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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 

Saskatchewan New Democrats Have A Plan For The Potash Industry

On September 8, 2010, NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter laid out the NDP’s plan to ensure that Saskatchewan people continue to receive the maximum benefit from their potash resource.

Speaking at a press conference in Saskatoon, Lingenfelter said potash is a strategic, global-scale resource that belongs to all the people of our province – not to any government nor any corporation – and that the people of the province have the right to set the terms and conditions under which their resource will be developed, mined and sold.

"Saskatchewan history is replete with momentous decisions made by its citizens and their governments; decisions which have held profound impact for generations to come.

The decision to bring our province together with the introduction of rural electrification in the 1950s; the decision to make health care a right, not a privilege, with the introduction of Medicare in the 1960s; the decision to stand up to the big American potash companies who refused to pay their fair share of taxes, and create the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan in the 1970s.

These were defining moments in Saskatchewan history. Thanks to the foresight and courage of those citizens, today we enjoy great economic opportunity and a quality of life second to none. Now, our generation faces its own defining moment. We must make an historic decision, one which will determine the strength of our economy, and the quality of our lives, for generations to come.

We have gathered here today because the Wall government has failed to show that it understands the importance of this decision or even that it has a plan of action to ensure the right decision will be made for all the people of Saskatchewan. It has now been more than three weeks since an Australian mining giant, BHP Billiton, launched a hostile takeover bid for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

In the face of this unprecedented event, what have we seen from the Wall government so far? Weak, indecisive leadership; contradictory positions from day to day; no clear plan; not even a process to collect the views of the owners of this strategic global resource – the people of Saskatchewan.

Now, the Wall government has gone so far as to subcontract responsibility for analysis, advice and action on the future of Saskatchewan potash to a group of economists based in Central Canada!

Let me be clear: Saskatchewan potash belongs to no government; it belongs to no corporation. Saskatchewan potash belongs to the people of Saskatchewan. And the people of Saskatchewan need to be given a voice in these historic decisions about how their resource should be developed, mined and sold in the future. Saskatchewan has more high-quality potash than anywhere else in the world. We have a thousand-year supply of what the world needs to grow more food. The importance of this resource to the province, to Canada, and to the whole world cannot be ignored by any government. This is no ordinary resource. The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, a global leader, is no ordinary company.

And the Harper government in Ottawa needs to be told that this is no ordinary corporate takeover, to be rubber-stamped by free-market politicians and their bureaucrats behind closed doors! The rules are going to be different with respect to any proposed take-over of the world‟s largest potash company, and the people of Saskatchewan are going to help set those rules!

As Leader of the Official Opposition, I propose that Saskatchewan take a much different approach from the weak, indecisive, ad hoc-ery that we‟ve seen so far from the Wall government.

I propose a serious plan to ensure that the people of Saskatchewan enjoy the best possible return on the future development, mining and sale of Saskatchewan potash – no matter who owns the assets of any potash mining companies, including the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

Here is the NDP Plan for Potash:
First, we call on Premier Wall to join us in our demand that Stephen Harper and his government publicly commit to refuse approval for any potential take-over of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan until the people of Saskatchewan, the owners of the resource, have spoken.

We issued this demand in a letter to Tony Clement on August 26th, and need the Wall government to get on board by securing a public commitment from the Prime Minister to this effect. We often hear about this government‟s „special relationship‟ with Stephen Harper. It‟s time to see if that relationship is anything more than empty words. Ottawa has no right to make decisions about the future of our potash resource before the people of Saskatchewan have been heard.

Next, we demand that the Wall government immediately recall the Saskatchewan Legislature into Special Session, for the express purpose of setting out the terms and conditions under which Saskatchewan potash will be developed, mined and sold in the future.

Section 20 (e) of the Investment Canada Act says that while an investment is being reviewed to determine if it provides a “net benefit to Canada,” the review should take into account the “industrial, economic and cultural policy objectives enunciated by the government or legislature of any province likely to be significantly affected by the investment.”

Saskatchewan will clearly be “significantly affected” by the sale of PCS, and there is no better time than the present for the duly elected representatives of the people of Saskatchewan to give voice to the interests of the resource‟s owners, clearly enunciating those objectives they wish to achieve with respect to the development of their resource. The Wall government has said, “There isn't a more important issue facing the province of Saskatchewan today." We agree.

If there is no more important issue facing the province, then there is no better time and place to make the decisions about that issue than in the Legislative Assembly as soon as possible. To arrive at the appropriate decisions, the Legislature should, as soon as it meets, immediately launch Public Hearings to be held in the Legislative Chamber, with all elected representatives sitting as a Committee of the Whole. The people of Saskatchewan have a right to know exactly where each of their elected representatives stands on these critical decisions.
These Public Hearings would be broadcast live across the Province, giving every citizen who demands it a voice, and giving their fellow citizens a transparent process whereby they can hear and see what is being proposed.

We believe the list of those invited to take part in these historic Public Hearings should include all citizens of the province who wish to be heard, including potash industry workers and their representatives, local governments, community groups and organizations, and First Nations and Métis.

Furthermore, we think the Terms of Reference for the Legislature's Public Hearings should ask the people of the province to comment on a number of potential terms and conditions, including but not limited to:
-Enhanced legislation to require a more significant PCS Head Office presence in Saskatchewan;
-Firm commitments to expand the potash sector in Saskatchewan, and increase the number of Saskatchewan potash mining jobs;
-Guarantees that the potential corporate owners not only accept Saskatchewan‟s current royalty and taxation regime, but also accept the right of the people of Saskatchewan to change royalty and taxation regimes in the future;
-Guarantees that the potential corporate owners accept the need for a highly skilled and trained unionized workforce in the Saskatchewan potash industry;
-A full, transparent review of the potential corporate owners‟ record of corporate social responsibility with respect to environmental stewardship, community contributions, workplace safety and human rights.
-Guarantees from the federal government that it will effectively monitor and enforce the potential corporate owners‟ fulfillment of any conditions they agree to as part of the review process, with meaningful sanctions if the new owners fail to live up to the terms of any deal, or act unilaterally to change them.
Following these Public Hearings, we propose that the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly formulate, discuss, debate and pass a Joint Resolution of the Assembly, setting out the specific terms and conditions under which the people of Saskatchewan wish to see their potash resource developed, mined and sold in the future.

The Joint Resolution will set the terms and conditions that the people of Saskatchewan will instruct the Harper government to require on their behalf from any potential purchaser of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

Everyone we have consulted with these past few weeks, from average citizens, to industry experts, to potash miners and their unions, to local governments has given us the same basic message: Give us a Voice! Give us a Voice! The potash belongs to all of us. We all need to be involved in these critical decisions.

We call on the Wall government to get on with implementing our plan immediately, so all Saskatchewan people can have that voice in these historic decisions. The time for informed action is long past.
Thank you very much.

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