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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the PC Party’s proposal to set up a Strategic Resources Review Commission. The reaction from the various media outlets was very positive and certainly the feedback from people around the province has been very positive as well. They liked the fact that the PC Party has taken a very common-sense approach. An approach that emphasises accountability by everyone in the system and an approach that will ensure Saskatchewan people have a look-see at least once every four years on their very valuable potash resource. It is very easy to go out like the NDP are doing and saying that they will simply change the royalty structure and therefore make more money available to Saskatchewan taxpayers. And of course, it is very easy for the Sask Party government to try and scare Saskatchewan taxpayers and voters with the threat of the potash companies simply packing their bags and leaving. Neither approach makes good economic sense or lets Saskatchewan people know what the details are to make good decisions. I don’t believe that either the Sask Party or the NDP want the books opened up for an in depth review because it will expose both of them for all the little side deals that they have been doing over the years and would certainly make Saskatchewan voters wonder about choosing either one of them in the next provincial election. Good public information makes for a good mining environment, makes for good accountability and means that Saskatchewan will be a good place to do business for many years to come. Let’s hope that the two parties in the Legislature take a good look at implementing our suggestion.

Another week has passed and another one of Brad Wall’s legacy projects is down the drain. And once again, it’s all the fault of the Federal Conservative Government in Ottawa. It seems that Mr. Wall and his inner circle shut down the carbon capture project which he announced with much fanfare a couple of years ago. As you remember, Mr. Wall had the Governor of Montana in for a huge announcement at the Legislature and talked about how the world would be flocking to our doorstep because of the technology Saskatchewan was going to develop. Unfortunately as was the case with the domed stadium a week earlier, Mr. Wall likes to make large glitzy announcements without first thinking about how he is going to pay for his grand schemes. Instead of looking at natural resources and advantages that we have already here like the mothballed paper plant in Prince Albert which many companies have inquired about and Domtar refuses to sell, Mr. Wall has to find something which will exclusively have his name on it. We have a nuclear industry which could include a used fuel storage site tomorrow and enhance Saskatchewan’ economy by billions of dollars, but he is afraid of the political risk involved. Mr. Wall, like the NDP before him, doesn’t seem to understand what Saskatchewan’s natural strengths are and build upon those things. When the PC government was helping to build heavy oil upgraders, nitrogen fertilizer plants and updated power stations, we knew they would stand the test of time and 20 years later, they are proving the fact. Our wood industry has suffered a total lack of imagination over the last 20 years so that this great resource of ours is not being utilized to its fullest. Maybe it’s time for our government to tell Domtar that they don’t have any more forest leases and invite someone else to come in with some imagination.

The Legislature is going in today and it seems that Saskatchewan’s natural resources, particularly oil, is giving the Sask Party government more money to spend. In fact, they are spending over $2 billion more that Mr. Calvert did in his last year as Premier. It seems from everything that I have read that even with the extra income on a summary financial basis, Saskatchewan is still running a deficit. Imagine an extra billion dollars and they are still in the glue. I am sure you will all remember that when the Sask Party was in opposition, they were adamant that the books of Saskatchewan should be done like all the other provinces in Canada and that is, on a summary financial basis. That means that the entire debt of Saskatchewan including the Crown Corporations should be reported to the people as one entity. Unfortunately it’s an election year so the Sask Party government will continue to do what the NDP did and that is, take huge dividends out of the Crown Corporations to show a balanced budget. So the consolidated fund will claim to have a surplus and the poor Crown Corporations are loaded up with debt which they will pay by charging all of us higher utility rates and the Crown’s infrastructure will continue to crumble. Wouldn’t it be nice in this last Legislative session before the next provincial election if both of these parties would agree that it was time to start telling the truth about our financial position as a province and that from now on, Saskatchewan will not stick out like a sore thumb in Canada? We will report our finances like every other province in Canada does on a summary financial basis.

You have all seen a flurry of multi-million dollar spending announcements by the Sask Party government in the last few weeks looking to buy favours and votes. Many of these announcements are simply re-hashes of ones made a couple of years ago before the $1.9 billion “oops” on potash royalties in 2009. Do not expect this flow of largess to stop because Mr. Wall is going to keep trying to find something to put his name on. Maybe the new medical evacuation helicopters will be painted in Sask Party’s green. Hopefully there will be enough money to go around to help people when they need it the most and that could be as early as this spring if the flood projections come true.

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

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