Wednesday, March 30, 2011 

Local Regina Conservatives Question Harper's Top-down, Heavy-handed Approach

Progressive Bloggers

"They're just a bunch of mean buggers"
Regina, Sask Conservative Party member

Harper's Ham-Handed 'Handlers' Raise Eyebrows Among Local Tories
By Murray Mandryk
The Leader-Post
March 30, 2011

"Sometime between the third or fourth security check at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign stop in Regina Tuesday morning, it dawns on one that the issue isn't necessarily his well-known disdain for the media.

It's nothing personal. It might be just an extension of Harper's controlling nature.

And lest anyone assume this is a just a media whine, go talk to local Conservative activists. You might be surprised to find out their frustrations are all too similar.

Admittedly, much of the media frustration is somewhat self induced, as was demonstrated at Harper's early morning pitstop at Regina's Performance Marine to reannounce last week's budget news about a one-time $1,000 hiring credit (against increased employment insurance premiums) for small businesses.

While the news value was minimal, everything leaders do these days makes the six o'clock news. And Harper checking the dipstick on an outboard boat motor beats a boring shot of him standing behind another generic podium. It's what the media collectively wants and it's not willing to sacrifice eye-catching visuals for questions of substance.

Realizing this, Harper's campaign has limited reporters to a mere five questions at such events -including just one from the "local" media. And what was particularly ironic -or at least, ironic from a personal standpoint -is that it came just days after a voter phoned me demanding we grill Harper on the top-downnature of the Conservative nomination process. The real irony is that this voter was a frustrated Conservative from Regina Wascana, which held its nomination just 12 hours before Harper's visit. After a couple of quick calls, it appears he's not the only one. While the cushy front-row seats at Harper's stop at Performance Marine were reserved for MPs, candidates and other loyalists (the media were relegated to the back of the backshop), it's interesting to know local Conservatives are frustrated by their inability to penetrate Harper's bubble when comes to local nominations.

Griping about excessive Harper-Ottawa control over nominations is an emerging pattern. It's been raised in Alberta and Okanagan-Coquihalla, where local party members went so far as to claim the process to replace Stockwell Day was "rigged".

And while the concerns surrounding the process that selected Ian Shields as the Conservative candidate in Regina Wascana over two other candidates didn't signal anything untoward, they do paint a picture of a top-down process rather than a grassroots one.

The nomination -originally scheduled for last Friday -left little time for candidates to mount campaigns. Potential candidates were carefully screened by party hierarchy from Ottawa and at least two potential candidates were disqualified for reasons as insignificant as out-of-date memberships. Those successfully "vetted", say Conservatives, were required to post a $1,000 certified cheque as a "good behaviour bond" that the party gets to keep until the next election.

Suffice to say, this hasn't gone over well with some independent-thinking Conservatives, but few are eager to complain publicly. Former Saskatchewan Party MLA Jason Dearborn -one of those once interested in the Regina Wascana nomination -has written a commentary raising concerns about the above process and wondering if this was a "direct attempt to suppress the democratic process . . . perpetrated by unelected party staff intent on controlling a tight message for national consumption."

Other Conservatives are -at least privately far more pointed, talking about the Darth Vader-like control of Harper and the nastiness of the staff that surround him. "They're just a bunch of mean buggers," said one Conservative, seeking anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Admittedly, not all Conservatives share this harshness. For example, long-time Regina Wascana Conservative Joe Lomas called Monday's nomination exciting and hammered at the notion that Harper and his Conservative MPs have provided Saskatchewan with much more than Liberal Ralph Goodale ever did.

However, Lomas admitted there were legitimate concerns from local Conservatives about "top-down" Ottawa control over the timing of the nomination and how it inhibits effective local campaigns. "It's sometimes the problem with big parties -(the need for) political control," Lomas sighed. "What are you going to do?"

It's a fair assessment. But it's also interesting that a lot of media and voters are now asking the same questions about Harper's top-down, heavy-handed approach as are his local supporters.

-Mandryk is the political columnist for the Leader-Post.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Regina Leader-Post

-Stephen Harper's 'Mean Gene' ...

Monday, March 28, 2011 

Layton In Regina - Conservative MP's Are Harper's Messengers To Saskatchwan NOT The Voter's Messengers To Ottawa!

There was a pretty good crowd out at 9 am on a Monday morning for Jack Layton in Regina:

"NDP leader Jack Layton brought his election campaign to Saskatchewan on Monday, telling people that the only way to get rid of the Conservatives is to vote New Democrat.

Speaking to about 100 party supporters in Regina, Layton was the first party leader to make a campaign stop in Saskatchewan.

"Here we are in the province where the first [Co-operative Commonwealth Federation]-NDP government was elected," Layton said, "They used to say to Tommy Douglas, 'There isn't a hope that the CCF, your party, will ever be elected.'"

No federal New Democrats have been elected in Saskatchewan since the 2000 election, when Lorne Nystrom and Dick Proctor won Regina-area seats. In subsequent elections, it's been 13 Conservatives and one Liberal.

However, the party has high hopes to make a comeback, and Layton noted that in the last election, New Democrats came in second in most of Saskatchewan's ridings.

Voting NDP is the only way to defeat Conservatives and sends a message that "Saskatchewan will no longer be taken for granted," he said.

Layton also talked about housing, hiring more doctors and putting families first.

He accused the Harper Conservatives of turning their backs on Saskatchewan people dealing with last year's floods.

"You remember when they threatened to turn off the stimulus spending for flooded-out communities?" Layton asked."

CBC News


Before the Harper Flip Flop On COALITIONS - He Argued For Them ...

Stephen Harper is a real low life ... what did Canada ever do to deserve this smarmy, slimy character??

-H/T to Kinch blog ...


Governor General Says Coalitions Are Normal Part Of Our Democracy - Why Is Harper Inventing Crisis??

OTTAWA — The new governor general says he sees nothing wrong or illegitimate with coalition governments — something Prime Minister Stephen Harper has attacked for being “undemocratic.”

Gov. Gen. David Johnston told QMI Agency he's been busy brushing up on constitutional governments in case he is called upon to navigate a choppy political crisis.

“Any governor general who has that role in a constitutional system like ours, from time to time will be confronted with questions where there is an element of discretion,” he said.

Johnston won’t say whether he would have saved Harper’s government in December 2008 as former governor general Michaelle Jean did by granting the prorogation of Parliament so Harper could avoid a confidence vote.

But, he said, he is learning from the past and will seek advice, preferably in advance of being called to make any decision.

Harper first attacked coalitions as undemocratic when the Liberals and NDP joined forces with the Bloc Quebecois to try to defeat his newly elected government. In June, while visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had just made a deal with the Liberal Democrats, Harper said coalitions are illegitimate unless they include the party that won the most votes in the election.

“Losers don’t get to form coalitions,” he said.

Johnston said Canada — like many democratic regimes — has had experiences with coalition-type governments in the past.

“I think that most jurisdictions that have a system of first-past-the-post or proportional representation will from time to have time have coalitions or amalgamation of different parties and that’s the way democracy sorts itself out,” he said.

GG on Coalition

Saturday, March 26, 2011 

So ... This Is How Liberty Dies In Canada!

You have been warned! ;)


Saskatchewan New Democratic Policy Convention Excited Over Looming Elections

We take our politics very seriously in Saskatchewan. In fact, this province may be one of the most political provinces in the Dominion. That being the case, New Democrats from across Saskatchewan are meeting in Regina this weekend to complete our ongoing policy development process.

News of the Harper government defeat was met by wild cheers on the first day of the Convention. New Democrats will be heading off on the federal campaign trail immediately following this weekends convention. As well, Sask New Democrats can also look forward to going to the polls on November 7th for a provincial election!

All in all, if you like politics and enjoy some good old fashioned prairie populism, the NDP Convention in Regina is the place to be!

-Regina Leader-Post

Friday, March 25, 2011 

What Did Canada Ever Do To Deserve The Likes Of Stephen Harper?

Canadians are nice people. We work hard. We care about our neighbors both at home and abroad. A wonderful country made up of unique and distinct regions, cultures and peoples. Our citizens have roots in ever nation on the planet. We have fought in wars when the world was threatened and we have worked to ensure peace in volatile hot spots.

Yet a complacency crept into the nation and things were taken for granted.

A quiet, dark worldview was festering beneath the surface. A whiny, snarky, angry selfcenterdness emerged from some corners of the nation. It germinated and manifested itself in the vile policies of the old Reform Party that was filled with so much anger and nastiness. From this vile movement sprang the political career of Stephen Harper. He is a spiteful, crafty and devious character. His complete lack of political civility and community ethics is stunning to behold.

He argued for Canada to join in George Bush's invasion of Iraq. He finally managed to get Canada bogged down (as many of his critics predicted would happen) in Afghanistan. Now we are bombing Libya.

Stephen Harper is a blight upon the nation. The sooner that he is relegated to the historic 'past' of this nation, the safer we all will be.

Stephen Harper has been prime minster far longer than he deserves. He has been prime minster far longer than Canada deserves.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 

The Undemocratic Arrogance Of The Harper Conservatives In Stunning

"Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall"
Proverbs 16:18

Stephen Harper leads a minority government. The large majority of Canadians did not vote for him. In Canada's Parliamentary system, the minority party which attempts to form a government is expected to work with the other parties and try to cooperate to bring forward legislation and budgets.

In 1979, unable to win the support and votes of the majority of Canadians, Joe Clarke became a minority Prime Minster. Clark immediately announced that he was going to govern as if he held a majority. His arrogant style failed, he was defeated on a Budget vote and the nation went to the polls to elect a new Parliament. Mr. Clark's arrogance did not sit well with Canadians and he was returned to the Opposition benches.

Thirty-two years later, we have another very arrogant (and Conservative) minority Prime Minister who has decided to test fate, and repeat Joe Clarke's strategy. Rather than work with any other political party, Harper has decided that his lack of cooperation, stubbornness and arrogance will be rewarded with a Majority by the people of Canada.

He is deluded. He will be defeated. To preserve his minority administration, he needs to step back from the brink, temper his arrogance, play nice with others and amend the Budget substantially. Anything short of that will see the end of his time as Prime Minister of Canada.


Who Are The 146 Members Of Brad Wall's Elite "Enterprise Club" And What Meetings Did They Have With Sask Premier And Cabinet?

Progressive Bloggers

Now that the public has accidentally found out about Brad Wall's exclusive donor club, the public has a right to know who they are, how much undeclared money was donated to the Sask Party, and what meetings have taken place.

"The Saskatchewan Party moved Tuesday to address what it described as a perception problem by cancelling some of the perks that come with its $1,000 "Enterprise Club" memberships.

However, the Opposition NDP said there appears to be some real problems -including potential concerns about buying access to government -associated with the party's elite membership plan.

Premier Brad Wall said Monday the club's membership provisions would be reviewed and on Tuesday the party announced that luncheon meetings between Enterprise Club members and cabinet ministers, MLAs and government political staffers would be discontinued.

The move was made to erase any "misperception of preferential access," says a party news release.

But the Saskatchewan Party provided a letter sent to prospective Enterprise Club members that could be seen as promising access.

The club is described in the letter as "an excellent venue to present your views and comments to Saskatchewan Party MLAs and our premier, Mr. Brad Wall. Mr. Wall along with other cabinet ministers and MLAs, meet with Enterprise Club members several times throughout the year. Joining the Enterprise Club ensures that your comments and ideas will be heard."

Speaking to reporters, Wall said Tuesday he believed the language in the letter was appropriate but it could be misconstrued.

"Here's the only concern I would have. To the extent that people would read into the language that, you know, if you join this club you're going to have some sort of access that others don't have. And I could see where some would read that into that language,"

But he said club members have never had any more access to decision-makers than any other party member, or member of the public for that matter.

"That's not how we run the affairs of the province," he said. "We have worked very hard to make sure that everybody is treated the same, notwithstanding what they gave."

But NDP justice critic Frank Quennell said the letter was in itself troubling, but the context in which the Enterprise Club issue has arose made it particularly problematic.

It came to light last week that the former CEO of two Humboldt-area colleges attempting a now-dead merger had charged the $1,000 political contribution to his expenses.

The Sask. Party returned the money after learning it was paid for by St. Peter's College. St. Peter's and Carlton Trail Regional College's merger proposal was killed by the government last week amidst serious concerns raised about governance and leadership at the colleges.

Glen Kobussen has since been terminated as Carlton Trail's CEO and placed on leave from St. Peter's.

Quennell said Kobussen's appointment as CEO of the public Carlton Trail college through a contract with St. Peter's, which needed the approval of the government, raises questions about whether lobbying was involved.

And with the government saying Kobussen had been pushing the merger proposal, there are concerns he had used the membership to gain influence, said Quennell.

He also noted the 2009 purchase of the membership did not appear on that year's Sask. Party financial statements. The party said the membership could have been for 2010 and would not appear until the release of financial statements for the year.

Quennell said the government and the party should disclose all Enterprise Club members and their agendas of meetings with government members.

"Then we can start asking some questions about, 'What's the connection between this policy change requested or possibly requested by this Enterprise Club member who had a meeting with a cabinet minister?' " he said in an interview after raising the issue in question period.

The elite membership plan dates back to the Sask. Party's days in opposition.

The party said Enterprise Club members will still receive some additional benefits such as early notification and access to purchase tickets to leader's dinners, golf tournaments and other party events.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 

Premier Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party Has Secret Elite Club - For Only $1000 You Can Meet , Lunch And Lobby Wall And His Cabinet

Progressive Bloggers

An audit by a reputable accounting firm has discovered that the Saskatchewan Party maintains a secret club where (up until today) for the paltry sum of $1000 you had access to meet and influence the Wall administration.

Early reports indicate that the 'Enterprise Club' has 146 paid up members, whose $1000 donations have NOT been reported as contributions to the Chief Electoral Officer.


"The Saskatchewan Party has changed its rules so that donors who spend $1,000 to join an elite club won't get special luncheons with the premier or cabinet ministers.

Luncheons with the premier, ministers and "decision-makers" in government used to be one of the perks of membership in the party's "Enterprise Club." A normal party membership costs $10.

The club was in the news recently when it was learned that Glen Kobussen, a former CEO of St. Peter's College, spent $1,000 to join and was reimbursed by St. Peter's.

A spokesperson for the St. Peter's board said the expense was approved to give Kobussen access to the political process.

Kobussen was also the CEO of Carlton Trail Regional College. He was fired last week after a consultant's report revealed governance and financial problems at the two colleges which, until the report came out, had been seeking a merger.

Asked about the situation on Monday, Premier Brad Wall insisted that there was no lobbying allowed in the Enterprise Club. He said the $1,000 donation had been returned and Kobussen was out of the club.

The Enterprise Club is for "political junkies" who want to help the party and like to talk politics, Wall said.

But if even one person thinks the special memberships buy access to power, changes need to be made, Wall said Monday.

That change came quickly, with Saskatchewan Party president Gary Meschishnick saying Tuesday there would be a review of the Enterprise Club membership provisions "with a view to removing any provisions that could appear to provide preferential access to government decision-makers."

The luncheon meetings will be discontinued, Meschishnick said.

There are 146 members of the Enterprise Club, he said.

The Enterprise Club was a topic of extensive debate in the legislature on Tuesday, with Opposition NDP MLA Frank Quennell quizzing cabinet minister Jeremy Harrison about it.

Quennell noted that a Saskatchewan Party letter sent to prospective Enterprise Club members describes it as "an excellent venue to present your views and comments" to government MLAs and the premier.

"Mr. Wall along with other Cabinet Ministers and MLAs, meet with Enterprise Club members several times throughout the year," the letter says. "Joining the Enterprise Club ensures that your comments and ideas will be heard."

CBC Sask

-Sask Party Watch has more ...

It should be noted that this Sask Party 'Enterprise' Fund seems to be set up the same way that Grant Devine set up the old PC 'Metro Fund' We shouldn't be surprised. Brad Wall did his political apprenticeship in the Grant Devine administration.

Monday, March 21, 2011 

Royalty Structure Hurting Saskatchewan

The following is written by Erin Weir, a former Saskatchewan resident who is the senior economist for the International Trade Union Confederation.

In the article, PotashCorp royalties, taxes understated: exec. (SP, March 11), PotashCorp chief financial officer Wayne Brownlee argues that investment in mine expansions will soon provide a bonanza of revenue for Saskatchewan, at the world's highest potash royalty rates.

In fact, Saskatchewan's current royalty regime will unduly limit future revenue. International competition should not dissuade the province from collecting more.

The most important component of Saskatchewan's royalty regime is a potash production tax based on mine profits. PotashCorp did not pay this tax in 2010 because it received investment writeoffs that exceeded the second-highest profits in the company's history.

PotashCorp and Agrium expect to complete their capital investments by 2015.

However, Mosaic has announced investments through 2020.

Since the allowable deduction is 120 per cent of the amount invested, companies may have deductions left to carry forward after their investments are finished.

This "onetime incentive" will continue reducing provincial potash royalties for a decade.

Thereafter, sales above the average sold in 2001 and 2002 will still enjoy a never-ending holiday from the potash production tax. In other words, companies will go back to paying this tax only on the tonnage they produced a decade ago. Revenues could be higher if this tonnage is sold at higher prices.

If anything, increased production actually tends to put downward pressure on prices. Certainly, it will not add to potash production tax revenue.

Additional tonnage will only be subject to the resource surcharge, set at three per cent of sales, and Crown royalties. PotashCorp initially reported paying $77 million of surcharge, and recently disclosed paying $70 million of Crown royalties, on Saskatchewan potash sales of $2.8 billion in 2010.

Taken together, the resource surcharge and Crown royalties amount to five per cent of sales. For every additional dollar of potash extracted, Saskatchewan people will receive a nickel of additional resource royalties.

Brownlee presents corporate income taxes as a substitute for royalties. However, they reveal that PotashCorp's 2010 corporate tax payment to Saskatchewan was just $82 million, less than it paid to Trinidad, and only one-quarter of its total Canadian corporate tax bill.

Most tax revenue flows to Ottawa and other jurisdictions where PotashCorp operates. Mosaic, an American company, also pays U.S. corporate tax on profits repatriated from Canada.

Corporate taxes do not effectively compensate Saskatchewan for the depletion of provincial resources. Indeed, all industries are subject to corporate tax whether or not they extract resources.

Finally, Brownlee contends that Saskatchewan should not raise royalties because it already has "the highest potash royalty rates in the world."

The only evidence ever cited to support this claim is the Potash Cost Report from CRU Group, a private consultancy. Since CRU charges 15,000 British pounds ($24,000) for this data, it is not realistically accessible to anyone but corporations and the government.

The U.S. Geological Survey's publicly available report indicates that Canada has 46 per cent of global potash reserves. A further 43 per cent is controlled by oligarchs in Russia and Belarus.

The only other countries with more than two per cent of global reserves are Brazil and China. Both restrict foreign ownership of potash, and have state-controlled enterprises in the industry. Even if they have lower royalties, multinational potash companies cannot necessarily shift investment to these countries.

Furthermore, Saskatchewan has the world's richest reserves closest to the world's largest potash consumer: the American corn belt. These natural advantages should allow Saskatchewan to collect the world's highest potash royalties.

To do so, the province needs a comprehensive public review of royalties rather than relying on the dribs and drabs of information that PotashCorp chooses to disclose.
Erin Weir

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix


Saskatchewan's Right Wing Premier REFUSES To Talk With Province's Labour Federation

There are rumours that right wing Premier Brad Wall has a poster of Wisconsin Scott Walker up in his office. Whether he does or not, Wall's approach with trade unions in Saskatchewan is shockingly confrontational. In fact, Wall has nothing but contempt for organized labour. One of the first things he did when he became premier was to pass legislation that took the right to strike away from thousands of health care workers.

Wall's legislation is now regarded as a joke in much of Saskatchewan.

Wall has also been condemned by the United Nations International Labour Organization for his heavy handed, undemocratic approach to organized labour. It is widely considered that the Supreme Court of Canada will shortly also rule that Saskatchewan's Premier has breached international accords that Canada has signed.

Here is an open letter from Larry Hubich, President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (and by the way, a contributing Progressive Blogger):

March 18, 2011

Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
Room 226
Legislative Building
Regina, SK
S4S 0B3

Open letter to Premier Brad Wall from SFL President, Larry Hubich

Dear Mr. Wall:

RE: Meeting regarding Canada Pension Plan improvements, etc.

Attached hereto are letters from me to you dated September 20, 2010 and November 29, 2010 respecting a meeting that we agreed to convene during a discussion we had at the Richardson farm in August 2010 while attending the meeting and events of the Council of the Federation in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

During our encounter and discussion, you committed to me, in person, that we would meet for the purposes of discussing proposals by the labour movement for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). In fact, your exact words to me were, “I agree, we should meet to discuss that (CPP), and other things.”

I am disappointed that you have not fulfilled your commitment to me or even demonstrated the common courtesy of a response to my follow-up letters. In fact, my office has not even received an acknowledgement of receipt of the correspondence.

I know you don’t treat representatives from business this way, but I am concerned that your government deliberately marginalizes and outright ignores the voices of organizations that you view to have different priorities than your own. What other organizations and/or groups do you dismiss out of hand?

Recently, I received copies of an e-mail exchange between you and a citizen writing to you concerned about expansion of the uranium industry set against a backdrop of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that your reply was dated (Tuesday) March 8, 2011, in response to the citizen’s original e-mail of Saturday, March 5, 2011. A three-day turnaround from the Premier is remarkable. Here I have been waiting patiently for you to live up to a personal commitment you made more than 7 months ago.

Now, Mr. Premier, we are not asking for special treatment, or special consideration – but we would appreciate the Federation of Labour being given the same courtesy as, say, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, or other business lobby groups. After all, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour represents approximately 100,000 taxpaying citizens in our wonderful province. Surely their thoughts, opinions and ideas are of interest to the Premier of the Province.

It’s alarming and inappropriate for you to suggest that you have had no time to hear personally from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour in the nearly 4 years that you have been Premier.

Awaiting contact from you regarding the commitment you made, but have yet to fulfill.

Yours truly,

Larry Hubich, President
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

cc: SFL Executive Council

Larry Hubich's Blog

Saturday, March 19, 2011 

Sarah Palin Trails Charlie Sheen In Public Opinion Polls

Too funny ...
"WASHINGTON— As Sarah Palin’s public opinion numbers slump to such depths that a new survey suggests even Charlie Sheen would get more votes from independents than she would, the former Alaska governor is heading to Israel this weekend to sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."
The Star

So to all of those who defended Sarah Palin for THIS .... smarten up!

-Enormous Thriving Plants has more ...

Friday, March 18, 2011 

Are Right Wingers REQUIRED To Be 'Science Ignorant' Or Is This Just An 'Ann Coulter' Thing?

Right wing world view, for many, seems to require believing that the Earth is only 6000 years old AND that climate change is not impacting us. But now we have another example of how Right Wingers are completely ignorant when it comes to matters of 'science'. Here we have the Diva of the Right, proclaiming that exposure to radiation isn't so bad .. in fact, radiation may actually be GOOD for you!

"With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counter intuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level -- much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government -- radiation is good for you. "They theorize," the Times said, that "these doses protect against cancer by activating cells' natural defense mechanisms.

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population."

Ann Coulter the scientist

Thursday, March 17, 2011 

Saskatchewan Progressive Blogger Launches Political Opinion Column In Regina Leader-Post

Greg Fingas blogs at Accidental Deliberations and is a member of Progressive Bloggers, Sask Progressive Bloggers and New Democrats Online. Today he launches his political opinion column on a weekly basis in the Regina Leader-Post. Greg is a Regina lawyer and has political insight far beyond what you would normally find in an MSM publication.

Congratulations Greg and best of luck to you!

Here's his first post: Potash Payoff Ripe For Review

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 

Premier Brad Wall Uses Japanese Meltdown Crisis To Announce That Saskatchewan Still Aggressively Wants Nuclear Reactors

It's hard to determine if Brad Wall's commitment to constructing nuclear reactors in Saskatchewan is mere political bravado or outright stupidity. Either way, raising the issue at the same time that nuclear meltdowns may be happening in Japan is wierd:

Sask. Party not deterred by Japanese nuclear crisis
"Suffice to say, it's a precarious political position for the Saskatchewan government to be in today as the world watches the crisis in Japan shift from Friday's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami to a potential nuclear disaster stemming from the release of radiation and the potential meltdown of three reactors at a nuclear power plant. [...] SaskPower Minister Rob Norris made it clear Monday that his government is still a whole-hearted advocate of nuclear power. Speaking to reporters, Norris explained that this is the only viable position to take for a province that supplies the world with so much uranium ...

Regina Leader-Post

Saturday, March 12, 2011 

Change Your Clocks - But Thankfully NOT In Saskatchewan

All over North America this weekend, people will be setting their clocks back an hour, fixing their DVD / VCR's and getting their schedules adjusted to the time change ....... unless of course you live in the Province of Saskatchewan ... one of the very few remaining civilized places where such nonsense is ignored!

Saskatchewan Clocks

Friday, March 11, 2011 

Why Did University Of Regina Students Union Try So Hard To Prevent Results Of Referendum From Being Made Public?

(Students at the University of Regina voted in an October 2010 Referendum to determine if they would maintain ongoing membership with the Canadian Federation of Students. The results of the vote were kept secret for about 5 months by the current executive of the Students Union .. until today. Something very fishy seems to have taken place here.

The current Students Union executive have expended a lot of time and money trying to break ranks with the Canadian Federation of Students. Is it possible that they were trying to keep their referendum loss secret until after next weeks SU elections?)

Canadian Federation of Students Results Released
The Carillon
March 11, 2011

"OK, it's finally happened. Here's a letter from the CFS that the Carillon received Friday afternoon:

Re: CFS membership referendum at the University of Regina

This letter is written in response to an e-mail entitled ʻTiming of CFS results release convenient and suspicious” circulated yesterday by the University of Regina Students' Union (URSU). This release comes following months of the Executive of the URSU refusing attempts by our Federation to release the results of a referendum held In October 2010, amongst the individual members of the Canadian Federation of Students at the University of Regina on membership in our Federation.

In the referendum, students at the University of Regina voted to remain members of the Federation. The results were as follows:

In favour of continued membership: 1,414
Opposed to continued membership: 1,326

Following the close of polls, results were embargoed until the eligibility of a small number of voters could be determined. This included URSU members studying at the First Nations University of Canada who the URSU Executive sought to disenfranchise. The remaining ballots were counted on December 17, at which point the URSU and the Federation agreed to release the results in a timely manner.

*** In the nearly three months since, the Executive of the URSU has refused to allow its members to be informed of the results, instead making its consent contingent on the Federation paying URSU legal bills and agreeing to various unrelated demands being made by the URSU.

The Federation's members at the University of Regina and across the country have a right to know the results and the Federation will not allow the Executive of the URSU to impede the release of the results. While the Federation encouraged the Executive of the URSU to agree to a joint release, the URSU refused, leaving the Federation with no choice but to release the results on its own.

The attempt to prevent the release of the results are another inappropriate intrusion by the URSU Executive into the Federation's democratic processes, and a not particularly subtle way to divert attention from the fact that, despite spending significant resources opposing membership, its member students voted for unity. ***

Finally, the URSU Executive's accusation that the timing of the results is politically motivated is baseless and a continuation of its campaign to prevent students at the University of Regina from learning the results of the referendum before the conclusion of the current academic year.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.

In solidarity,
David Molenhuis
National Chairperson
Canadian Federation of Students

This certainly sounds a little, ahem, different from what URSU has been saying. We'll update as more information comes in.

UPDATE: URSU's Mike Staines has linked a response from URSU below; we'll reprint it here, as it was also sent to our inbox:

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) is pleased the students at the University of Regina have the results from the referendum on Local 9’s continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). “As happy as we are that our members finally have the results, were disappointed by CFS’s tactics of refusing to work with us” states URSU President Kyle Addison, “We’ve been contacting CFS to try and work with them to resolve the outstanding issues since December when we counted the final ballots.”

In the end 51.6% of students voted to remain members, 48.4% voted to leave CFS. A motion will be presented to the URSU Board of Directors on March 21st, 2011 to ratify the results, the URSU executive will be encouraging to the board to accept them and vote to remain members of the Canadian Federation of Students. Addison worries now that the results are public, after the CFS broke the agreement they forced on URSU, they will not work with URSU or commit to repairing the relationship. As the results indicate, this was a very divisive issue amongst the student population. “We communicated to them the campus was very split and even though they can claim victory the margin indicates there are a large number of students who are unhappy with the level of service they receive for their membership fees” he added, “URSU’s communication to CFS contained requests which we believed would help repair the relationship and demonstrate it’s willingness to win over the people who opposed their presence on campus. The CFS never responded to our repeated requests to work together and resolve the issues.”

URSU continues to assert the results being released less than a week before voting for the general elections is a deliberate attempt by CFS to interfere in the democratic process at the University of Regina. According to the documentation (which URSU has made public) delivered to URSU by the consul for CFS, CFS has asserted they have been in a position to release the results since they were counted on Dec 17th 2010 but didn’t not attempt release the results until March 9th 2011. URSU believes based on paragraph 3 of the Dec 15th 2010 agreement the parties agreed to not release results until determination of FNUC provisional ballots was agreed to by both organizations. The CFS has refused repeated attempts by URSU to bring this matter to a close.

Because of CFS’s reluctance to return and count the provisional ballots, in December of 2010 URSU filed an injunction that helped force CFS back to Saskatchewan to determine the final outcome. With the results now public, URSU will be instructing it’s consul to immediately stop the notice of motion.

In October of 2010 the URSU Board of Directors took an official stance to not continue membership in the CFS due to the poor level of service being provided to students at the University of Regina. It is the organization’s hope that both parties are prepared to move forward and work together to ensure the fees paid by the University of Regina students are rewarded with the quality of service CFS is capable of offering.
The Carillon - University of Regina

-Prairie Dog Blog has more ...


PotashCorp Starts To Come Clean On Massive Windfall Profits In Saskatchewan

Economist Erin Weir has been providing the most reliable information on the windfall profits that PotashCorp has been taking from the Province of Saskatchewan. Officials with PotashCorp and the Brad Wall administration have purposely muddied the waters in an attempt to play down the pittance the people of Saskatchewan have been receiving from their potash resource:

"In a couple of recent posts, I threw down the gauntlet for PotashCorp to disclose how much corporate income tax and Crown royalties it paid to the Government of Saskatchewan.

As Bruce Johnstone reports, it has finally done so:

-- "While PotashCorp paid $77 million in resource surcharges in 2010, it also paid $82 million in corporate income taxes and $70 million in Crown royalties. In total, PotashCorp paid about $230 million in royalties and taxes to the province in 2010."--

So, I was correct in suggesting that it paid less corporate income tax to Saskatchewan than to Trinidad ($82 million versus $113 million). PotashCorp paid Trinidadian tax on a manufacturing facility, not for extracting the island’s natural resources.

That is the fundamental difference between corporate income taxes and resource royalties. All industries are subject to corporate tax. Royalties are separate fees for the extraction of publicly-owned natural resources.

It is inappropriate to add up PotashCorp’s puny corporate tax payment and puny royalty payments to produce a seemingly respectable total. It is appropriate to combine the resource surcharge with Crown royalties for total resource royalties of $147 million in 2010.

That year, the company sold $2.8 billion of Saskatchewan potash. (It sold $3 billion in total, but 8% of its potash production was from New Brunswick.)

The surcharge is set at 3% of potash sales and Crown royalties range from 2.1% to 4.5% of potash produced from Crown lands. The $147-million total amounts to 5% of $2.8 billion – a nickel for every dollar of potash sold.

PotashCorp’s fourth-quarter reports compare royalties to potash gross margin, upon which the Potash Production Tax (that it did not pay in 2010) is based. The company generated a gross margin of $1.6 billion from Saskatchewan potash in 2010 ($1.8 billion minus New Brunswick). So, it paid a whopping nine cents per dollar of potash gross margin.

PotashCorp is now trying to argue that the appropriate base of comparison is neither sales nor gross margin but earnings: “If you just take a look at our net earnings after tax, yes, it was $1.8 billion (in 2010),” [CFO Wayne] Brownlee said. “But from Saskatchewan, it was $1 billion.”

Of course, earnings are money left over after royalties have been paid, so they cannot be the base from which royalties are paid. Earnings are also net of corporate income tax and other charges that apply after royalty calculations.

But then Brownlee goes even further off the deep end:

Based on potash prices of $550 US per tonne and 14 million tonnes per year of production, PotashCorp projects it would pay about $1.75 billion annually to the province, including about $500 million in corporate income tax and about $750 million in potash production tax.

The story does not specify whether he means tonnes of KCl or K2O, but we have to assume KCl because that is PotashCorp’s usual metric. To put these projections in perspective, PotashCorp produced 7.4 million tonnes in Saskatchewan and received an average price of $316 per tonne in 2010.

So, if PotashCorp sells twice as much potash at nearly double the price, it will pay substantial royalties and taxes. I hope so.

I am by no means pessimistic about the potash industry’s future. But given that PotashCorp has kept prices high by limiting supply, projections based on doubling both prices and supply should be taken with a grain of salt (or some other salt-like mineral.)

PotashCorp’s disclosure of Saskatchewan-specific royalty and tax figures advances the debate. However, it does not change the conclusion that royalties are far too low."

Progressive Economics

Progressive Bloggers

Thursday, March 10, 2011 

Witness History - Authoritarian Right Wingers In Wisconsin Trample Over Democracy

On Wednesday night Wisconsin Governor Walker insisted that the Republican members of the State Senate pass a new, stripped-down "budget repair bill" — which now excludes all the fiscal elements of the original budget repair bill, and simply includes the original’s provisions to roll back the collective bargaining and organizational rights of Wisconsin’s public employee unions.

-Watch Footage of Last Night's Shocking Wisconsin Senate End-Run

"Unless the zeal of those who resist Right Wing authoritarianism is equal to the zeal of those who would kill democracy, we are doomed"

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 

Will The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Please Explain Why A Blatant Racist (and unfettered free market pig) Is Paid To Voice His Vile World View On Your Network?

"The CBC's Ombudsman has blasted businessman and commentator Kevin O'Leary for using the term ''Indian giver'' on his CBC News Network show, denouncing the term as "unambiguously offensive."

The executive producer for the show, The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, has apologized directly to Alex Jamieson, an aboriginal man who complained, but Mr. O'Leary is a contract commentator and cannot be forced to express regret, ombudsman Kirk LaPointe writes in the report, published last week.

Mr. O'Leary, known for his brash, provocative commentary, heads up global investment firm O'Leary Funds.

He cancelled an interview with the National Post Monday because, according to his assistant, he was ''advised'' not to speak publicly about the issue.

On Monday, the CBC was looking at making an on-air apology for the comment and has yet to speak with Mr. O'Leary about potentially doing the same, according to spokesperson Jeff Keay.


O'Leary Apologizes For Offensive Remark ...
"In the heat of a debate over the privatization of potash in Saskatchewan, I used an inappropriate phrase. As the CBC's independent ombudsman pointed out ... the phrase was offensive and inappropriate. I agree. I withdraw the remark and apologize to those who were offended."


Fraser Institute Embraces Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker And Advocates Teaparty Politics For Canada

"Facing a $3.6-billion deficit***, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently declared his state "broke." To overcome this fiscal challenge, Mr. Walker proposed cutting generous public sector pension and health care benefits, and threatened immediate layoffs if concessions were not made. He also introduced legislation to restrict collective bargaining in the public sector and limit future wage increases to the rate of inflation.

Mr. Walker has clearly tapped into the growing backlash from ordinary working taxpayers against the generous compensation of the public sector. His willingness to tackle Wisconsin's fiscal situation head-on is a welcome breath of fresh air.

While Canadian politicians should be following Mr. Walker's lead, most are simply deferring fiscal problems into the future, unwilling to make the tough choices today."

Fraser Institute

The same offensive article also appeared in the Financial Post.

***NOTE: The Fraser Institute never mentions that the Wisconsin debt is largely due to the ongoing corporate tax cuts to larger corporations as well as a non-progressive tax structure that benefits the rich.


Brad Wall Is Just Plain WRONG On Rent Controls

Few Right wingers are more ideologically driven than Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall. When it comes to the call for 'rent control' in Regina and Saskatoon, he simply advances flawed research from the Fraser Institute. On the other hand, reliable new research from the University of Winnipeg should cause Brad Wall to perhaps examine the ideology that he loves to repeat.

"REGINA — Premier Brad Wall on Monday dismissed rent control as a "dangerous" approach while the NDP used the first question period of the spring sitting to hammer home the party's call for a legislated cap on increases."
Regina Leader-Post

What Brad Wall needs to do is to expand the boundaries of the information he uses to make his idiotic statements. For example, rather than simply repeating the fraudulent schlock that the Fraser Institute spouts, he may want to take a look at recent academic research completed by the U of W:

"Rent controls should not be blamed for Manitoba's minuscule vacancy rate or the dilapidated condition of some apartment buildings, according to a report to be released today.

The 39-page study, authored by University of Winnipeg economics professor Hugh Grant, also concludes "there is no evidence" that caps on rent have slowed the pace of new apartment construction or spurred a recent spike in condo conversions.

Furthermore, the provincial government-commissioned report says there is no proof rent regulations have "unduly restricted" rent rises in Manitoba. That's because the rules allow landlords to pass on their increased costs to tenants.

Family Services and Consumer Affairs Minister Gord Mackintosh said the report vindicates the government's approach to protecting renters.

"We're on the right path," he said Monday.

However, an organization that represents Manitoba landlords dismissed the findings Monday as "incorrect."

Wally Ruban, president of the Professional Property Managers Association, said the vacancy numbers don't lie.

"In a healthy rental market, there is tons of competition. Vacancy would be in the three-plus (per cent) range," he said, not less than one per cent as is the case in Winnipeg. He blamed two decades of rent controls for the current predicament.

Mackintosh said the government commissioned the study to find out whether, in fact, rent controls are to blame for the ultra-low vacancy rate. He said it is now convinced they are not.

In his report, Grant contends the rental shortage is largely due to a rapid increase in demand sparked by an aggressive immigration policy, specifically the Provincial Nominee Program. Rental construction has been slow to catch up, a situation that is not unusual in the housing market, he said.

Grant said a 20-year exemption from rent controls on newly built suites minimizes rent controls as a deterrent to new construction. Although Winnipeg apartment construction lagged throughout the 1990s, it has been well above the average of other large Canadian centres over the past five years, he said.

The impact of condominium conversions on the number of rental units in Winnipeg "has been exaggerated," Grant said. Conversions peaked in the mid-1990s and have been lower ever since, he said. And rental vacancy figures don't take into account the untold number of condos that are rented out.

The study also disputes the notion that rent controls are to blame for buildings falling into disrepair. In fact, incentives built into the rules -- such as temporary exemptions from rent caps -- have encouraged, rather than discouraged, improvements to properties, the report said."

Winnipeg Free Press

Friday, March 04, 2011 

What Percentage of Minister Jason Kenney's Time Is Spent Doing 'Immigration Business' And What Percentage Goes To Winning The 'Ethnic Vote'???

Because using the Office of the Minister of Immigration to win votes for the Conservative Party of Canada is, frankly, disgusting!


Progressive Bloggers

Thursday, March 03, 2011 

Cracks In 'Fortress Harper' Begin To Show With Former Conservative Candidates And MP's Speaking Out Over 'In/Out' Scheme

"Two former Tory MPs say they refused to join the party's "in-and-out" election financing scheme, adding to the number of Conservatives who say they had misgivings about the system.

Inky Mark, who resigned his Manitoba seat last year, said his staff was contacted by party officials during the 2006 election campaign. He said the officials asked of they could deposit several thousand dollars in his campaign account and withdraw it later to buy advertising.

"I said, 'Why would you give me money and give it back?" It didn't make sense. So I said, 'No thanks.'"

Independent conservative MP Helena Guergis — who was turfed from the Tory caucus last year over rumours of wrongdoing that were never substantiated — also says her campaign was approached and rejected the plan.

"I was asked but I said no. Something in my gut told me no," Christine Brayford, Guergis' sister and campaign manager, said in an email.

The disputed expenses were claimed as local advertising by 67 Tory candidates.

Elections Canada alleges the scheme allowed the party to exceed its 2006 campaign spending limit by more than $1 million by funnelling national advertising through 67 local candidates, who in turn claimed about $800,000 in public rebates to which they were not entitled.

The commissioner of elections laid charges against four party officials last week after consulting the federal director of public prosecutions."

Winnipeg Free Press

-Former Conservative Candidate Says Harper's Party Is 'Cult like' ...



There's PANIC In Conservative Back Rooms In Attempt To Protect Harper From 'In/Out' Scandal

There appears to be some very panicked movements by the Conservatives to try and bring some distance between Stephen Harper and repercussions from the 'IN/OUT' scandal. Senator Finely was the first to use a carefully crafted 'line' and others are now racing to get it out there. The gist of the line is this ... "Anyone who thinks PMSH was that deeply involved in campaign is an idiot. Campaign makes millions of decisions in 35 days. Think!"

Perhaps Stephen Harper shouldn't have been so quick to jump out in front as the official Tory 'point man' on the whole scandal. Harper tried to make it sound like the whole matter was merely an 'accountant's misunderstanding' or 'a minor administrative issue not worthy of the attention of voters'. Bullcrap!

Harper doesn't believe that the law and electoral rules apply to him. His arrogant and misguided sense of self righteousness has brought the entire Conservative Party of Canada into disrepute.

No amount of spin from Senator Finley and other Tory apparatchiks is going to change the story at this late stage.


The Globe & Mail


Does the National Citizens Coalition Also Claim That Canada's Federal Court Of Appeal Is Retaliating Against Harper With In/Out Charges?

The National Citizens Coalition is not being very logical. They have announced publicly that Elections Canada has charged Conservatives in retaliation for Mr. Harper's involvement in old lawsuits when he headed the NCC.

What the NCC doesn't comment on, is the Federal Court of Appeal decision that agreed with Elections Canada's actions in the matter. To follow NCC logic you have to assume that the Federal Courts are also in on the vendetta. The National Citizens Coalition is being ridiculous. They lack all credibility with this idiotic statement.

"PARLIAMENT HILL—The head of the conservative lobby group Prime Minister Stephen Harper once led, when he mounted a legal battle against election spending limits while he was out of politics, says Elections Canada challenged $1.3-million worth of Conservative ad expenses from the 2006 election in retaliation for Mr. Harper’s court fights against them a decade ago.

(AND YET ...)

A panel of three Federal Court of Appeal judges, one of whom was named to the court by the Harper government in 2007, ruled in favour of Elections Canada this week in a four-year-old legal battle over the expenses, which the election agency says the Conservatives should have attributed to the party’s national campaign instead of selected candidates across the country. That would have put the party $1-million over its $18.3-million spending limit for the campaign.
Hill Times

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 

More Saskatchewan Voices Call For Potash Royalty Review

The following post appeared this morning on the Progressive Economics Forum:

"Conservatives for Higher Potash Royalties
by Erin Weir
March 2nd, 2011

Growing up in Saskatchewan, I never imagined myself writing a blog post in support of Rick Swenson. First, blogs did not exist then. Second, I generally disagreed with Swenson, a former cabinet minister in Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservative government.

Swenson is back as leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, whose caucus quit to join with right-wing Liberals and federal Reformers to create the Saskatchewan Party in 1997. This morning’s newspapers report:

"Tory Leader Rick Swenson said the existing [potash royalty] structure must be changed to “ensure that the owners of resources - the people of Saskatchewan - get their fair share of the resource pie and for the decoupling of new mine and expansion construction from potash tonnage produced.” [...]

Swenson, a former energy minister under Grant Devine, said that government privatized Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan to ensure that taxpayers weren’t paying for mine expansions but that it has continued to occur under NDP and Sask. Party governments."

Swenson made similar comments on John Gormley’s radio show last Friday. This development will surprise many in Saskatchewan, where resource companies and compliant governments have portrayed any discussion of higher royalties as wild-eyed leftism.

Swenson reminds us that there is nothing ideological about the government charging the full market value for assets that it sells. For natural resources, the price should equal economic rent, a concept articulated by David Ricardo (hardly a wild-eyed leftist).

But Saskatchewan’s supposed champions of free enterprise – Gormley, Johnstone, the Saskatchewan Party – want to continue subsidizing potash companies by giving them the resource for less than it is worth.

When PotashCorp was a Crown corporation, the public had to take on some costs but also got an ironclad claim to all future economic rent. That arrangement made sense and Swenson was wrong to undo it.

However, his characterization of the post-2003 arrangement is right. Saskatchewan taxpayers bear much of the cost of investment through inflated write-offs and royalty holidays, while the potash companies get to keep most of the economic rent.

If we want private companies to mine the potash, we must allow them an adequate rate of return. Royalties should be structured to collect the economic rent in excess of normal profits. Designing royalties to achieve this goal may be a technical challenge, but the goal itself should not be politically controversial."

-=-=- Follow Buckdog on Twitter -=-=-


Former Conservative Candidate Says Harper's Party 'Cult' Like

"Maybe it was greed or maybe it was lack of intelligence or something in between the two. However, I put it down to the strength of the party and its ability to create a cult that can cause its followers to do virtually anything that might be asked of them."
David Marler
Conservative Party Candidate
Brome-Missisquoi Riding
2006 Federal Election

-Wpg Free Press: Conservative in-and-out 'refusenik' finds solace in Federal Court ruling

-National Post Background article from 2008

--Hill Times: Harper Knew What Was Going On With In/Out Scheme!

-Campaign expenses scandal could scorch Tories

-=-=- Follow Buckdog on Twitter -=-=-

Tuesday, March 01, 2011 

Federal Appeals Court Confirms Elections Canada Correct In Charges Against Harper's Conservative Party

So much for all of Stephen Harper's indignant self righteousness. He operates with the belief that whatever the Conservatives do is perfectly fine.

At least we haven't reached a point where he is beyond the law.

"The Federal Court of Appeal has struck down a ruling that Conservatives say cleared them of any wrongdoing in the so-called in-and-out election financing scheme.

The ruling confirms Elections Canada's interpretation of electoral spending laws

The court says it was reasonable for the elections watchdog to be dissatisfied with the way the Conservative Party reported national advertising expenses for the 2006 election.

The expenses were claimed as local advertising by 67 Tory candidates.

Elections Canada maintains the scheme allowed the national party to exceed its spending limit by more than $1-million, while letting candidates claim rebates on expenses they hadn't actually incurred.

The court ruling relates to a civil suit launched by two of the candidates.

Late last week, charges of wilfully overspending were laid against the party and four of its top campaign and fundraising officials, including two senators."


Progressive Bloggers

-Conservative in-and-out refusenik finds solace in Federal Court ruling

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