Wednesday, 25 May 2016 15:47

Premier Brad Wall not yet ready to leap

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Last week’s throne speech to start the first session of the 28th Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan was for the most part without any surprises, but with one puzzling exception.

The purpose of a throne speech is basically to outline the governing party’s priorities for the upcoming legislative sitting.
During the recent provincial election, the Saskatchewan Party did not make many campaign promises and the main message was that the party will continue to keep the province strong.
It was no surprise therefore the throne speech started with that commitment to keep Saskatchewan strong with a focus on the economy, the government’s financial situation and by “standing up” for Saskatchewan’s interests in Canada.
The details in the throne speech included a reference to a substantial investment in spending on highway maintenance and repairs, continuing investments in other infrastructure projects, and the introduction of legislation to carry out an election promise to convert 40 government-owned liquor stores to private stores.
The throne speech announced a new “patent box” growth tax incentive that will give a favourable tax break to businesses for the commercialization of patents and intellectual property rights in the province.
On the health front, the throne speech included two announcements. The government will look at ways to promote a higher rate of organ donation in the province that will benefit those waiting for organ transplants.
The government also plans to find $7.5 million in health administration savings per year that will be used to appoint more frontline health-care workers such as nurses and continuing care aides.
The throne speech even includes a reference to the government’s commitment to green energy through a new partnership with the First Nations Power Authority to develop 40 megawatts of clean energy that will be generated from solar power and flare gas. This partnership will help the government to achieve the recently-announced SaskPower goal of moving the province to a target to have 50 per cent of electrical power generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar and other options by 2030.
However, a few paragraphs after this reference to the government’s environmental goals the throne speech turned into what sounded more like a political campaign speech under the heading “Standing up for Saskatchewan.”
It stated the government of Premier Brad Wall will stand up to those who want to shut down major parts of Saskatchewan’s economy and put people out of work “in the name of some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”
This is a reference to the Leap Manifesto, a political document about environmental and social change that was created last year by a coalition of Canada’s social justice, environmental and labour movements. It calls for a drastic policy change to the way the Canadian economy operates, which will require a move away from the use of fossil fuels toward a clean-energy economy.
The Leap Manifesto has been a controversial document since its creation and it has caused significant divisions within the federal NDP when the party held its national convention in Edmonton in April. Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley has referred to the ideas in the Leap Manifesto as “naïve” and “ill-informed” as well as “tone-deaf” to the economic realities of Alberta.
It is therefore no surprise that Premier Brad Wall has similar misgivings about the Leap Manifesto, because the fossil fuel industry is also a significant component of the Saskatchewan economy.
He will therefore find many people, also in NDP circles, that will agree with the assertion that the document is a “misguided dogma.”
However, what is curious about that assertion in the throne speech is the second part of the same sentence that states this dogma has “no basis in reality.”
The Leap Manifesto is a response to probably the most important global challenge facing humans today — climate change and the need to live within the means of the earth’s resources.
While Premier Brad Wall and many others can rightfully question the appropriateness of the Leap Manifesto as a response to that challenge, it will be very difficult to argue that the document is not based on reality, unless of course one is denying climate change or its significance as a challenge to human existence on this planet.
According to data from the Prairie Climate Centre’s new climate atlas, the Canadian prairies are projected to warm much more than the globe as a whole. This will have a drastic impact on an important part of Saskatchewan’s economy, the agricultural sector.
Oil sands workers in Alberta have already started to talk about that new reality. A group of oil sand workers have started Iron & Earth, an organization that promotes the development of the oil sands at a sustainable pace while the energy sector is diversified through training programs that will provide oil sand workers with skills for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
For Premier Brad Wall to stand up for Saskatchewan requires more than just considering the present needs of the economy and the people of the province. It requires that the challenges of the future must also be considered to ensure the province can face up to what most likely will include a changing climate.
The people of Saskatchewan need to hear more from the premier about how his government is going to stand up for not only this generation, but also future generations who are facing a starkly different reality.
For them to be able to deal with that reality requires a government that will now start to work on that transition to an economy that inevitably will have to rely far less on fossil fuels.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Matthew Liebenberg