Friday, February 27, 2009

Uranium Development Partnership: Gov’t refusing to disclose panel’s work plan; won’t reveal objective, intent or deliverables for consultant support

It was only a matter of time before the Saskatchewan Party government started refusing access to crucial Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) records.

On Oct. 20, 2008, the Saskatchewan Party government announced the establishment of the UDP, a 12 person panel mandated to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry. Since then the government has released very little information on the panel’s deliberations.

An access to information request was submitted to the Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) for copies of the panel’s work plan and the agendas and minutes for any meetings conducted between Oct. 20 and Dec. 30, 2008. The request was granted in part.

The information released by CIC on Feb. 15 shows that the UDP met just once prior to the end of 2008, and that was on Oct. 20 when the government made the announcement.

The meeting was conducted at the University of Saskatchewan in Room 238 of the College Building from 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. All members were present with the exception of Jim Hallick (SARM), Armand Laferrere (Areva Canada) and Alex Pourbaix (TransCanada Corp.). Ray Ahenakew (SIIT) participated via conference call.

The records reveal that the government has created a secretariat to work with the partnership. According to a request for proposals (RFP) issued in October by CIC for consultant support the secretariat will be “co-led by Dale Botting, Deputy Minister of Enterprise and Innovation and Iain Harry, Vice-President, Crown Sector Initiatives, CIC, with support staff from both Enterprise and Innovation and CIC to work with the partnership and the consulting team to organize and facilitate meetings, support the drafting and publishing of a final report, and provide any other support or administrative functions that may be required.”

Botting and Harry were present at the UDP meeting and should have no problem supporting the Saskatchewan Party government’s quest for nuclear power.

On Sept. 11, Botting gave a presentation on uranium issues to the North Saskatoon Business Association. The StarPhoenix quoted Botting saying afterwards that, “We feel it’s time, just like the 1970s when Alberta added value to the energy industry by developing refinery row and the petrochemical sector and so on. We would like to find ways to add value similarly to our raw resources so we’re not just shipping out drums of yellowcake.”

“The premier has made this point before that he sees this opportunity (with uranium). We are in the business now of trying to decide how, exactly, we’re going to approach it, but Enterprise Saskatchewan will be clearly involved in those discussions,” Botting said. [New team explores uranium potential (StarPhoenix, Sept. 12, 2008)]

Botting is the former president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP). For 11 years he served with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business leaving the CFIB as vice president of Western Canada.

Botting was appointed by the Saskatchewan Party government in Nov. 2007. Saskatchewan Party financial statements filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that he has contributed to the party.

In the article Link turns up the heat on the Wall gov’t (Leader-Post, Feb. 13, 2009) Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk referred to Iain Harry as “one of Brad Wall’s closest advisers and friends” and the “former Saskatchewan Party communications director and past political operative in Stephen Harper’s PMO.”

At its Oct 20 meeting the UDP received a letter of welcome signed by Ministers Lyle Stewart and Ken Cheveldayoff.

“The work of the UDP will provide an invaluable resource to the Government of Saskatchewan as we consider how to add further value to our province’s significant uranium resources,” the letter said.

The majority of the next two paragraphs, however, are blacked out: “As you know, the UDP’s final report…….” and then nothing.

“As such, the work you will be doing over the next five months will help build the foundation for a new era of uranium industry development in Saskatchewan,” the letter continues.

It would seem there is something about the panel’s final report that the government does not want the public to know.

A copy of the Minister’s Order appointing the UDP was distributed at the meeting. This record describes the group’s mandate and how it will function. The language used in the order differs somewhat from the news release and backgrounder that was released to the public on Oct. 20.

The backgrounder states: “Finally, the Partnership will make specific recommendations on value added opportunities best suited to Saskatchewan.”

The Minister’s Order states: “The UDP shall: e) Provide a report to Cabinet by March 31, 2009 that includes specific recommendations on value added opportunities best suited to the growth and expansion of the nuclear industry in western Canada from a base in Saskatchewan.”

The Minister’s Order leaves virtually no wiggle room for the UDP. The government has clearly ordered, and expects, the panel to provide recommendations for “the growth and expansion of the nuclear industry” in Saskatchewan.

The backgrounder notes that while the partnership’s work plan “does not include submissions from the public” its full report “will be released as part of a full public consultation process.”

The Minister’s Order does not mention public consultation and states that the UDP members’ term will not exceed March 31, 2009. It appears that the government’s intention from the outset was to completely insulate the panel from the public and not allow the two to interact – even after the group releases its final report. According to the Oct. 20 news release the UDP “will receive up to $3 million in funding” from CIC, which is public money, and for this the people of Saskatchewan get shoved aside.

The Minister’s Order indicates that the UDP and CIC “shall engage the services of a major consulting firm with direct experience in the nuclear industry in order to assist the UDP in preparing its report to Cabinet.” The news release and backgrounder gave no indication that a third party would be commissioned to help write the final report.

Finally, the Minister’s Order shows that a per diem of $600 per day will be provided to the chairperson (Richard Florizone) “while engaged in the work of the UDP.” The other members will receive $500 per day for their services.

The agenda and minutes for the Oct. 20 meeting indicate that the UDP reviewed a proposed work plan and timeline, but the CIC refused to disclose these. The work plan would likely detail the group’s tasks, or methodology, necessary to complete its work and is arguably the most important item that the panel discussed at the meeting.

The reasons given by CIC for denying access to the record, and portions of others, is itself revealing. The Feb. 15 letter from CIC vice president and general counsel, Doug Kosloski, cites the following reasons for refusal:

1) The record “Could reasonably be expected to disclose advice, proposals, analyses or policy options developed for a government institution…”

2) The record “Could reasonably be expected to disclose consultations involving officers or employees of a government institution…”

3) Disclosure of the record “could be reasonably expected to result in disclosure of a pending policy decision or budgetary item…”

4) The record could “Contain information about an identifiable individual…”

The third reason is perhaps the most intriguing and begs the question, ‘Does the government already have policy and/or budgetary decisions lined up and ready to go as soon as the UDP’s final report and the sham of a public consultation process are complete?’ It stands to reason that it must, otherwise why would it cite this section?

At its Oct. 20 meeting the UDP reviewed the RFP for consultant support. This portion of the meeting in the minutes has been blacked-out. More disturbing is the fact that CIC has severed significant portions of the RFP relating to UDP objectives, statement of intent, proposed deliverables and project timeline. The government obviously has something to hide here as well.

The RFP states: “UDP will require the support of a world-class consulting firm to assist with data gathering, analysis, interpretation and drafting of the Report. The chosen firm must have Canadian and global expertise in uranium and related industries; the ability to collect and synthesize large amounts of data; a proven track record in the development of international business strategy and the development of public policy; a collaborative approach whereby the work will be completed by the consultant with technical support from industry and government representatives; and an ability to complete the work in a timely and effective manner. A subcommittee of the UDP will be struck to recommend a consultant who will then be awarded a contract by CIC.”

According to a related agenda item (the striking of the consultant selection committee) CIC sent the RFP to a short list of consultants. These appear to be: The Boston Consulting Group (BCG); McKinsey and Company (M&C); The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI); and, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

The deadline for responses to the RFP was Oct. 31, 2008.

The minutes of the UDP meeting show that the following members were appointed to the consultant selection sub-committee: Richard Florizone (U of S), Jerry Grandey (Cameco), Duncan Hawthorne (Bruce Power), Jim Hallick (SARM) and Patrick Moore (Greenspirit Strategies).

It should be noted that CIC is a member of the Calgary-based CERI and UDP members Cameco Corporation and TransCanada Corporation are listed on the CERI website as private sector sponsors of the think tank. The two companies share ownership of Bruce Power. Also listed is consulting engineering firm Golder Associates Ltd. who, according to its 2006 annual report, have Bruce Power as a client.

“Golder Associates has a long-standing consulting relationship with Bruce Power, having conducted three environmental assessments on the eight reactors, which together have 6,200 megawatts of annual generating capacity,” the report states. Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne is a member of the UDP.

It seems odd that UDP members with ties, either directly or indirectly, to one of the consultant’s under consideration would be permitted to take part in the RFP evaluation process. In the end the point is moot because in an email on Feb. 27 Mr. Kosloski advised that McKinsey and Company was the consultant that was selected.

In May 2007, the Government of Ontario hired McKinsey and Company to assess nuclear technology options available to Ontario. The firm’s final report, entitled A strategic assessment of Ontario’s economic and technology options in the growing nuclear market, shows the company to be a big booster of nuclear power which, of course, bodes well for CIC and the UDP.

“With the increasing cost of alternative fuel sources, the growing focus on and concern about carbon emissions, and an increasing number of countries seeking energy self-sufficiency, nuclear energy is making a comeback as a preferred source of baseload power. Nuclear energy offers a non-carbon-emitting, cost-competitive, safe generation alternative. Many governments and stakeholder groups worldwide are reconsidering their historical anti-nuclear stance, and momentum is increasing for nuclear technology in a number of major markets,” the report’s executive summary states.

The final item on the UDP’s Oct. 20 agenda pertained to UDP members’ orientation to the uranium industry. The minutes indicate that Cameco and Bruce Power offered to provide plant tours for interested members of the panel. It was resolved that, “The Secretariat will contact Cameco and Bruce Power and all of the members for logistical information for a tour of Cameco’s facilities in Port Hope and Northern Saskatchewan and a tour of the Bruce Power nuclear power station in Ontario.”

As part of the same agenda item it was also decided that UDP members should be provided with copies of the book Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by pro-nuclear author Gwyneth Cravens. The minutes don’t indicate whose idea this was, but its alarming nonetheless that only side of the nuclear issue is being considered. Then again, at least 10 of the 12 UDP members or the organizations they represent appear to be pro-nuclear themselves. It’s one big happy family.


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