Before making my comments on the Saskatchewan uranium industry, I would like to congratulate a couple of Progressive Conservative candidates. The first is Ken Grey who is contesting the Regina Northeast by election on behalf of the Party. Ken is a newcomer to the PC Party but I think he exemplifies the movement we are seeing across this province where people who previously supported other parties see the consistency of the PC message of being fiscally conservative and socially responsible and of having a long-term vision and not simply living from election to election. Ken is a paratransit driver for the City of Regina and certainly sees the effects of a Sask Party government who rewards their friends with taxpayers' dollars and have squandered the rich resources of this province instead of looking after some of our most vulnerable citizens.
The other PC candidate I wish to congratulate is Paul Carroll, the Mayor of Bienfait, who ran for the party in the last provincial election in Estevan and is seeking the leadership of our Party on November 3rd. The Sask Party have put the rookie MLA from the Estevan constituency in cabinet over the heads of many other long-serving SP MLAs to try and ward off Paul Carroll's run in the next provincial election in the constituency of Estevan. Obviously, the PC message is starting to resonate.
A few weeks ago, Saskatchewan witnessed massive layoffs of the people who mine and mill uranium for Cameco Corporation. Six hundred jobs is a big hit for Saskatchewan. This job loss hits very hard in our northern First Nations communities. It hits hard in Prince Albert and it hits hard in Saskatoon where Cameco's head office is.
I had the privilege of being the Minister responsible for taking the newly formed Cameco Corporation to the marketplace while serving under the last PC government in Saskatchewan. Cameco was formed from previous federal and provincial crown corporations to make a stronger and bigger market-driven company that would be a dominant player in the world uranium business and contribute royalties and taxes and employment to the people of Saskatchewan on a long-term basis.
The PC government of Saskatchewan retained 20% of the shares so the government would have a seat at the table as this new business venture unfolded. Saskatchewan had mined uranium for a very long time before Cameco came along. It had done so in order to supply the development of nuclear- generated electricity around the world.
Unfortunately, succeeding NDP governments took a short-sighted view of the uranium industry and sold off those shares in order to have balanced budgets
just before provincial elections. There was also a large group within the NDP who I shall refer to as the "glow in the dark crowd" who have been against nuclear energy ever since the dropping of an atomic bomb on Japan in order to end the 2nd World War without massive bloodshed.
Uranium is a commodity like any of the others produced in Saskatchewan. It goes through the ups and downs of commodity markets. One way to negate that fluctuation would have been to complete the circle in uranium mining and marketing. When Cameco was formed, many forward-thinking individuals in all walks of life dreamed of the economic opportunity Saskatchewan would have if we mined, milled and refined uranium, sold it to customers around the world on long-term contracts and then when it was finished providing electrical generation in countries around the world, the spent fuel would be shipped back to Saskatchewan and put into long-term safe storage very close to the same ground it came out of.
The back end of those contracts would be worth as much or more than the front end and would allow Saskatchewan production to continue even at low prices because the financial rewards would be more evenly spread. Saskatchewan and Canada would also be able to guarantee that none of this nuclear material would find its way into the hands of those who would use it for evil purposes and further weaponizing our globe. We would be contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases and would become a center of excellence in a whole range of educational and scientific skill sets as new uses were found for the spent fuel and the handling of this material worldwide.
One of the major costs that electrical utilities using nuclear power have on their rate base i.e. their paying customers is the storage of spent fuel. Many of these generating plants are in countries with far denser populations than Saskatchewan and therefore these costs are extremely high. Saskatchewan and its uranium industry, I believe, would have no end of customers willing to enter into contracts that would complete the circle and there would be winners on all sides.
The PC Party before and during the last provincial election championed things like waste heat for alternative energy generation. We fully support and have talked about taking the restrictions off of SaskPower for items such as flare gas, solar energy and other renewables which could be developed by individuals, communities and cooperatives. We also believe and know that the safe generation of electrical power by the nuclear option will be occurring for decades to come around the world.
Saskatchewan should be a leader and get its share of the financial rewards. The Sask Party government had the opportunity while Saskatchewan enjoyed the best economic times to develop this vision further. The monies squandered by the SP government on tax credits to mature potash mines, the Regina bypass
and carbon capture at Boundary Dam could have built this dream and we would not be looking at the devastation of our uranium industry and the communities associated with them. None of those items and the billions spent on them in the future, in my view, will be contributing to Saskatchewan's economic health or employment base like the full development of our uranium industry could have done.
We cannot succumb to fear and misinformation and four-year election cycles if we are going to build this province for the long term and in a sustainable way.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.