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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Easter weekend. Easter is a time when we traditionally get together with family and friends and for those of us that are so inclined, attend the church of our choice to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We had the pleasure of entertaining our 11 month old grandson and watching him dig into his first Easter basket filled with eggs, fuzzy bunnies and a funky chick. The squeals of delight are what make it all worthwhile.

A couple of events happened in the past week that I think are very significant for the future of Saskatchewan and they both concern our natural resources. A week ago, a group of anti-nucs had their old friend and soon-to-be retired NDP MLA Pat Atkinson present a petition to the Legislative Assembly. That petition concerned Saskatchewan and the fact that a group of anti-nucs did not want this province to ever have the ability to store used uranium fuel rods. These people have spent the past few months scratching up a little over 4,000 names to put on this petition to make sure that Saskatchewan cannot add value to its uranium resource ever in the future. I suppose the recent problems in Japan with the recent earthquake which made one of their electrical generating reactors fail, was the catalyst for this petition. In fact, what the Japanese problem points out is that storing large amounts of spent fuel rods on the site of every nuclear generating plant is an accident waiting to happen. Many years ago, the NDP government of Allan Blakeney turned down the opportunity to manufacture fuel rods from our uranium resource near the town of Warman. Instead of going and finding a more suitable solution, they turned their backs on an industry which went to Ontario and has provided thousands of good jobs ever since in that province.

The Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative Party has stood on the side of developing our uranium resource and adding as much value to it as possible. We started doing this by forming Cameco Corporation from the old government Crown SMDC. Cameco has since become a hugely successful, world-wide miner and marketer of uranium and other minerals. I have been of the view since my days as Minister of Energy and Mines that we should mine, refine and market uranium products around the world. When that product has reached the end of its useful life generating electricity, we should then take it back, supply the customer with new product and then safely store the old product back where it came from in a suitable location in Saskatchewan’s great northern Canadian shield. We probably have the best rock formations in the entire world to do this in. We have the educational and technological ability to handle any part of this cycle and do it in the safest and most environmentally sound manner of anywhere in the entire world. Saskatchewan people have shown in the past that they are leaders in innovation in many fields. This can provide untold wealth, employment and technological advancement for our province for generations to come. What I found truly amazing when this petition was presented was that our Premier said immediately afterwards that he couldn’t foresee Saskatchewan being involved in the storage of spent fuel in the future at all. This from a Premier who just recently stuck his nose into the potash world, a mineral which isn’t very strategic at all, and our Sask Party Premier doesn’t even give uranium the same kind of consideration. This is because the polling said that potash had good politics for him and the politics around uranium are harder to justify in an election year. It takes courage to do the right thing. I believe that we can double and triple the value of our uranium resource by turning this circle. We will get credit from our customers from around the world by taking the right stand and at the same time, we will be taking a morally responsible attitude to our uranium resource.

The other remark concerning our resources was this past Thursday when our Sask Party Premier said that current high prices for oil was not a good thing. I didn’t notice him saying any such thing when oil hit $140 a barrel three years ago and he was busily bragging about paying down the debt of Saskatchewan in one term of government. It was the strength of our oil resource which allowed the current Sask Party government a way out after their stupid $1.9 billion miscalculation on potash two years ago. It is our oil resource which was built up under a previous PC government who pioneered horizontal drilling and helped build 2 heavy oil upgraders which allowed the previous NDP government to pay many of Saskatchewan’s bills and help our province grow. The current high bids for oil and gas properties is giving this government the ability to pay for flood damage and at the same time, spend all kinds of money on pre-election goodies. When our resources and crops were worth less than the cost of producing them, the rest of the world wasn’t crying crocodile tears for Saskatchewan. Mr. Wall should thank his lucky stars that oil is $108 a barrel because I can remember trying to govern this province and supply the needs of its citizens when it was $15 a barrel. The trick now is to spend this windfall wisely, build infrastructure and jobs for the future because there may come a day when we don’t have this luxury. This government seems more intent on simply living hand-to-mouth and letting the good times roll and taking credit for something that is really out of their hands. Let’s hope that there are no more silly comments about the price of oil being too high and not good for Saskatchewan from our Sask Party Premier.

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