Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Uranium Development Partnership: Enterprise Saskatchewan 2009-10 Plan shows panel’s recommendations more important than public consultation

Excerpts from Enterprise Saskatchewan 2009-10 Plan

Lost amid the excitement of the Mar. 18 provincial budget were the 2009-10 plans for 23 government ministries and agencies that were released the same day. The plans contain the ministries’ key strategies, actions for the upcoming year and performance measures. They make for interesting reading and received no media attention.

Front and centre is Enterprise Saskatchewan, the alleged arms-length economic development agency established by the Saskatchewan Party government shortly after the 2007 provincial election.

Enterprise Saskatchewan is working with Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC) to try and bring nuclear power to the province.

It was at the Enterprise Saskatchewan board of director’s inaugural meeting on Mar. 31, 2008, that Premier Brad Wall, in a blatant act of political meddling, asked the board to make identifying uranium value-added opportunities a priority. According to the agency’s Sept. 2008 progress report, the board “was given a presentation on potential value-added nuclear opportunities” and later recommended “that a full evaluation of the economic potential for value-added expansion of the nuclear industry and environmental considerations for Saskatchewan be conducted… by a partnership including representatives from all phases of the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as Saskatchewan business, labour, universities, First Nations, and local governments.”

In a news release on Oct. 20, 2008, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart and CIC Minister Ken Cheveldayoff announced the establishment of a new 12 person Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) to advise the government on further development of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources. At least 10 of the member’s, or the organizations they represent, have in the past voiced support for nuclear power.

“The partnership will provide a final report to the government by March 31, 2009. The report will include specific recommendations on value added opportunities best suited to the development of the uranium industry,” states the news release.

“The partnership report will be released to the public and form the basis for public consultation.”

The Wall government hasn’t said what form the public consultation will take, but with the ministry plans has all but confirmed that it will take a distant back seat to the UDP and its deliberations.

The UDP is mentioned twice in the Enterprise Saskatchewan 2009-10 plan. Pages 4 and 5 of the report include the following key strategies and actions:

Strategy: Diversify the provincial economy by increasing value-added production to sustain economic growth

“Advance recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership, in partnership with Crown Investments Corporation (CIC), to maximize economic benefits from Saskatchewan’s uranium resources.”

Strategy: Accelerate the growth of sustainable energy industries

“Advance recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership report after public consultation to increase value-added processing of Saskatchewan’s uranium resources.”

Clearly, it’s the Wall government’s intention to embrace and “advance” the panel’s recommendations despite what the public might have to say. The UDP and public consultation are two separate processes. They have not been allowed to cross paths. The provincial cabinet will see the group’s report and recommendations before the public does. No doubt the consultation process will be designed in such a way as to provide the best possible outcome for the government and give justification for its actions. The premier certainly can’t afford to have his government’s pro-nuclear plans flying off the rails because of negative public feedback.

Other strategies and actions in the Enterprise Saskatchewan plan include:

Strategy: Increase economic growth by engaging key stakeholders in economic development planning

“Increase cooperation of Crown corporations in economic development activities through the Major Projects Coordination Strategy, regional economic development plans and Sector Team strategies.”

Strategy: Improve the ease of doing business in Saskatchewan by reducing regulatory barriers and enhancing service delivery

“Develop a regulatory modernization strategy to address regulatory barriers to economic growth.”

“Implement an on-line Regulatory Registry as an additional tool to facilitate advance public consultation on proposed regulatory changes.”

Whatever the “Major Projects Coordination Strategy” is it’s not available on the Enterprise Saskatchewan website and neither are the agendas or minutes for Sector Team meetings.

On Sept. 17, 2008, the Wall government announced the establishment of the Regulatory Modernization Council (RMC), which the news release said “will recommend regulatory reform and business services priorities and forward them to the Enterprise Saskatchewan (ES) Board. It will also assist ES in monitoring the progress toward meeting regulatory and service enhancement goals.”

The RMC meetings are closed to the public and so far no report has been released from the group. Three access to information requests (dated Sept. 30, 2008, Dec. 30, 2008, and Mar. 20, 2009) have been submitted to Enterprise Saskatchewan for copies of the agendas and minutes for the council’s meetings but none have been finalized. This is despite the fact that The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows a maximum of 60 days for a government institution to process an application. The agency’s foot dragging and stall tactics has resulted in a gross violation of the Act.

The agency is also refusing to disclose the agendas and minutes for any board meetings that occurred after July 29, 2008, when The Enterprise Saskatchewan Act was proclaimed making the interim advisory committee members a statutory board.

On Sept. 19, 2008, an access to information request was submitted to Enterprise Saskatchewan for the agenda and minutes of board’s May 22, 2008 and June 19, 2008 meetings when it was still an advisory committee. The agency received the request on Sept. 24. It’s been six months and the application still hasn’t been dealt with.

In a related matter are the Ministry of Environment’s 2009-10 plans which include the following:

Strategy: Deliver effective results-based environmental regulation

“Initiate legislative review of The Environmental Assessment Act, The Forest Resources Management Act, and The Environmental Management and Protection Act.”

“Continue consultations with targeted stakeholder groups such as business organizations, academics, environmental non-government organizations, municipal and industry representatives on legislative amendments.”

“Implement a new organizational structure in support of the new environmental management model.”

Strategy: Enhance co-operation among western provinces in environmental and resource management

“Minimize duplication and maximize federal/provincial co-operation to ensure the environment is protected by continuing effective agreements with agencies and by entering into new agreements with The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada: seek to maximize provincial regulation of nuclear activity under the ~~Nuclear Safety and Control Act in Saskatchewan through an administrative agreement with CNSC.”

Premier Brad Wall has long complained about the nuclear regulatory approval process.

In the article Don’t cut payments, Wall says (Leader-Post, Oct. 29, 2008) James Wood reported Wall saying “there are areas of federal-provincial duplication of services where the federal government could cut instead, such as “environmental processes.” He said there could still be “very onerous” environmental regulations with less bureaucracy.”

Wall was responding to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s call for a First Minister’s meeting on Nov. 10, 2008. Wood said the Conservative government was contemplating “budget cuts or a potential deficit.”

In Jan. 2008, Wood reported the Saskatchewan Party government was concerned that “the length of time it takes for new nuclear power projects to come on-line in Canada could close the “window of opportunity” it sees opening for the province’s uranium supply.”

In the article Wall calls for “new national approach” on licensing for nuclear reactors (StarPhoenix, Jan. 28, 2008) the premier called “for a “new national approach” on licensing for nuclear reactors, saying that the actual deployment of new nuclear power sources could take decades under Canada’s current regulatory regime.”

Wall also called the federal Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) “a big stumbling block for the expansion of nuclear power.”

“There is a bit of a renaissance on the nuclear side, partly because of the greenhouse gas part, partly because of climate change. At that time in our history, what’s frustrating is that we have all these difficulties, all these potential challenges that are going to hold back the country - and Saskatchewan sees itself as having a role here, so therefore holding our opportunities back - to really take the next step, to have potentially the next-generation technology, the next new national approach to the industry,” he said in an interview.

The Wall government has told the public repeatedly that no decision has been made on nuclear power. But the plans put forward by Enterprise Saskatchewan and Environment Ministry doesn’t seem to support that claim.


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