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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

One of the things that truly amazed me when I was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Energy and Mines was that I had the authority to shut down any pipeline in the province if it was determined there were issues of public safety. Obviously it's a power that no Minister of the Crown would take lightly because of the impact it would have on that particular pipeline's suppliers and customers. It would also have ramifications on international trade because so many of our pipelines cross the 49th parallel into the United States.

The recent Husky Oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River and the Sask Party government's refusal to open up their investigation to the public is a real dereliction of responsibility. Because of the number of pipelines which cross streams, rivers and lakes many of which contribute to the potable water supply of tens of thousands of our citizens, it is important that we get this right.

Energy and pipeline companies need to know that government will use its power of public safety protection if they are not being responsible corporate citizens. This is the first large-scale spill affecting our potable water resources in a very long time. We have watched with some degree of smugness - I think - when other jurisdictions have faced similar circumstance and have had to bring about fairly drastic measures to rectify the spills.

Much of the public anger currently being directed at new pipeline construction can be attributed to these spills and lack of oversight. If there is a fundamental flaw in Husky's response procedures or maintenance regimes, we all need to know about it. Brad Wall's ministers have the same capability as what I and my predecessors had 25 years ago. We need to know that besides being a huge proponent of pipelining our oil and gas resources that Mr. Wall is also going to stand behind our environment and water resources and not look the other way just to ensure shareholder value for some oil company or one that is a big donor to the Sask Party.

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