Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saskatchewan Round-Up

Source: Star Phoenix: Contract Was to Produce Spin, NDP Says
Source: CBC News: Sask. Government Pays to Study Film Tax Credit After it was Cut
Source: Leader Post: Sask. Party Not Straight on IPAC-CO2

There's a few things to talk about, so let's move on and get to talking.

We'll start with the recent development on the Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit front. One year after the government cut the tax credit, the debate over why the credit was cut and the demand for it to return continues to hound the government. With numerous production companies and industry professionals leaving the province as a result of the cut, there is a good reason why this debate continues to remain in the spotlight.

And now it came out today that the government commissioned a study on the tax credit after the decision was made to cut the tax credit. The contract was made public through an Access to Information request by NDP MLA Danielle Chartier. The contract was signed on March 11th, just ten days before the budget was released, and was signed off on by the Deputy Minister on the 28th, seven days after the budget.

The $5,000 price tag attached the study may not sound like a lot of money at first, but one has to look at the way in which the money was spent. Undoubtedly, the decision to cancel the tax credit was made prior to the signing of a study to look into the tax credit, which means the study was nothing more than an exercise in government propaganda.

Chartier is right to say that the government's actions result in nothing more than public relations and spin produced on the taxpayer's dime. If this study had been done, and seen by the ministry, prior to the budget bringing in the cut then one could make the case that there was a reason for the study. However, given the timing, there's no doubt that this study was nothing more than an attempt to bring some credence for the government's decision.

We now need to try and talk about the IPAC-CO2 issue, which may be complicated due to the distance between the issue first coming to light and now, but we'll give it a try. To sum it up in a nutshell, IPAC-CO2 was a public-private independent project that focused on carbon capture technology and development. Run on the University of Regina campus, IPAC-CO2 came into the spotlight a few weeks ago when a massive conflict of interest accusation was levelled at the organization.

Two members of the board were accused of having ties to organizations and companies that received contracts from IPAC-CO2 and of signing deals with other organizations and companies that favoured these companies while creating questionable spending inside IPAC.

Now, the NDP is raising questions about what the government knew and when it knew it about the questionable dealings that occurred. Trent Wotherspoon has been leading the charge on keeping the government's feet to the fire on this issue, and trying to cut through the spin and non-answers that the government has provided thus far.

Murray Mandryk is right to point out that the government has shown a complete lack of concern on this issue, in trying to dismiss it as a non-government issue, and has spent the bulk of the time since this came to light obscuring the role government played in the developments at IPAC. After all, the government did have board members on IPAC, all of whom should have been able to see some of the shady dealings that were going on and report it to the government.

But rather than use the Harper approach of throwing at least one former adviser under the bus, the government has simply shrugged and tried to blame everyone from those at IPAC, to the University, to the NDP itself.

There is a lot of questions here, especially considering what the government knew and when and just how much tax dollars went into this program and were misspent, and until the government stands up and answers those questions the song and dance of obfuscation won't fool anyone for long.

I had meant to include a section on health care here, but I think we'll save that for a separate post for now.

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