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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Later this morning, the PC Party of Saskatchewan will be issuing a news release pertaining to the ongoing smart meter fiasco at SaskPower and the continuing saga of buck passing, finger pointing and belated apologies coming from both SaskPower and the Saskatchewan government. In the release, the PC Party is calling for the appointment of a retired Queen’s Bench Judge under the Inquiries Act so that the ratepayers of SaskPower and the taxpayers of Saskatchewan – who are one and the same because of SaskPower’s monopoly – can get the answers they deserve about where their money has gone.

I am sure there will be some in this province who think this is too strong a measure to take for this particular problem. The Sask Party government will want this matter to simply dry up and go away and have people forget all about it. The President of SaskPower has publicly said that the Corporation is “sorry” for spending $47 million plus to get us back our old meters. The sad fact is the utilities rate review panel will continue to grant SaskPower rate increases for the next several years.

Our democratic institutions are based on some very important principles. Those principles primarily revolve around how the citizens’ money can be spent and what controls there are on the authority of the crown i.e. elected governments have so that the democratic wishes are followed. One of the key components of our democracy is an element called “ministerial responsibility”. It is based on the premise that if Ministers of the Crown mishandle, misuse, lie about or in other ways not adequately perform their duties when public monies are at risk, they have the obligation to resign. This used to be something that was taken very seriously by all levels of democratically elected governments in Canada.

The indications from the Premier are that no one in his government is responsible for this huge expenditure and it must be somebody else. The company that sold the so-called “smart meters” to SaskPower says there is nothing wrong with their hardware or their technology and the government of Saskatchewan can go and blow smoke.

It is obvious with all of this finger pointing and buck passing that this issue must be put into the hands of someone independent with the proper authority to review all of the pertinent documents, emails, financial data and board minutes to come up with the answers because after all, 8 peoples’ houses could have burnt down because someone did not put a stop to this after the first melt down and small fire.

For two weeks now, the NDP Opposition has been calling for an independent review but has not offered up any solutions as to how that would be accomplished. When it comes to handling Crown Corporations, our NDP Opposition always seems torn between doing the right thing and protecting one of their “family” of Crown Corporations. The NDP view is always that the Crowns can do no wrong. Because of SaskPower’s monopoly, it is even more important that proper due diligence be done so that all ratepayers – big or small – can feel comfortable with the service provided and know that we are getting the best bang for our buck.

We cannot simply go and sign up with another provider and let market forces bring discipline to the market place. We pay what we are told to pay. This process that the PC Party has called for today can act quickly, it can act very cost effectively and it can provide answers to the necessary questions that taxpayers and SaskPower customers need answers for and do it in a very cost effective manner. A respected retired member of the judiciary working in concert with the Provincial Auditor’s office can get the answers to all of the questions I’ve mentioned above and do it in a non-partisan manner.

It may be as simple as insufficiently trained installers working with older wiring on certain types of housing and structures. And if that were the case, then the government’s decision to out source those installation contracts could be further examined or it may be a far more complicated answer but whatever it is, the answer needs to be provided so that this huge financial loss cannot occur again in SaskPower or any other Crown Corporation that has members of Cabinet responsible for their oversight.

Your feedback is welcome on anything you see in the Monday Morning Commentary. Please send your comments to contact @pcsask.ca. If you know of anyone that would be interested in receiving this by email, please forward me their email address. Also – don’t forget to check out our website at pcsask.ca.

These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.

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