Thursday, April 12, 2012

Saskatchewan Stories of the Day

I'm attempting another dictation post, so we'll see how that goes.

There's quite a few things to talk about ranging from continued discrepancies over the F 35 procurement, to provincial issues revolving around environmental policies.

Since we've focused rather heavily only on federal issues in the last few posts, we will look at provincial issues only for this post.

That means will be discussing the latest find from a Suzuki report that suggests Saskatchewan is the worst area in the country with regards to plan to combat global climate change.

We will also briefly talk about the government's budgetry decision to turn Tourism Saskatchewan into a Crown Corporation. In the interest of full disclosure, I have some involvement with people involved in Tourism Saskatchewan, so I think for the sake of their privacy and my own that I won't dwell to heavily on this issue.

First, let us focus on the Suzuki report that condemns Saskatchewan's environmental policies. The Suzuki organization released a report today that condemns Saskatchewan as the single worst jurisdiction for a greenhouse gas emissions in the entire country.

Furthermore, the report attacks the government for shutting down a climate change Secretariat as well an office for environmental issues.

It also suggests that development in the oil and gas industry, as well as its refusal to shutdown coal powered power plants, is contributing to the overall greenhouse gas emissions in the province.

Much like the Conservatives in the federal government, the Saskatchewan Party's response to this report has been to condemn the authors rather than address any of the real issues raised by them.

Saskatchewan's Environment Minister was quick to point out that the report does not talk about any of the research or money that was spent by the province looking to carbon capture technology. The technology has been touted as a joint cooperation between the province and Montana; but to date, the only development in these talks has been the release of hot air. In fact, Montana has scaled back interest in the program and seems on track to call the whole thing off.

The problem with the Environmental Minister's opinion is that this technology has only been discussed, it hasn't been implemented. Talking about implementing something and implementing something are two very different things. We can talk about reducing emissions or we can do something. The Suzuki Report has rightly called out the government for only talking about ways to reduce emissions, rather than implementing policies that would actually have an impact.

Effectively, the Minister's defence of we're talking about it so we're doing something, doesn't stand-up to scrutiny. What it does mean is that we need action on climate change and the Suzuki report states that Saskatchewan is talking big-game but failing to live up to any real expectations.

Finally, one of the surprises in the budget (in addition to the elimination of the film tax credit) was the announcement that the government would be turning the currently sort of semi-private Tourism Saskatchewan into a crown corporation.

There has been discussion whether this decision stems from an actual desire to improve the tourism industry in Saskatchewan, or if this is simply a shortsighted and politically motivated attack against an organization with centre, centre-left and left-wing people within the organization.

Personally, I don't know enough about the structure of the organization as it currently stands to say whether or not this is indeed the motivation behind the government's decision or whether this is something that was concocted as a SK Party idea that they think will improve tourism within the province. But, given the SK Party's previous opinions on turning private enterprise is into government enterprises, that seems rather unlikely.

As mentioned, I know several people involved and who could be called integral to Tourism Saskatchewan; as such I feel that I should respect their privacy and their relationships in my life enough that I shouldn't go to in-depth in this discussion, for fear of misquoting them or misrepresenting their opinions and stances; not to mention their trust in me. As it stands, the government's decision to turn a private organisation into a crown operation is unusual and out of step with this government's approach to industry in the province. Whether the true motivations behind the idea that this is better for the industry, or whether this is indeed a partisan witch-hunt to drive out non-SK party supporters from the organization, I cannot say for sure.

Either way, the people Saskatchewan deserve a straight answer on this decision, and to hear the benefits of having this private organization becoming a public one; and whether those benefits will outweigh the negatives that will be felt by those currently n the system.

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