

Boyd reassured SEPAC board members and Saskatchewan operators that the new government was based on a ‘pro business’ philosophy and planned to remain very competitive with Alberta and that included no plans to raise royalty rates.

Boyd indicated that Saskatchewan had no plans to introduce emissions regulations and was waiting to see what the federal government would propose.

“SEPAC urged the Saskatchewan Government to play a prominent role in any public debate over the pros and cons of development. Otherwise, antidevelopment activist groups may take centre stage,” states the newsletter. Apparently SEPAC isn’t concerned if pro-development forces seize the agenda though.

SEPAC executive director Gary Leach said in his report that his organization was “planning a petroleum industry day in Regina late March and will co-host a dinner for the new Premier Brad Wall and his cabinet. SEPAC will be joined by CAPP, PSAC and CAODC.” Yes, one big happy family, indeed. And the Saskatchewan Party claims it is beholden to no one.

At the Apr. 29 meeting of the standing committee on the economy Minister Boyd’s comments shed further light on the close relationship between the Saskatchewan Party and the Alberta oil patch.

“Industry has been pretty forthcoming with us, frankly. I just finished, along with a number of other members of executive government, sitting down with . . . Well I don’t suppose it serves any purpose to name them, but a significant, a very, very significant, I think they’d be probably the third or fourth largest energy producing company in Saskatchewan, discussions with them this morning where they brought forward some of their concerns about, you know, the various areas about doing business in Saskatchewan, and how in an advisory capacity they might be able to offer some suggestions how we can streamline regulation to help and assist in terms of their business,” said Boyd.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to accept them or anything else like that, but this is the to and fro that happens, and we’re seeing this happen on a frequent basis where companies bring forward their ideas.”

(It should be pointed out that the Enterprise Saskatchewan Act is very clear to state that the agency’s role is “to ensure that: taxes are competitive with other jurisdictions; barriers to economic growth are reduced and removed; and labour laws are balanced and fair to both employers and unions.” This is precisely what Alberta’s energy sector have been waiting for.)

In his speech to the FirstEnergy East Coast Canadian Energy Conference in New York City on Mar. 13, Premier Wall confirmed as much when he said “We want to make sure we have the right regulatory regime” and “we’re going to have big ears when it comes to industry input to make sure that we get it right.”

Make no mistake; the Wall government intends to deliver whatever the energy sector wants.

At the Apr. 29 committee meeting it was also clear as to why the government flip-flopped on its decision to review royalty rates and refused to consider the matter for at least “three or four terms.”

Minister Boyd pointed out that industry is coming forward “looking at resource development in Saskatchewan, investing hundreds of millions, and in fact billions of dollars in our province.”

“And I think the investor confidence that is needed to look at the types of massive investments…there has to be an investor confidence that they understand the rules. They understand that this royalty structure is going to be in place for some period of time.”

“[I]f you were a major oil company or a potash company or a resource company of some sort, just take any one of them for our purposes of this discussion, and you’re looking at a 2 or $3 billion investment in an expansion of a potash mine… And when you talk to those resource companies, they’re not talking about looking at the impact that it has on their investment for a year, or two or three or anything like that. They’re looking . . . These are financed over long, long periods of time.

“And so they want some certainty, or at least the level of certainty that we as governments can provide them in terms of where we want to take direction, where we want to move, what direction we want to go. So before we would ever want to engage in that kind of discussion, we would want to sit down with the resource companies, and frankly with the people of Saskatchewan I suppose, and ask some very basic questions. Are we moving in the right direction in our province in terms of the resource regime? I think many objective observers would say, yes.”

So there we have it. The decision to postpone a royalty rate review for more than a decade was made because the energy sector wanted “certainty,” which, in other words means a guarantee or promise that nothing would change for a long time, otherwise the big investments might not be forthcoming.

Furthermore, the Wall government has yet to sit down “with the people of Saskatchewan” to discuss the issue of oil and gas royalties. It seems to have no intention of doing that.

So why would the Saskatchewan Party do this? Well, they’ve got over a million good reasons.

According to Saskatchewan Party financial records filed annually with Elections Saskatchewan in the nine year span from 1999 to 2007 the party raked in more than $1-million in donations from the energy industry.

The election years of 2003 and 2007 saw the biggest contributions with $263,944.53 and $254,119.83 respectively.

The nine year breakdown shows the following:

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
Total - $1,002,508.73

(The 2007 total may not include in its entirety the approximate $41,250 that Saskatchewan Party candidates received from the energy industry in campaign contributions during the 2007 provincial election.)

The Top Ten contributors to the Saskatchewan Party are:

1) EnCana Corporation, Calgary, AB, $96,888.14
2) Nexen Inc., Calgary, AB, $80,052.57
3) TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary, AB, $46,830.31
4) Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon, SK, $44,467.30
5) Enterra Energy Corp. (Enterra Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $26,500.00
6) Upton Resources Inc. (StarPoint Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $37,203.20
7) Alberta Energy Company Ltd. (EnCana Corporation), Calgary, AB, $32,780.00
8) Luscar Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $27,249.80
9) Sherritt International Corporation, Toronto, ON, $25,000.00
10) TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, AB, $24,808.54

Among the industry lobby groups the Calgary-based Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers came out on top donating $12,030.12.

Of the 200 entries listed below more than 50% are from Alberta.

1) 101101266 Saskatchewan Ltd., Fort Qu’Appelle, SK, $500.00

2) 101108359 Saskatchewan Ltd., Regina, SK, $1,200.00

3) 936173 Alberta Ltd. (Harvard Oil & Gas Inc.), Calgary, AB, $1,400.00

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

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

6) Aldon Oils Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $1,200.00

7) Allaro Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $596.84

8) AltaGas Services Ltd. (AltaGas Income Trust), Calgary, AB, $4,400.24

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

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

11) Anadarko Canada Corporation, Calgary, AB, $567.93

12) AREVA Resources Canada Inc., Saskatoon, SK, $1,255.28

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

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

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

16) Atco Ltd., Calgary, AB, $1,875.00

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

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

19) Baytex Energy Ltd. (Baytex Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $3,500.00

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

21) Bellport Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $400.00

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

23) Big Sky Drilling Inc. (Ensign Energy Services Inc.), Oxbow, SK, $1,500.00

24) Bonterra Energy Corp., Calgary, AB, $3,277.18

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

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

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

28) Cameco Corporation, Saskatoon, SK, $44,467.30

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

30) Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Calgary, AB, $12,030.12

31) Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Calgary, AB, $1,691.56

32) Canadian Green Fuels Inc., Regina, SK, $1,216.19

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

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

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

36) Carson Welding & Maintenance Ltd., Lampman, SK, $4,423.00

37) Carving Oil & Gas Ltd., Alberta, $2,000.00

38) Centipede Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $16,000.00

39) Centipede Holdings Ltd. (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $19,200.00

40) Centipede Resources (Harvard Energy), Calgary, AB, $13,000.00

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

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

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

44) C O G Energy, Alberta, $2,500.00

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

46) Connacher Oil and Gas Limited, Calgary, AB, $1,750.00

47) Cree-Way Gas Ltd., Saskatoon, SK, $5,820.96

48) Crescent Point Resources Ltd. (Crescent Point Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $2,758.00

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

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

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

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

53) Diamond Energy Services Inc., Swift Current, SK, $3,122.86

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

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

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

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

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

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

60) Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Calgary, AB, $17,622.88

61) EnCana Corporation, Calgary, AB, $96,888.14

62) Enform, Calgary, AB, $403.36

63) ENMAX Corporation, Calgary, AB, $4,481.13

64) Ensign Drilling Inc. (Ensign Energy Services Inc.), Calgary, AB, $4,875.00

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

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

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

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

69) EPCOR, Edmonton, AB, $1,056.52

70) Erickson Enterprises Ltd., Abbey, SK, $500.00

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

72) Fast Trucking Service Ltd., Carnduff, SK, $5,829.92

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

74) FirstEnergy Capital Corp., Calgary, AB, $4,673.42

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

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

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

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

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

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

81) Gem Oil Inc., Manitoba, $1,000.00

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

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

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

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

86) Harvard Energy, Calgary, AB, $1,503.36

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

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

89) HTC Purenergy , Regina, SK, $924.49

90) Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $5,140.00

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

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

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

94) Imperial Oil Limited, Calgary, AB, $16,000.00

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

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

97) Jerry Mainil Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $5,949.32

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

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

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

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

102) Keystone Royalty Corp., Regina, SK, $5,259.88

103) Kiora Resources Inc., Regina, SK, $1,758.00

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

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

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

107) Laredo Well Services Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $2,881.64

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

109) Lloydminster Maintenance Ltd., Lloydminster, SK, $500.00

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

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

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

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

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

115) Lowmac Oilfield Services Ltd., Saskatchewan, $500.00

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

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

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

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

120) MBC Ventures Inc., Regina, SK, $2,463.79

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

122) McCallum Fuels Ltd., Rosetown, SK, $500.00

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

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

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

126) MLTC Resource Development Inc., Meadow Lake, SK, $1,755.28

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

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

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

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

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

132) Nexen Inc., Calgary, AB, $80,052.57

133) Northern Resource Trucking Limited Partnership, Saskatoon, SK, $4,793.28

134) Novitas Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $298.42

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

136) PanTerra Resource Corp., Calgary, AB, $500.00

137) Panther Industries Inc., Davidson, SK, $500.00

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

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

140) Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (Penn West Energy Trust), Calgary, AB, $9,038.62

141) Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $10,000.00

142) Petro-Canada, Calgary, AB, $403.36

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

144) Pilgrim Energy Inc., Regina, SK, $900.00

145) Prairie Mines & Royalty Ltd. (Royal Utilities Income Fund), Bienfait, SK, $4,792.88

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

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

148) Provident Energy Trust, Calgary, AB, $2,473.68

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

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

151) RC Consultants Ltd., Swift Current, SK, $956.77

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

153) Red Hawk Well Servicing Inc., Oxbow, SK, $1,000.00

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

155) Rockwell Services Partnership, Nisku, AB, $329.14

156) Sabre Energy Ltd., Calgary, AB, $6,050.00

157) Sherritt International Corporation, Toronto, ON, $25,000.00

158) Sierra Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $8,731.72

159) Silver Bay Resources Ltd., Calgary, AB, $3,500.00

160) Skylift Services Inc., Estevan, SK, $500.00

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

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

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

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

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

166) Stream-Flo Industries Ltd., Edmonton, AB, $3,302.82

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

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

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

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

171) Talisman Energy Inc., Calgary, AB, $18,000.00

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

173) Titan Exploration Ltd., Calgary, AB, $500.00

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

175) TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, AB, $24,808.54

176) TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary, AB, $46,830.31

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

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

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

180) United Safety Ltd., Airdrie, AB, $500.00

181) Upton Resources Inc. (StarPoint Energy Ltd.), Calgary, AB, $37,203.20

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

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

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

185) Valleyview Petroleums Ltd., Weyburn, SK, $10,271.92

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

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

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

189) Viking Surplus Oilfield Equipment Ltd., Estevan, SK, $800.00

190) Villanova Energy Corp., Regina, SK, $6,258.00

191) VPC Supervision Ltd., Estevan, SK, $500.00

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

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

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

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

196) W D M Resources Ltd., Alberta, $898.42

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

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

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

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