Sunday, May 02, 2010

Botting earning $15,000 per month plus expenses as consultant to Enterprise Saskatchewan, contract suggests direct line to Premier Brad Wall

The Wall government’s announcement on March 15, 2010, that Dale Botting was stepping down as CEO of Enterprise Saskatchewan (ES) caused barely a ripple in the news media. A 400-word story in the Leader-Post the next day was pretty much it as far as coverage goes.

NDP Enterprise and Innovation critic Len Taylor told the newspaper he was “surprised” to learn Botting would be leaving and wondered whether there was something wrong at ES.

Taylor said that ES “has no focus, no real vision,” and appears to be “going nowhere with this government.”

“This big idea of Enterprise Saskatchewan ... is not turning out to be what anybody thought it would be.” [Botting to step down in April as CEO (Leader-Post, March 16, 2010)]

Botting may be gone but he’s not far away.

Starting April 1, 2010, under a six-month, renewable contract to ES, Botting will oversee the completion of several investment attraction projects and will continue to advise the provincial government on issues ranging from innovative partnerships to competitive intelligence, a government press release said.

Chris Dekker, the agency’s vice president of marketing and communications, is serving as the interim CEO until the ES board finds a replacement.

In his formal letter of resignation, which was obtained through a freedom of information request, Botting thanked the board for “allowing” him to move on.

“I wish to convey my deep gratitude to the Board in understanding and accommodating my personal desire to now return to the private sector. I pledge to still serve you well in a more specialized capacity as a Global Investment Attraction Specialist, and to execute and honour all goals and obligations as outlined in my new contract with great diligence and integrity,” Botting said.

This seems to sound like someone that really wanted to get out of their present situation.

It’s interesting to note that, aside from an 11 year stretch with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (1985-96), Botting doesn’t seem to stick around at jobs for too long.

Prior to his 28-month stint with the Wall government, Botting was the CEO of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership for just over two years. Before that he was the CEO of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) for just over 3 years. Before joining SREDA, Botting spent a year or so working for the newly reorganized Yellowhead Region of the old Department of Economic and Co-operative Development as its first permanent executive director. Prior to that job he served as CEO of the Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres for about two and a half years. Why all the moving around?

According to the contract between ES and Botting Leadership & Development Corporation, dated March 12, 2010, Botting will be paid a sum of $15,000 per month for each month of the agreement. As the consultant, Botting “must submit a report to the Minister and CEO of ES on the activities undertaken during that calendar month and an invoice stating the number of hours of service provided during that calendar month and the allowable expenses, with copies of receipts, incurred in providing the services.”

Travel, sustenance and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed at Public Service Commission approved rates.

Botting’s contract does not “preclude the possibility of separate and different contract opportunities to serve the added needs of Enterprise Saskatchewan, or to assist with other contracts and projects in other Ministries or Crown Corporations.”

In other words, Botting’s new arrangement could allow him to make a lot more money than if he were still employed by the agency.

The services to be provided by Botting’s company are as follows:

▪ To provide advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options to ES for the use of ES and members of the Executive Council of Saskatchewan;

▪ To prepare or assist in the development of positions, plans, procedures, criteria or instructions for the purpose of contractual or other negotiations by or on behalf of ES or the Government of Saskatchewan; and

▪ To provide such other services as may be requested by ES from time to time with respect to economic development matters in Saskatchewan.

Botting’s contract includes a five-page statement of work entitled ‘Project Touchdown.’

Starting April 1, 2010, to September 30, 2010, Botting’s company “will focus, as an independent contractor, on major investment attraction efforts and the successful completion of project development as a dedicated and accelerated effort to help the Government move toward more visible culmination of its successful business climate.”

Some of the 14 “major projects poised for final investment decisions” in 2010-11 are:

▪ Accelerate the final head office decision of Mosaic Corporation and other major corporate office decisions in to Saskatoon and Regina;

▪ Move key research and development jobs of Dow Agro Sciences from Indiana to Saskatoon;

▪ Finalize development of Clear Vistas and other major new property developments;

▪ Needed support to add on and secure CN/Loblaws developments and assist the Global Transportation Hub Authority (GTHA) in its added marketing and investment attraction efforts;

▪ Secure financing and final supports fort the CCRL Aquistore Project in Regina;

▪ Complete the Bioxx Expansion in Saskatoon; and

▪ Secure added markets for Whitemud Resources in Saskatchewan.

“As further project challenges arise from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development, or directly from the Minister or the Premier, [the consultant’s] retainer will provide added executive level capacity as further required on as needed basis,” the agreement states.

So Botting might have a direct pipeline to Premier Brad Wall. How many consultants can boast that?

One nagging question, though, is why can’t Botting oversee this work and still be the CEO of ES? Maybe NDP MLA Len Taylor is right and there is something wrong at ES.

Botting’s departure is the second major hit the agency has taken in less than ten months. In a cabinet shuffle on May 29, 2009, Premier Brad Wall gave Lyle Stewart, elected in 1999, the boot from enterprise and innovation. He hasn’t been on cabinet since. Stewart was replaced by Ken Cheveldayoff, a close friend of Wall’s since their university days. [Wall opts for youth movement (StarPhoenix, May 30, 2009)]

ES was announced to big fanfare when Stewart introduced the Enterprise Saskatchewan Act in the legislature on December 17, 2007. Botting had been appointed as deputy minister on November 27, 2007, to lead the “design-build” phase of the new economic development agency at a salary of $160,000 per year. The new ES board later appointed Botting as its founding CEO when it was officially formed on July 29, 2008.

On November 18, 2008, Stewart officially launched 18 sector teams specifically dedicated to an economic sector of the Saskatchewan economy. The sector teams are accountable for identifying and reporting on the barriers to growth, making recommendations to remove barriers, prescribing prioritized action, and reporting on the progress on an annual basis.

ES has also established three strategic issues councils to provide advice to government on broad concerns that impact multiple sectors of the economy. Individual councils concentrate on a central issue where strategic actions by government can improve the competitiveness of Saskatchewan’s economy. Councils have been established for the following issues: Regulatory Modernization, Youth Economic Engagement, and Entrepreneurship.

According to the March 15 news release, Botting “played an instrumental role” in assisting the ES board make more than 50 recommendations to the provincial government. This sounds impressive until you consider that it works out to less than three recommendations per sector team and strategic issues council.

What the public isn’t being told is how many recommendations have the sector teams and strategic issues councils made to the board, what are they, and for the ones that didn’t make it to government, why?

Furthermore, ES refuses to make its board meeting agendas and minutes public. The board's progress reports only offer a selective, sanitized version of events created for public consumption.

As the Wall government’s flagship department, ES has received little coverage in the province’s two major newspapers. Since January 2009, the agency was referenced in 13 articles in the StarPhoenix and 15 in the Leader-Post.

The one high profile issue that happened on Botting’s, Stewart’s and Cheveldayoff’s watch turned out to be the agency’s biggest flop.

It started with a press conference in Saskatoon on June 17, 2008, when Bruce Power President and CEO Duncan Hawthorne, with Stewart and Cheveldayoff at his side cheering him on, unveiled the company’s Saskatchewan 2020 initiative, a feasibility study into bringing nuclear energy to the province.

It continued with the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), a government appointed panel stacked with pro-nuclear members mandated to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry; and the Future of Uranium in Saskatchewan public consultation process chaired by former senior civil servant Dan Perrins. Both were fiascos with little public trust in either. The Wall government blew nearly $3.7-million on two reports confirming what was already known: that the nuclear industry and business lobby groups support spending billions of dollars on a reactor and to store nuclear waste in Saskatchewan, but the public doesn’t.

The debacle concluded on December 17, 2009, when the Wall government announced that it would not support the UDP recommendation to accelerate plans for nuclear power, nor Bruce Power’s November 2008 proposal for a large scale nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan at this time.

ES has issued three board progress reports since its inception. Botting’s presence seems to have diminished over time. The first issue (September 2008) included a message from Botting as the CEO. He also appeared in a board photo standing next to Enterprise and Innovation Minister Lyle Stewart.

The March 2009 report contains a message from Botting, but he’s absent from the group photo. Premier Brad Wall is there instead.

Finally, in the September 2009 progress report, Botting is gone altogether. He’s not mentioned once. Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything, but for a guy that reportedly played such a pivotal role in creating the agency it sure seems odd that as the CEO he’s not included. Premier Brad Wall on the other hand is named five times in the report. And ES is supposed to be arm’s length from government. Maybe that’s the problem, too much political meddling.

On at least two occasions Wall has approached the ES board directly. The first was at the board’s inaugural meeting on March 31, 2008, when he asked them to make identifying uranium value-added opportunities a priority. The second time was prior to the trilateral cabinet meeting between Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia on September 11, 2009, when he asked the board for opinions about the Western Economic Partnership (WEP), now called the New West Partnership. The board dutifully said yes to the first and threw its support behind the second. What else could they do, tell the premier no?

It makes you wonder who’s really running the show.


At 10:48 AM, Blogger H7N9 Watch said...

Thank you for sharing all this. Mr. Botting is now working at the Conservative-staffed Canada School for Energy and Environment in Alberta, where Bruce Carson worked until recently.


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