I’m sure most of you are aware of the news reports by now that shows that the Canada Revenue Agency is going after Cameco Corporation for over $700 million in past taxes because it appears that Cameco had been sheltering sale proceeds in a Swiss subsidiary.
Switzerland is not a uranium mining country but is famous for a banking system which is very discreet and harbours money from all over the world because of that discretion. The courts will ultimately decide this one but the optics for Cameco and the Saskatchewan government are not good. These revenues go all the way back to 2008 which means that the Wall government was in charge for this whole process.
I’m sure that most people by now have forgotten that when the former Progressive Conservative government of Saskatchewan privatized the Saskatchewan Mining Development Corporation and joined it with the federal Eldorado Nuclear to form Cameco that 20% of the shares in the company were left in the hands of the government of Saskatchewan. It was felt at the time that it would be prudent for the Crown to maintain a significant portion of the newly privatized company because of all of the sensitivities which are involved with the uranium mining, refining and ultimately, nuclear power generation issues. That public window to the uranium mining industry, however, was closed by succeeding NDP governments of Saskatchewan who sold off the government shares in Cameco on three separate occasions just prior to elections to maintain the facade that they had balanced budgets. So for the short term political needs of the NDP, the Saskatchewan shareholders – the people – no longer have a window into the workings of Cameco Corporation.
Even though the government is no longer a shareholder, someone should have been aware within the government of Saskatchewan that something was amiss. To put this into perspective, the amount of money that we are talking about is almost equivalent to the construction of 2 new hospitals like the one currently being built in Moose Jaw. This amount of money - $370 million – would build three new bridges across the Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. This amount of money would more than have built the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. And this amount of money would twin a great deal of the highway between Estevan and Regina. We are not talking about “chump change” here.
When the Department of Finance puts out its proposals to the various departments for its next budget cycle, the people in Energy and Mines should have a good handle on how many pounds of uranium were produced in the province that year. That amount then would go into the formula and approximate numbers would be developed for the following budget. This is my old department and I can assure you that the officials in that department always have a good handle on what is going on in their responsibility. There is either some serious ministerial incompetence or neglect or plain indifference going on in this case for this amount of Saskatchewan produced uranium and its sales not to be noticed over the last 4 or 5 budget cycles.
If there was not ministerial incompetence either with Ministers Boyd or McMillan then there is some political agenda of Wall’s here at work with the uranium business. The fact that it took over a week for the Premier to comment on this item after it was revealed by the CRA tells me that there was some scrambling going on to find out answers. This amount of money is after all many times larger than what Mr. Wall was crying about with the BHP Billiton’s takeover of Potash Corp. and the lost taxes that would accrue on an annual basis because of that takeover. That crusade served Mr. Wall very well prior to the last election. You would think that the province foregoing this kind of cash would have got him back on his stump almost immediately but obviously it didn’t fit his political agenda at the present time.
Maybe if this had come out before the next election, Mr. Wall would have been more newsworthy taking on the infidelity between Cameco and Switzerland. Where the NDP opposition has been in this whole thing is a total mystery and I guess that is why they will be in opposition for a great long time. This province needs an alternative to the Sask Party to watch out for the taxpayers’ money.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.