Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mountains and Molehills

Since the election campaign began in Saskatchewan, the election has been framed mostly around the NDP's commitment to review potash royalties to increase the return for the people of Saskatchewan. The SK Party has condemned this idea, and gone as far as to suggest that Saskatchewan's potash companies would jump ship if such a review took place.

Lingenfelter countered this argument with the idea that no company would walk away from a $2 billion dollar arrangement simply because they weren't making $3 billion. Which, is a pretty good argument. But, allow me to add a few more arguments.

Let's start with an exploration of other potash options.

It's a well known fact that Saskatchewan has an incredible amount of potash; and some would argue that Saskatchewan's potash is among the finest (if not the finest) in the world. As such, a company turning their back on mining a higher quality potash because of a five-cent increase in royalties is a bad argument. That would be like an oil company closing down derricks that produce regular crude in favour of only harvesting 'sour crude' deposits.

Then we come to the longevity argument. As mentioned above, Saskatchewan has a ridiculous amount of potash. For example, the K-1 and K-2 mines in Esterhazy have been in operation for almost 50 years. Now, that is a remarkable amount of time for a mining operation to be open. Obviously, it is in a mining company's best interest to open a mine where there is a great supply to be mined.

If potash companies were to leave Saskatchewan, there are other options and places for them to go...But will those areas grant the same kind of longevity to the mines found in Saskatchewan? If a mining company has an option between opening a mine that would last 50 years (but where the government takes a higher royalty rate) VS opening a mine that would last 10 years with a lower royalty rate; it's a no-brainer.

Cost effectiveness says that it is cheaper in the long run to establish the longer running mine, than it would be to open a mine for a few years, tap local resources, and then be forced to develop ANOTHER mine. As such, the issue of longevity seems to favour Saskatchewan heavily. As a world supplier of potash, and a major supplier at that, Saskatchewan is the best option for potash investment; regardless of the royalty rate.

As such, it is doubtful that any mining company would turn their back on Saskatchewan simply because royalty rates went up to a ten cents on a dollar. I'm sure there's more reasons than the ones I've listed above, but those are the two major ones that I can think of.

And that brings us to a bit of fortuitous timing.

Today, PotashCorp's third-quarter earnings were released for all of Saskatchewan to hear. The company posted an incredible $826 million dollars in profits. Now, if my math is correct (it probably isn't, since math isn't one of my strong suits) that means Saskatchewan received $41,300,000 in potash royalties from the company.

That means PotashCorp made $784,700,000 in profit. Brad Wall suggests that PotashCorp reinvested $590,000,000 in infrastructure and expansions. If that's true, PotashCorp still cleared  $194,000,000.

(Simplified process:
Total PotashCorp profit [826,000,000] MULTIPLIED by Government Royalty Rate [.05] = government profit

Total PotashCorp profit [826,000,000] MINUS Government Profit [41,300,000] = PotashCorp Profit

PotashCorp profit [784,700,000] MINUS expansion cost [590,000,000] = final PotashCorp profits) 

That's a fair chunk of change. So, let's see what would have happened if the royalty review had been in effect.

Under this increased royalty, the Saskatchewan Government would have made $82,600,000. That means PotashCorp would have made $743,400,000. Take away the expansion cost of $590,000,000 and PotashCorp has a final profit of $153,400,000.

(Simplified process:
Total PotashCorp profit [826,000,000] MULTIPLIED by Government Royalty Rate [.10] = government profit

Total PotashCorp profit [826,000,000] MINUS Government profit [82,600,000] = PotashCorp profit

PotashCorp profit [743,400,000] MINUS expansion cost [590,000,000] = PotashCorp final profit)

That makes a total difference of profit of $41,300,000 under the potash review. Let's face it, $41,300,000 is a drop in the bucket when your company is making $826,000,000 a year. And even if they did spend $590,000,000 in expansions, then a profit of $153,400,00 FOR ONE QUARTER of operating is a damned fine impressive profit.

As such, from a mathematical standpoint the overall loss to PotashCorp is not as bad as Brad Wall is making it sound. And if a company is going to leave because they're making $41,300,000 less than they were before, but still made $743,400,000 (after the government's cut) then they need to readjust their priorities...

Now, with all that headache inducing math out of the way, we can move on to the molehill part of this post.

I mentioned when we talked about the leader's debate that Brad Wall brought no real substance forward when compared to Lingenfelter and the NDP Platform. Well, Wall made his own major announcement today and it fizzled almost immediately after he spoke it.

I am talking of course about Wall's idea to move the school calendar forward to make K - 12 start after Labour Day, as opposed to the way it current works in which there is a small break a week after the school season starts.

While some have said it's a good idea; many others have come out to condemn the idea. Namely, school boards and teachers have condemned the move since Wall has proposed the idea without any consultation with them. Furthermore, the idea of what happens with those lost days begins to rear its head. Some have suggested that in order to make up for the lost week, the government will be forced to rob students (and therefore teachers, and parents) of another break somewhere down the line; with many suggesting that the week long February Break could be on the chopping board as a means of balancing the times table.

Now, why do I mention this in the same post as potash figures?

I mention it because it is the perfect contrast between the SK Party and the NDP in this campaign. The NDP is proposing bold new ideas that will have a major impact on the lives of people in Saskatchewan. While the SK Party is proposing ideas that barely register on the political radar...I mean, seriously, did anyone suspect that moving the school calendar by a week would become an election issue?

Yet another example of how the NDP is planning a long term strategy to move our province forward, while the SK Party meanders and hems and haws at actual ideas and strategies that will REALLY move Saskatchewan forward.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Debatable Debate

Like many people in Saskatchewan, I sat down tonight to watch the Leader's Debate.

For the most part, the debate was rather reserved. Both leaders took a few small swipes at each other, but no real 'attacks' came out during the length of the debate...Which was a nice change of pace, and unexpected. So, let's spend a minute exploring the tone and nature of the debate and then we'll talk about some of the things that came out during the debate.

When the campaign started, the NDP was determined to run a positive campaign without attacking the SK Party or Brad Wall. For the most part, the NDP has succeeded on this front. Lingenfelter's tone and interaction with Wall was quite reserved and focused mostly on NDP platform issues over personal attacks.

Brad Wall was also fairly reserved during the debate, though he did use the opportunity to attack Lingenfelter on a few occasions. Wall mostly quoted the SK Party attack ad against Lingenfelter, referring to Lingenfelter's past and suspect allegations against him from actions taken from previous NDP governments. But, for the most part, Wall didn't personally attack Lingenfelter directly.

That said though, Wall seemed underprepared for the debate. Lingefelter kept his head up, eyes at the camera or the moderators or Wall; while Wall often looked down at his podium. In fact, Wall clearly was being coached through electronic methods. Look to his quote from former NDP Minister Andrew Thompson; Wall quoted it verbatim and looked down at the podium the entire time...

And given the nature of the quote and the question, Wall couldn't have prepared this statement ahead of time. So, Wall clearly was underprepared and perhaps a little worried about this debate; and it clearly comes across through his mannerisms.

That isn't to say that Lingenfelter didn't have his own stumbles in the debate. In fact, within the first ten minutes, I was concerned about the performance we were about to see from Lingenfelter. However, after a rocky start, Lingenfelter found his stride and was really able to get the NDP message across and promote the positive change that the NDP is working towards in our province.

So, in the long run (if only based on who came across as prepared) Lingenfelter clearly walked away with this debate in his corner.

That brings us to the substance of the debate.

Lingenfelter wins this category too; but before you call me biased allow me to explain. Throughout the debate, Lingenfelter constantly presented planks from the NDP platform; specifically hammering home messages of potash reviews, rent controls, and the school childrens' dental program. Now, quick, name one proposal Wall talked about.

The only one I can remember is his answer to post-secondary education; the program which would give students who qualify $500 for four years; or $2,000. Or, less than the cost of 1/2 a year of study at the University of Saskatchewan.

Other than that, Wall introduced no major campaign thoughts but talked vaguely about 'staying the course' and keeping Saskatchewan on track...Without any substance. Wall hammered Lingenfelter on costing for certain campaign promises; but Wall mentioned no promises or real ideas that would keep Saskatchewan 'on track.'

In this way, Lingenfelter presented the stronger case and better policy options in the debate. Wall brought no real ideas forward and stuck to vague talking points that provided no substance. So, that's 2 - 0 in favour of Lingenfelter.

In my opinion, Lingenfelter clearly won the debate. In a confrontation that was hyped up to be a battle between Wall's style and Lingenfelter's substance, the debate was turned on its head when Lingenfelter encompassed both and Wall was stuck looking inexperienced and at a loss.

Whether or not this translates into a bump for the NDP remains to be seen, but tonight was the night when Dwain Lingenfelter went from Leader of the Opposition to Premier of Saskatchewan.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Omission Here, A Touch-Up There...

Throughout the course of this election campaign, the Saskatchewan Party has been playing fast and loose with the history of our province. Commercial after commercial, press release after press release, the SK Party has been re-writing the history of our province and I for one am sick and tired of it. So, let's have an actual history lesson without any political spin, okay?

I know some of you will say, this is a political blog and I'm a biased NDPer...Valid points, but I am going to make sure that we stick to facts and not talking points.

The SK Party platform, which contains little substance; included the unusual step of including a small grey box portion on one page bashing NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter. Its one thing to bash a leader with paid advertisements, but I don't think I've ever seen one in a party platform before...

Anyways, the box contains much of the same information found on the website the SK Party has set up attacking Dwain's record. We've gone over some of these points in prior postings, so we won't delve too deeply on those issues again.

What I will delve into is the defence that the SK Party has created for themselves on why they deserve another chance to form government.

Let's start with the most basic one: The SK Party has long maintained the Saskatchewan is in a boom. Furthermore, they have maintained the idea that all of the good times in the past few years have been a direct result of their government.

If true, that would be an impressive statement. For a government to turn around an economy in a little under four years...It's unheard of! And it's untrue.

The SK Party platform specifically points out the fact that Saskatchewan is a have province. The wording and the omission of some details make it sounds as though this is a direct result of the SK Party being in power...

Let's think back for a moment.

It was around 2003, maybe 2004, when then Premier Lorne Calvert called a press conference. Lorne was smiling, as I recall, as he told reporters in the room that Saskatchewan was now a have province in terms of the federal equalization program. Though the SK Party has neglected to mention this fact at any point during their campaign.

Heck, even after their election in 2007 (just as the economy was heating up) the SK Party took credit for the economy boom only days after their election. Like it or not, the SK Party has to admit that part of the reason the province started to strive was because of the management of the NDP. Yes, it might not help them politically, but it is the truth.

And 16 years of financial stewardship that pays off is a hell of a lot more believable than a party reversing years of economic turmoil within three days of being elected.

The second thing we have to look at is the SK Party attacks on the NDP Platform. The SK Party has attacked the NDP for the spending it is projecting in their platform, and warns residents of the province that their campaign, promises, and spending are going to take us back to the 1980s...

What are they leaving out?

In addition to leaving out the projected increased revenue from a better potash deal (Come Brad, even you thought we could make a billion dollars off a potash at one time), the SK Party is neglecting the fact that the NDP wasn't in power during the 1980s.

The Progressive Conservatives were. And what happened to those crazy PCs? Well, some of them went to jail for stealing from the public purse. Others joined forces with disaffected Liberals to form the Saskatchewan Party; one of whom (Don Toth) had served in the Devine Government of the 1980s.

So, let's recap that for a moment, shall we? The PCs were in power in the 1980s. Many of those who serve in the SK Party today have links to the 1980s PC Government; including Brad Wall, who worked as a ministerial aide. And now, the SK Party has come out swinging against the 1980s government that racked up massive debt, and was besieged by other problems...But that government shared stripes with the SK Party, not the NDP.

In fact, the Devine Government used the same methodologies used by the SK Party; in regards to view points on privatization and tax levels. So, these policies were disastrous in the 1980s and led to the near financial collapse of our province...Yet, they are view points shared and espoused by the SK Party.

Confused yet?

The SK Party is attacking the Devine Government, but at the same time uses similar thought and ideological processes to form their own policies. And yet, they're making it sound like the NDP is the problem.

In fact, the SK Party doesn't mention that it was the PCs in power in the 1980s. They simply mention debt levels and reckless spending and say that the NDP's platform will recreate this situation...All the while trying to make it sound like it was the NDP who did it in the 1980s.

Frankly, I am getting sick and tired of the way that the SK Party is attempting to rewrite history and pull the wool over the eyes of residents of Saskatchewan. I've mentioned before on this blog the need to improve political discourse if we have any hope of seeing democracy live to a ripe old age; but with electoral tactics like this, it seems the SK Party is all in favour of pulling the life support cord on democratic debate and facts.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Scott Muses: Choose Your Saskatchewan

I'm still digesting the NDP platform release, as well as the announcements and headlines that have been made over the past week...I'm also dealing with one hell of a cold that is getting worse by the day and robbing me of a lot of free time and earmarked time for political involvement.

As such, this won't be a recap or facts post, but rather one of rather humdingers of an editorial. First thing, I'd like to thank The Jurist for his recent 'shout out' to my last post regarding the Sask Party's attack ad on Dwain Lingenfelter. As many of you are aware, a Nexen former CEO has stepped forward and said that Lingenfelter wouldn't have had the authority to make the decision to move the Wascana Energy office from Regina to Calgary. Despite this, the Sask Party continues to make their claims and have Bill Boyd suggesting that he was personally lobbied by Lingenfelter back in 2001...

Yes, because we're going to believe a man from the party who created the attack ad. Boyd either needs to produce some proof that Lingenfelter lobbied him back in 2001, or the Sask Party is going to have to let this issue come to a gentle rest...Though their current actions suggest that they plan on locking their jaws on this issue and putting fingers in their ears and humming very loudly when someone tries to tell them differently.

No word yet on the other points I made from that post; from either the mainstream media or the two parties, if only because they don't wish to dwell on this commercial any longer than we have to. But as stated before, that ad is filled with half-truths manipulated to sell a specific story; but when you have the full truth, the story becomes a very different thing altogether.

Now, I'd like to talk to you all for a moment about the future of our province...Since that seems to be the argument both political parties are focusing on. Hence, the name of this post. This election is about more than personality, it is indeed about choosing the road for Saskatchewan's future. Like the Robert Frost poem, we may find ourselves a few years older reflecting on the road not taken.

So, let's talk some substance, shall we?

In the slew of campaign releases, we have seen a very different approach between the NDP and the Saskatchewan Party in this election. The NDP has put forward programs and ideas, along with the means to pay for them. While the SK Party has introduced a series of 'mail-in rebates' (as I like to call them) that tend to only benefit people who can already afford an initial investment.


Allow me to explain on that one. For the most part, the SK Party has not really put forward any new initiatives or ideas in this campaign. And the ideas they have put forward, well, they usually leave a lot left to be desired. I say so because the SK Party has put forward ideas that are not having a major impact on the broad spectrum.

The majority of their spending promises comes in the form of tax rebates and credits. If you spend $____ on in this area, the government will give you $_____. A perfect example is the Registered Education Savings Plans, or RESPs. The SK Party will chip in an extra $250 if you max out a one year RESP to help pay for your child's college tuition in the future.

The problem with this is that there are many families in the province struggling to get by; and these families cannot afford to invest in RESPs, which leave them out in the cold. And then there's their consolation prize, a $2,000 one time scholarship for eligible high school graduates to put towards their college tuition.

How much does the SK Party think it costs to go to college? Well, allow me to inform you. I took 1 semester, or half a year, of university last year to get some prerequisites to a program I'm applying to. The cost of that half year was a $2,400. That means these eligible high school students aren't even getting enough to buy 1/2 a year of study at Saskatchewan universities. Keep in mind, that's only half a year. All in all, with textbooks, a student is likely to pay close to $5,200 a year for just a bachelor's program.

And that's not including cost of living (housing, food, clothes, etc.). So, this program is effectively useless as it provides no real help to those who are already struggling to pay to afford university.

This is in direct contrast to the NDP plan to put a freeze back on tuition (which the SK Party let die in 2007). Also, the NDP would raise the maximum allowed income of parents when children apply for Saskatchewan student loans (effectively, getting rid of the 'hell of the middle-ground' where parents are still too poor to be able to pay for their childrens' education, but too rich to qualify for government backed loans).

Effectively, what does this highlight?

What it highlights is the very different realities that NDP supporters and SK Party supporters exist in. The SK Party believes its own hype; that Saskatchewan is booming and everyone in the province is better off now than they were ten years ago. If that's true, then why was food bank usage up last year in our province? Why, to the best of my knowledge, did the Saskatoon food bank run out of food last Christmas?

Why are people in this province having to choose between having a roof over their head or food in their belly? Why are people having to choose between buying medications or making a home heating payment? Why are renters continuing to see massive rent increases, but no major building modifications to make their living atmosphere reflect the rent they are paying?

Saskatchewan is booming, in some regards, but not for everyone. And it's a reality that the SK Party refuses to accept.

Whereas the NDP is willing to say that things are going well, but they could be going better. Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.' And that is the mindset the NDP is using.

Saskatchewan deserves to boom for everyone who lives here; not just those who already exist at the top. More needs to be done to make sure the people of Saskatchewan get to experience the best possible quality of life that can be afforded to them. The NDP wants this to be a reality for everyone in Saskatchewan; while the SK Party wants to help those who already have the means to help themselves.

As mentioned, this election is about choosing your Saskatchewan. You can live in the land of sunshine and lollipops the SK Party believes in; or you can accept reality, roll up your sleeves, and help make that delusion a reality.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Setting the Record Straight

There are times when I wonder if I've made the right decision with my life; by which I mean, to become the political junkie that I am. Nothing makes me wonder more about this than when I see parties take out 'attack ads' on the other guys.

Now, I've talked a bit about attack ads before on the blog...But since the Saskatchewan Party continues to inundate the airwaves with attack ads against Dwain Lingenfelter, I suppose it is worth talking about again.

While sitting down and watching TV after a long afternoon and evening of canvassing, I sat down and was blasted by two different, but similar, attack ads from the Saskatchewan Party against Dwain Lingenfelter. Of course, the advertisement directed viewers to check out a website based around Dwain's record.

Needless to say, this looks a lot like an attempt to follow the popular s**t harper did website tha popped up in the last federal election. Although, since it was done with party blessing, obviously expletives are not used in the web domain. Now, I'm not going to post a link to this website. If only because the facts and figures on it are of questionable accuracy.

Instead, I'm going to paste some the claims here and we can talk for a moment about why they're completely off base. Then, once we've picked apart a few of these claims, we'll talk about attack ads in general.

"Lingenfelter says he wants more head office jobs in Saskatchewan, but when he went to work for Nexen he moved their head office and his own job from Regina to Calgary.
  • When times were tougher in Saskatchewan, Lingenfelter quit his own NDP government and moved to Calgary to become an oil company lobbyist for Nexen.
  • Right after Lingenfelter went to work for Nexen as a paid lobbyist, the NDP changed the law to allow Nexen (which used to be the government-owned Crown Corporation, SaskOil) to move its head office from Regina to Calgary.
  • At the time, the NDP promised that Nexen's head office would stay in Regina.
Let's explore this one, since it sticks out the most to me.

So, here's the first problem: Dwain Lingenfelter left Saskatchewan, as such, he doesn't deserve to be Premier. That's basically the argument be made by this sentence. Essentially, the Saskatchewan Party seems to be making the argument that leaving Saskatchewan makes you ineligible for public office.

Surely, there's no hypocrisy in the Saskatchewan Party ranks...Right?

Enter Wayne Elhard, candidate in Cypress Hills. According to the Saskatchewan Party website bio:
"Wayne is a Saskatchewan native son, who obtained most of his education in Alberta. He graduated from high school in Medicine Hat, obtained a B.A. in history and philosophy from the University of Lethbridge, and later earned a Master's Degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas."

So, he was most educated outside of the province. He spent a lot of time outside of the province. Heck, he even worked OUTSIDE of the province.

"Wayne also worked as a personnel recruiter for one of Canada's leading recruiting and consulting firms. Based in Edmonton, he worked on behalf of many of the nation's foremost engineering and construction companies, recruiting professional personnel. It was that job which helped form his views on the significance of economic growth and the importance of labour mobility."

Yet, no one is calling Wayne Elhard an 'opportunist' or attacking his motivations for entering the public service in Saskatchewan. Well, I suppose some might say I'm attacking him now...But that's besides the point. Why is it okay for for Mr. Elhard to serve Saskatchewan, but we question Dwain Lingenfelter for wanting to do the same thing?

And it's not just Elhard; Prince Albert Carlton Candidate Darryl Hickie was born in Winnipeg. Prince Albert Northcote Canadidate Victoria Jurgens received her MBA from Athabasca University, a university located in Alberta. Regina Lakeview Candidate Bob Hawkins, "...has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Canon Law from St. John’s College, University of Manitoba and holds degrees in law, economics and history from Oxford, Yale, the Panthéon-Sorbonne, Toronto and Manitoba." Gasp, many of those schools are outside Saskatchewan!

I can assure you, there's plenty of Saskatchewan Party members who have lived, worked, and studied outside of Saskatchewan. Yet their time abroad is not being called into question; which is quite audacious considering it is the Saskatchewan Party itself who is most vocal into calling notice to Dwain's time outside of Saskatchewan.

So, I think I've managed to pop the bubble of 'someone who left Saskatchewan doesn't belong in politics'...Let's move on to the next point.

The Saskatchewan Party website suggests that Lingenfelter had a personal hand in moving what was left of' 'SaskOil' out of the province and into Alberta. Let's explore what's wrong with that sentence.

For starters, the SK Party website mentions that SaskOil used to be a Crown Corporation. They leave out the bit where it was privatized in 1986 by the Grant Devine Government. They also suggest that Nexen, the company that was formed when Wascana Energy Inc was BOUGHT OUT by Canadian Occidental in 1997 was moved out of Saskatchewan.

Well, for starters, Canadian Occidental was based out of Calgary which was owned by a mostly American board.

So, we have a Calgary based company in charge of what used to be a Saskatchewan based oil company, which used to be a crown corporation but was introduced to privatization by the Devine Government...

And the SK Party has the audacity to suggest it was the NDP who moved towards destroying SaskOil?

Of course, it is true that the NDP government repealed the Wascana Energy Act which more or less kept the office in Regina and made the board of directors 50% Saskatchewan residents. Though, let's keep in mind that the government sold its shares in Wascana Energy to Canadian Occidental in 1997.

But, let's examine something else as well.

What was Lingenfelter's job with Nexen? Well, according to his bio he was in a Vice-President in charge of Government Relations. What does that mean? It means it was his job to interact with government officials on behalf of the company. From what I know of Dwain's personal history, these types of interactions occurred outside of Canada; in places such as Yemen, and Colombia.

There is no proof, written or otherwise, that Dwain ever lobbied the Saskatchewan Government on behalf of Nexen. As such, the claim that he moved to the company and a year later the Wascana Energy Act was repealed is a bit of a straw man argument and hearsay of the worst kind.

Keep in mind, as well, the SK Party is blaming Lingenfelter personally for this. Yet, at the time, he'd been out of government and Saskatchewan politics for a year.

So, why did the NDP government of the time write off the Wascana Energy Act? That's a question I can't answer. I don't know why...But I can guess. At the time, it was likely considered odd that the government of Saskatchewan was legislating the purview of an independent company that existed outside of Saskatchewan.

Keep in mind, the Saskatchewan Government had no shares in Wascana Oil at the time and Canadian Occidental/Nexen was the majority shareholder. Now, I know businesses...They don't like being told what they can and cannot do by someone who has no stake in the company. And most people would say that the government had no right legislating Wascana Oil given that they didn't have a stake in it.

As such, it seems possible to me that the government realized the awkward position they were in. And either Nexen was getting ready to challenge them over how their company was being run...or some other type of situation. This blog is not really designed for speculation over the hypothetical, so draw your own conclusions.

Effectively, the Saskatchewan Government was already out of Wascana Oil in the late 90s; the repealing of the Wascana Energy Act in 2001 was the recognition of this fact and nothing more. Perhaps they had an agreement with Nexen to keep the office if the act was repealed, and Nexen simply disregarded the terms...Or perhaps the government of the time allowed the office to be closed based on projections and figures that this blogger does not have access to.

Either way, all of this occurred outside of Lingenfelter's watch and to try and tie him to it is simply absurd.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg...I had planned only to refute those claims, but there's more hypocrisy that needs to be pointed out.

"In an October 26, 2005 Leader Post article entitled Lingenfelter Campaigns for Nuclear Plant, Lingenfelter said, "If Tommy Douglas were here, [nuclear power] would be exactly what he would be doing."

What did the Saskatchewan Party leave out of this quotation:

"And his idea is getting some qualified support from some unlikely sources including Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall, Liberal Leader David Karwacki and even former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool President Garf Stevenson who all say it's a notion worth exploring."

That's right! In 2005, when Lingenfelter was musing the idea of building a nuclear reactor to supply power to Alberta Oil Sands development, then Opposition Leader Brad Wall agreed with the idea.

So, apparently, it was alright in 2005...But now it's not?

Now, I don't support nuclear power...If only because of the problem with what to do with nuclear waste. So, I wouldn't agree with either leader if they wanted to pursue nuclear power. But let's look at the most recent NDP energy proposals:

The NDP has committed themselves to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. There is no mention of nuclear power anywhere in the NDP energy platform. Yet, Brad Wall was gung-ho about nuclear development during his first time as Premier. Who could forget the public consultations which condemned nuclear power, yet were almost all but ignored by the SK Party?

Who could forget Wall's rush to convince Stephen Harper to build a replacement for the Chalk River isotope facility here in Saskatchewan?

So, yes, Lingenfelter mused about nuclear energy in the past...But Brad Wall agreed with him then, and is still pursuing it now.

Then we come to the nuclear waste site...Lingenfelter's quote on this is actually a bit misrepresented. In the speech Lingenfelter made, he suggests that Saskatchewan is acting hypocritically by mining a large percentage of uranium for export, but by calling it too risky to use at home.

Why, that sounds like the argument people use against asbestos mining.

Lingenfelter suggested that either we close the mines or we open ourselves up to using nuclear energy. While I disagree with the conclusion, the logic behind it is actually fairly sound. But again, Brad Wall is rewriting history on this subject.

After all, under his watch 3 Saskatchewan communities have more or less demanded the chance to build these nuclear storage facilities in order to create jobs in their communities. Wall has remained mostly 'mum' on the issue, and backtracked just enough to not step on too many toes over the subject. But, he didn't say whether his government would step up and create a law to prevent the construction of such a facility.

As such, Wall's waffling over the issue shows that he's not opposed to the idea either...And will likely move on it after it becomes politically palpable.

"Some, like former NDP deputy premier Dwain Lingenfelter, say Saskatchewan's wide open spaces make it ideal for every step of the cycle, including power generation and waste storage. While conventional reactors are widely seen as producing too much power for the province's needs, Lingenfelter argues Saskatchewan could become a power hub and supply energy to the rest of Canada and the United States."

Read that carefully.

Why?

Because the argument Lingenfelter uses there is the same one Brad Wall used when he proposed nuclear power for Saskatchewan shortly after being elected in 2007. He's used the idea that Saskatchewan has enough vast space that no one should worry about nuclear reactors in their backyard.

He's also used the argument that excess power can be provided to the USA and other provinces as a means of generating income for Saskatchewan.

So, once again...Why is it bad when Lingenfelter says it, but it is okay when Wall says it?

Like I said before, I oppose nuclear power. But, again as mentioned before, the NDP platform shows that a nuclear Saskatchewan isn't on the table under a NDP government. And even if Lingenfelter still wants to produce nuclear power as Premier, there's plenty of anti-nuclear proponents in his caucus and in the party that would never allow the party to pursue nuclear power.

The same can't be said for the Saskatchewan Party.

To use a Wall quote: "Who knows what opportunities lie ahead in this area for the province?" Premier Brad Wall said recently. "I believe we can lead in this area, certainly in research and development."

So, why can the Saskatchewan Party attack Lingenfelter over nuclear power when their own party is just as willing to take Saskatchewan down that road?

Now, there are many other problems with this so-called website being run by the Saskatchewan Party.

To examine just a few more, in briefer detail...

Let's look at their claim that the NDP raised taxes 17 times while in government and shut down 52 rural hospitals.

Jeez, that sounds awful doesn't it? Why in god's name would they have to do that...

Oh yeah...The massive ballooning deficit and near bankruptcy Saskatchewan teetered towards after the Devine Government. No where does the Saskatchewan Party website mention the state of the province's finances after the 1993 election. They neglect the fact that our province was near the breaking point, and the NDP had to scale back their vision for our province because of crippling levels of debt that tied their hands in regards to social spending.

Yes, hospitals were closed. Yes, taxes were raised. But anyone who's managed a budget or a household knows that when times get tough, you have to make tough decisions. You have to cut spending and you have to increase the amount of money coming back into the budget. Unfortunately, hospital closures were one thing that had to occur to achieve this.

Ask Roy Romanow, who I've had the pleasure of hearing lecture on health care, and he'll tell you that in 1993 he didn't want to, or expect to, close hospitals when he became Premier. He'll tell you it was the last thing he wanted to do, and one of the regrets he had during his time as Premier.

Yet the SK Party is making it sound like the NDP did these things for fun or sport; which simply isn't true...Much like all the claims on this so-called website.

Now, this post has already gotten pretty long...Making me wonder if I should even speak to the nature of attack ads in the first place. Perhaps I'll save that for another post, but I will say this:

It is a sad state of affairs when political discourse becomes the arena of they who scream loudest win. When it becomes not about the free flowing exchange of ideas, but about the destruction of opponents for pure ideological, egotistical, and personal benefit.

Politics is supposed to be the realm of the possible, where idealists come together to strive and create a better world than the one they inherited from the previous generation. It is not supposed to be a shouting match between two increasing angry sides that reject civil debate and reason in favour of blind ideological belief and malice.

We deserve to an adult conversation when it comes to how our country, and our province, are governed. We should not be talked down to as children; nor should we be flat out lied to by those who are seeking to lead us.

In the Westminster political discord, we award the title of Honourable to those who serve in our legislature. It's about time we demanded they live up to that title.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Notice

Hello all,

I suppose with the writ dropped for the Saskatchewan election, many of you are expecting this blog to become a wildfire place for information and the like...

However, I must sadly suggest that this will not occur. Allow me to explain, before everyone starts throwing bricks or some other hard/blunt instrument in my general direction. I've gotten involved in this campaign, and as such, I'm going to be on the road a lot. As such, I will not always have the time to post regularly to the blog.

Furthermore, given my connections to the campaign, it seems odd but I may have to recluse myself from posting on a particular issue. After all, I don't wish to take away any of the thunder from my party and their announcements.

As such, should I find the time to post, it will most likely revolve around the major announcement of day/week AFTER it has been put forward. So, look forward to that.

That said, I think it's time for another 'Scott Muses' post...Maybe I'll start naming them like that for those of you who would prefer to skip the editorializing and simply read the facts.

I apologize if this sounds like a speech; sometimes in my head that's the way I imagine this blog being read out, just so you're all aware.

As Saskatchewan heads to the electoral polls, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new political landscape. The general assumptions of what we consider to be Canada's political machine have been thoroughly put to rest; a fact that many of different political stripes refuse to accept.

We rely on precedent. We look back to the past to see if we can glean from past generations the patterns that will predict future outcomes. As such, politics in Canada has always been something of a psychic with a crystal ball. After all, who could forget the last federal election? Pollsters had all but ruled out a Conservative majority government, yet that was the over all outcome.

Furthermore, the NDP rose to heights that were not expected. It was clear that the party was surging, but pollsters did not see the lengths to which that surge would go. As such, the crystal ball was shattered and Canadians were generally surprised by the outcome of the election.

But this has not been the only time the pollsters got it wrong. Let's look to some of our most recent provincial elections. For the longest time, doomsayers would predicting the downfall of the NDP in Manitoba and the Liberals in Ontario; at the gain of the Progressive Conservatives of those provinces.

Even Stephen Harper smiled at this prospect; going as far as to suggest that Ontario would be better served by a triumvirate of himself in Ottawa, Rod Ford in Toronto, and Tim Hudak in Queen's Park. After all, this is what the polls were suggesting. Even historically speaking, Canadians do tend to ditch governments when they get a little long in the tooth and too unpopular.

(Alberta has been the exception to this, but mainly by changing leaders regularly enough to prevent the electorate from letting the party get too unpopular.)

However, there has been another historical trend that Conservative politicians have been overlooking. There is something of a trend in provincial-federal relations that states that the provinces want to balance the power between the feds and the provinces. This is traditionally done by electing governments of different political stripes provincially than those federally.

Now, much like the other historical trends, this is something of a crap shoot. Not always do the provinces elect differently striped provincial parties..But they do tend to elect parties that are vocal about standing up for the province.

Take Newfoundland & Labradour for example. Danny Williams was a conservative, so was Stephen Harper. Yet Williams consistently stood up to the federal government for the sake of his province. In fact, he did it in such a way that the two had a very frosty relationship and you'd never guess that they shared similar political ideologies.

As such, the role of the provincial government has always been to stand up for the province when Ottawa comes a calling. In this manner, the historical trend suggests that the citizens of the province want a provincial government who is going to put the province's needs ahead of everything else...Including political ideology.

So, what does that say for Brad Wall?

Well, if we look at his track record of standing up to Ottawa...The record isn't good. The only thing Wall grew a backbone over was the potential selling of PotashCorp. And even then, he was the last provincial leader to condemn the sale, and only did so when it became public that the province would stand to lose billions in revenue if the sale went through.

One can't help but wonder that if the cost to Saskatchewan had remained in the shadows, if Brad Wall would have stayed there as well.

Then we have the fabled equalization debate with Ottawa that started before the last election in 2007. Wall was quick to surrender Saskatchewan's argument that the formula had robbed Saskatchewan of a sizable amount of money from Ottawa; and instead allowed the issue to die a quick death and never bothered to fight for money that Saskatchewan was entitled to.

As such, we've seen in Brad Wall a man who is not putting the province ahead of ideology. One has to wonder if this will be in the mind of the electorate, especially considering the Conservative majority in Ottawa.

We're standing at a crossroads. Harper has put forward his vision of Canada for the next few years, and it is a vision which many oppose. The dismantling of the Wheat Board, for example, is opposed by farmers yet Harper is hell-bent on continuing. And the Wall Government is silent on the issue.

As such, we could very well see rural voters (who have traditionally voted Saskatchewan Party) turn to the NDP, simply because they know that a provincial NDP government will fight against Ottawa to save the Wheat Board.

Then there's Harper's law and order agenda; which Justice Minister Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Towes have said will have significant costs to be covered by the provinces. Given Wall's enthusiasm only a few years ago to build a 'super-max' prison facility somewhere in Saskatchewan, we know which side of the debate he falls on.

Yet I imagine the NIMBY (Not-In-My-BackYard) principle will be alive and well. After all, what community would want to have a prison housing dangerous offenders from across western Canada? Furthermore, what Saskatchewan taxpayer would want to pay to have such a facility built with limited financial support from Ottawa?

There a myriad of small strings on this tapestry, and yet so few of them have been unraveled. Pollsters and 'specialists' have already suggested that Brad Wall is waltzing towards victory simply because of historical precedence and 'stage presence'.

But we've already seen that historical precedence is easily tossed to the wayside when the electoral decides to do so. Furthermore, Wall's 'stage presence' is easily chipped away when one considers how easily he curtails to Ottawa, provided it won't cost him dearly at home.

Now, I may be biased in my own political leanings; but, I feel that this election is not as easily written off as many have said it is. Many are saying that the electorate is slow to change current sitting governments because of economic uncertainty; but there is also another thread that many are missing.

All of these governments trailed their right-of-centre party for the bulk of the pre-election period. And despite looking as if marching towards defeat, centre-left and left parties performed admirably. All of these provincial elections have been a rejection of conservativism, thus far.

It does seem likely that the PCs will win in Newfoundland, but the NDP will rise to official opposition and likely receive their highest seat total ever in the province. As such, what does this mean for Saskatchewan?

Many are suggesting that not only is Wall going to win, but he's going to gain seats in this election. Again, this is all historical precedence speaking.

But if we look at voter mood, it's those on the left who are the most organized and 'riled' up at the moment. (Occupy Wall Street movement, anyone?) And that could very well propel left of centre parties into a better position than people are giving them credit for.

Effectively, to borrow a line, the only poll that matters is the one that happens on election day. Thus far, polls have proven themselves to be wrong more often than they were right. As such, no party can be written off.

But what can be said is that Canadians are not moving towards the right of centre; and this is a movement that is definitely going to have an impact on the November 7th election here in Saskatchewan.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hate to Say I Told You So...

"As I mentioned when I talked about that, I said there were a number of backbench MPs I believed existed in the Conservative Party who would not take the leader's advice and would pursue these issues anyways. Brad Trost was my number one choice to raise this banner, given that he's more or less known for abandoning Harper's attempts to appear centrist in order to appease social conservatives." - Me, April 2011

"I have no doubt in my mind that a Conservative Majority government would move quickly to pass legislation on these two issues; though, I will concede that they will not be government bills but private members bills.

I can, off the top of my head, name quite a few Conservative backbenchers who would introduce such legislation; but I won't go through the bother of naming them here, we all know who are the social conservatives in the Conservative Party caucus. From Saskatchewan alone, there's at least 4 names that come to mind that would draft and second a bill to repeal same-sex marriage and limit or restrict abortion.

As such, this is the scenario I imagine:

2 of the Conservative backbenchers will introduce and second a bill on these issues, and eventually it will go before a vote in the House of Commons. Stephen Harper, and a key few Cabinet Ministers, will either abstain from voting or vote against the private member's bill.

The few socially conservative members of the Liberal Party, as there are a few, will vote with the bill, and the rest of the Conservative caucus will be left to vote as they please. The bill will either pass or fail, depending on the number of Conservatives elected." - Me, April 2011

Source: CBC News: Planned Parenthood 'Conned' Government, Tory MP says

Sometimes, I really hate being right.

It's a fault that I don't admit to readily, if only because most people are overjoyed when they're proven to be right. Sadly, in this case, I wish I were wrong. I've included two quotes from prior posts on this blog to back up my point...

We're in the starting days of exactly what I predicted was going to happen; socially conservative backbench MPs are starting to buck the trends of party leadership and introducing bills and ideas that would normally be political suicide.

Harper was quick to dismiss the idea that his party would re-open the abortion and same-sex marriage debates; yet, I was quick to point out that there are many ways around that.

Allow me to explain again, in a nutshell:

It's no secret that the Conservative caucus is full of social conservatives who want to roll back social rights for dozens of minorities across this country (from women to homosexuals). As such, there are more than a few who would have the gall to put forward a private members bill that would support their socially conservative agenda.

And we've seen two step forward here in Saskatchewan: Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott. The two have openly spoken out about international funding for Planned Parenthood (see my defence of planned parenthood here: LINK); and are rattling cages across Canada by promoting their social conservative agenda.

And now they've come together and are actively doing what I feared would happen in a conservative majority: a handful of narrow-minded MPs working together to pass bills passed on ignorance, hate and intolerance.

This is the opening salvo, and the silence from the Harper Government is more than telling. In the old days (the minority days), Harper would have been quick to snap Trost in line. In fact, it wouldn't have reached the point where Vellacott would have chimed in with his two cents on the subject as well.

So, why has it changed now?

It has because Harper is just as keen to pass socially conservative legislation, but he can't use the guise of government to get it done. As mentioned, it would be political suicide for his government to introduce measures like these (as it would alienate soft-C conservatives and socially liberal but financially conservative conservatives); but having a few members of the backbench put forward such legislation is more palpable.

After all, Harper can distance himself from the bills. He can stand behind the shield of them being private members bills, not government bills. He can even condemn them, if he wants, but still end up saying "It will be up to parliament whether or not these bills pass."

And of course, there's no telling how it goes from there...Harper could not attend the vote on the bills, allowing him to take credit with social conservatives but avoid the flak from soft-C conservatives. And whether or not such a measure would pass...Depends.

There's no telling how many members of the Conservative caucus would support such a measure. At best, it would be all but the cabinet ministers (who like Harper, would be pressured into abstaining whether than coming down on a side on the issues); at worst, it would be a small number of Conservative backbenchers.

But then there's the few socially conservative Liberals who would vote in favour of any bill which rolls back abortion and same-sex marriage rights.

As such, I don't know how a vote would go down...But I assure you, Harper and cabinet will make sure to distance themselves but not kill the bills.

I know, perhaps this is just worst case scenario...But the fact that Vellacott and Trost haven't been smacked down by the party whip or the PMO suggests that they're speaking with impunity...After all, Harper is known for controlling his caucus with an iron fist. It's doubtful that Trost and Vellacott have finally developed a spine over such a narrow-minded issue (after all, where was their defiance when the Harper Government was still considering allowing Saskatchewan based PotashCorp to be sold to BHP?).

As such, I think we can only assume that Trost and Vellacott are speaking with sanction from the PMO...It is the only way to explain how they haven't been knocked back into line by the party.

So, despite telling Canadians that his government would have no interest in re-opening these debates; it seems it was a campaign lie and the opening shots have been fired in this socially minded conflict that lies ahead of us.

I'm not a man who treads on conspiracy theories; nor musings that I can't back up with proof from a reliable source...But my instinct tells me that this is the scenario we're looking at. If Trost and Vellacott go unpunished for weeks, then we can only assume that they are indeed speaking with the blessing of the PMO on this issue.

And a lack of punishment is going to lead to action on their parts; and we will see bills introduced that are designed to roll back social rights across this country.

I don't know about you, but this is one issue that I'm damned ready to fight for. And that's what we all need to be ready to do; we need to defend our social rights in this country, even if they don't extend to us, because it will only be a matter of time until other social rights fall under attack by this government.

And social rights are well worth fighting for.