Happy Labour Day to everyone! It is appropriate that we celebrate those in Saskatchewan who, through their labour, contribute so much to our province’s well being. This obviously is a large cross-section of our families, our friends, our neighbours and those we interact with in our communities. With harvest in full swing across the province and the possibility that always exists of accidents with so many big machines and people going at full speed, I hope that everyone takes the time to work safely.
There is one thing that I find about harvest and the long hours in the field is that you get lots of time to think and listen to the radio. One thing that has really come to mind over the last couple of weeks is our Premier’s complete reversal on the possible changes to potash royalties. This is the same politician who before the last provincial election was adamant that there was no need for reviews of the way that we manage our potash resource. He constantly attacked Dwain Lingenfelter who said that with all of the mine expansion going on all of this new potash tonnage should be looked at in a different light. He totally ignored the proposal put forward by the PC Party before the last election to have a mandated review of potash royalties every four years by the Saskatchewan Legislature. Mr. Wall and his campaign manager, Bill Boyd, insisted that any talk of royalty review would amount to “royalty shock” and would drive the industry from our province. I am also sure that Mr. Wall wanted to make sure to get all of those big fat political donations from the industry before he woke up to the realty that all this mine expansion will have tremendous repercussions for the owners of this resource – the people of Saskatchewan.
Up until now through their off-shore marketing monopoly, Canpotex - the major potash producer in Saskatchewan – has been able to control price somewhat by simply shutting in production. The realty is with two new players coming into the field and billions spent on mine expansion, everyone in the business is going to be producing a lot more tonnes. Otherwise there is no point in going through this whole expansion program which will cost the taxpayers of this province billions of dollars. If royalties do not take into account tonnage instead of just the price, the owners of the resource will be severely short changed under the current system.
That is why the PC Party’s proposal of a mandated review at least once every four years with the report being presented to the Legislative Assembly rather than just the Premier and Cabinet makes imminent sense. It is extremely important that the people of this province know the true costs of producing, shipping and selling our potash resource. It is also extremely important that the voters of this province hold their elected officials accountable for the management of this resource and they cannot do that unless the facts are out in the open. We cannot be put in the place where the Premier of this province, in cahoots with the CEOs of the potash companies, can set about defining the rules of this relationship. This is not Mr. Wall’s private playground to decide what is best for you and me. That whole business around the aborted PCS takeover by BHP Billiton seems to have gone to Mr. Wall’s head. This is not something that should be the partisan-political play toy of political parties.
Saskatchewan controls 40% of the world’s potash supply. We should begin to act like the world’s biggest player and manage the resource accordingly. Mr. Wall insisted that we needed more MLAs in the Saskatchewan Legislature to do the increased workload. Having our potash resource and its royalties reported to the Legislature would give these $90,000 a year people something to do that was really meaningful. If these elected representatives have nothing more to do than hold up their hand when Mr. Wall tells them to, then we might as well replace them with trained monkeys and buy a few truckloads of bananas to keep them happy because it would be a heck of a lot cheaper for us taxpayers.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.