This past week, you’ve seen our very media-savy Premier and his very media-savy backroom boys and girls pulling the wool over the eyes of Saskatchewan’s voters with his letter to the newly re0-elected President of the United States. You may rightly ask the question “What in the world is Swenson talking about this morning?” What I am talking about is Premier Wall’s letter to the US President which was also signed by the Governors of a bunch of western states that coincidentally voted Republican in the last presidential election demanding that the Keystone Pipeline be built immediately as the first piece of business by his new administration.
What was glaringly absent from the letter was the signatures of two individuals with the most to win or lose in the whole debate. Missing was the Premier of Alberta whose province’s oil would fill the pipeline and the Governor of the State of Nebraska who has the ecologically sensitive ground that forced the delay in the pipeline construction in the first place.
I think most western Canadians view pipelines as an economical and safe way to transport petroleum products and I believe that after the proper re-routing, this pipeline will probably get built. The issue that I have with the Wall letter writing exercise is that without the inclusion of both Alberta and Nebraska, this was just an attempt by our Premier to try and look good and get people’s minds off of the issues that are going on at home. There is no question that the backup of oil supplies in western Canada and the subsequent discounting of the price of western Canadian oil is hurting Mr. Wall and his Finance Minister in the pocketbook when they can least afford it. This is one of the oldest political tricks in the world to try and get the public’s mind off of the upcoming budget process by blaming someone else for your problems.
One only has to look at what is going on in our health sector where once again surgeries are being cancelled and our major hospitals are facing massive over-crowding with patients being warehoused in the hallways again to know that the government’s budget is being severely challenged.
The recent announcement by the University of Saskatchewan that they are going to have to undertake dramatic cutbacks in programming and staffing because of budget challenges mostly brought about by this Sask Party government. The new health sciences building and Children’s Hospital construction are placing huge challenges on the University of Saskatchewan which they cannot meet without sacrificing many other areas. This all points once more at the folly of the current health system and the huge bureaucratic costs that go along with it. Mr. Wall does not want people – voters and taxpayers in particular – thinking about these things so he writes letters to the US President, has a big news conference and tries to manipulate the media and the rest of us into believing that he is actually doing something. I am sure that President Obama will politely ignore Mr. Wall’s letter or send him a form letter response. I am sure that the US Ambassador to Canada will see this for what it is and advise the appropriate response which will be…thank you for your letter etc. If I were the Premier of Alberta, a province which has fought for western Canadian resource ownership and policy since Peter Lougheed in the 1970’s, I would be extremely peeved with the Premier of Saskatchewan’s publicity stunts and pedestal climbing.
This is a western Canadian issue and it speaks to the need for the western Canadian Premiers and petroleum producing companies to put their thinking hats on about how we value-add our petroleum resources and how we find different ways to export the resource. Feeding Texas Gulf Coast refineries at a discount so that large American multi-national oil companies can make large profits is not the answer for Saskatchewan or western Canada. Those large oil company profits in the United States will not help Mr. Wall manage his own budgetary process. Obviously to guarantee Saskatchewan’s rightful royalty take from oil we need to find ways of adding value to the resource by making our royalty system less sensitive to export price and by finding ways to add value to the resource here at home. Saskatchewan expects more from its political leadership than short-term band aid solutions. Political leadership would be partnering up with or encouraging companies to build further processing in this province and finding pro-Canadian ways to export our products to ourselves and off-shore markets.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.