Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Corporate presence dominates Sask. Party 2010 Saskatoon Premier’s Dinner; Saskatoon Northwest candidate Gordon Wyant’s dubious record

The Saskatchewan Party leader’s dinner at TCU Place in Saskatoon on April 29, 2010, reportedly drew a capacity crowd of 1,100 guests to hear Premier Brad Wall’s speech. [Parties in election mode (StarPhoenix, June 3, 2010)]

That may be true, but the majority weren’t there as individuals. They were attending as representatives of a corporation.

According to a seating plan and spreadsheet for the fundraising dinner, 194 companies accounted for 1,002 (91%) of the tickets. Three constituency associations bought 18 tickets and the Saskatchewan Party Youth received 30. The remaining 50 tickets went to Saskatchewan Party officials and other individuals. The event raised about $44,500.

The documents containing the information were apparently left lying on a table after the event was finished.

The governing Saskatchewan Party relies heavily on the private sector for the bulk of its donations. In 2009, the party generated $1,558,559 from corporations and individuals. Of that total, $871,294 (55.9%) were corporate contributions.

The Saskatchewan Party has claimed in the past that it is beholden to no one. And yet, how long would it be before donations from, say, the energy industry, dried up if the Wall government were to stop meeting with that sector’s Calgary-based lobby groups and began ignoring their constant whining about corporate taxes, royalty rates and labour laws?

The record of attendees to the premier’s dinner shows who’s really in charge.

The list includes plenty of the usual suspects that have been contributing to the party for years: KPMG, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman, Brandt Tractor, Alliance Energy, Dundee Developments, Rawlco Radio, and Shaw Communications.

Then there’s the business and industry lobby groups that seem to help set government policy: North Saskatoon Business Association, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Saskatchewan Mining Association, Saskatoon & Region Home Builders, and Saskatchewan Potash Producers Association, to name a few.

Read through the list a few times and some interesting names begin to stand out:

▪ Canpotex Ltd., the world’s largest exporter of potash and center of controversy in the current hostile takeover bid of PotashCorp by BHP Billiton;

▪ Vancouver-based Bill 80 supporters Ledcor Group of Companies;

▪ SaskPower board members Bryan Leverick and chair Joel Teal;

▪ SaskTel chair Grant Kook;

▪ Carol Reynolds, Genome Prairie director of communications and government relations. Reynolds was the campaign manager for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Conservative candidate Kelly Block during the 2008 federal election, and is rumoured to be a potential City of Saskatoon Ward 5 candidate should the Saskatchewan Party win the Saskatoon Northwest by-election on October 18, 2010; and,

▪ Wayne Watts, president of Liquid Capital Prairie Corp., and chair of the Saskatchewan Minimum Wage Board that put the screws to low income workers last fall recommending no increase to the minimum wage until the next review in 2011.

The City of Saskatoon, down for one ticket, was represented by Councillor Bob Pringle. However, the spreadsheet appears to indicate that Mayor Don Atchison attended and sat with Saskatoon law firm WMCZ Lawyers & Mediators. It seems the company paid for nine tickets, including Atchison’s. It’s a clever way to get the mayor to the event without having to record him as a contributor.

Lawyer Gordon Wyant is on the list as representing law firm McKercher LLP where he’s a partner. Wyant is the city councillor for Ward 5 and also the Saskatchewan Party candidate in the Saskatoon Northwest by-election to be held October 18, 2010. Wyant was the business manager for Serge LeClerc – the Saskatchewan Party MLA for the area before vacating his seat amid controversy on August 31, 2010 – during the 2007 provincial election.

During Wyant’s near seven year tenure on council, civic records indicate that Saskatoon’s long-term debt has increased from $23 million in 2004 to a projected $171 million by the end of 2010. Reserve funds have dwindled from $145.9 million in 2003 to $67 million last year. Municipal property taxes (per capita) have gone up 25 per cent, and the operating budget has climbed 62.7 per cent since 2003.

Earlier this year, the StarPhoenix reported Wyant as having the worst attendance record among councillors attending 63 of 76 meetings since the 2006 civic election. [Atchison never missing in action (StarPhoenix, March 2, 2010)]

Council minutes show that Wyant has missed two more meetings since the story was published: a regular one on May 10, 2010; and, a special meeting held July 2, 2010, to discuss the provincial disaster assistance program as a result of the very heavy rainfall that hit Saskatoon during the night of June 29/ 30, 2010.

Is this what Saskatoon Northwest residents have to look forward to should the Saskatchewan Party win the seat?

Several companies were given the five-star treatment by having a Saskatchewan Party MLA assigned to their table:

▪ Canadian Energy Pipeline Association + Nancy Heppner (Martensville)
▪ Deloitte & Touche LLP + Don Morgan (Saskatoon Southeast)
▪ Eli Lilly + Don McMorris (Indian Head-Milestone)
▪ MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP + June Draude (Kelvington-Wadena)
▪ McDougall Gauley LLP + Rob Norris (Saskatoon Greystone)
▪ NuCoal Energy Corp. + Randy Weekes (Biggar)
▪ Ramada Hotel + Ken Cheveldayoff (Saskatoon Silver Springs)
▪ St. Peter’s College + Delbert Kirsch (Batoche)
▪ Stuart Olson Constructors Inc. + Joceline Schriemer (Saskatoon Sutherland)
▪ Jeff Ehlert + Donna Harpauer (Humboldt)

Aside from the premier, the other big name on the bill that evening was B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who introduced Wall.

Campbell was in the province for meetings and to sign the New West Partnership Agreement between Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia on April 30, 2010, in Regina. Wall’s dinner was probably one of the few friendly places left for the embattled premier to visit.

According to the Vancouver Sun, a poll released September 10, 2010, by Angus Reid Public Opinion shows that only 12 per cent of British Columbians approve of Campbell’s performance and 73 per cent say their opinion of him has worsened over the past three months, making him Canada’s most unpopular premier. [Gordon Campbell Canada's most unpopular premier, poll finds (Vancouver Sun, September 11, 2010)]

After nine long years, it appears British Columbians have finally had enough of Campbell’s nasty, ugly brand of conservatism. The final straw seems to have been his government’s introduction of the hated harmonized sales tax that took effect July 1, 2010.

On July 23, 2009, Campbell announced plans to replace the GST and PST with an HST of 12 per cent. [B.C. moves to 12 per cent HST (CBC News, July 23, 2009)]

However, in the run-up to the provincial election held May 12, 2009, the Campbell Liberals promised voters that they were not contemplating the adoption of the HST.

Saskatchewan residents are already used to this kind of betrayal.

Prior to the November 2007 provincial election, Saskatchewan Party Opposition leader Brad Wall said essential services legislation wasn’t necessary in the province. [Basic honesty minimum expectation (StarPhoenix, December 7, 2007)]

However, within weeks of forming government, the Saskatchewan Party introduced The Public Service Essential Services Act.

Wall promised to fight the federal government, regardless of who was in power, to exclude non-renewable resources from the equalization formula that is costing Saskatchewan hundreds of millions of dollars in lost resource revenue each year.

That promise went out the window as soon as Wall became premier.

On July 10, 2008, the Wall government announced it was withdrawing a reference to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on the equalization issue, effectively ending the fight.

Before the election, Wall said reopening the Prince Albert pulp mill would “be among the top priorities” of a Saskatchewan Party government. He promised to “move heaven and earth” to get it done.

On December 21, 2009, Montreal-based Domtar announced plans to demolish the paper mill, formerly operated by Weyerhaeuser and permanently closed in 2006, putting some 700 people out of work. [Prince Albert pulp mill being dismantled (CBC News, December 22, 2009)]

Should Wall’s premiership follow the same trajectory as that of his friend, Gordon Campbell, Saskatchewan could be in for some very long, dark days.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell at 2010 Saskatoon Premier’s Dinner


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