As the debate over liquor privatization in Saskatchewan begins to heat up, a common refrain from the current government is that arguments for the superior social responsibility of the public system unfairly impugns the integrity of private sellers. Admonishing NDP leader Cam Broten on his twitter account, Premier Brad Wall asked why the NDP “insult hundreds in SK who serve/retail alcohol by implying they’re not as responsible as those in gov stores.” Now, there is ample evidence that the majority of public liquor stores exercise a more robust system of liquor law compliance and enforcement than that of private stores. This is not to argue that private stores cannot or could not implement the same sort of rigorous system of compliance as that of public stores given stringent government monitoring and enforcement. Rather it is an argument that private stores will always have the very powerful imperative of economic survival working against them. Private retailers have a very obvious self-interest in increasing alcohol consumption – that’s their business. Private liquor retailing creates a conflict between the individual retailer’s drive to increase sales and society’s desire to limit liquor availability to vulnerable populations. As Wayne Henuset – owner of Willow Park Wines and Spirits remarked in response to widespread violations in Alberta:
Entries Tagged as 'Saskatchewan'
When it comes to privatization, it seems the Saskatchewan government has a tough time recalling past promises. Heading into the 2007 election, then-Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall stated unequivocally that “Crowns are not going to be privatized and (subsidiaries) are not going to be wound down.” Of course, we all know that once in power, Mr. Wall’s government sold off the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN), privatized the Information Services Corporation (ISC), sold off a slew of crown subsidiaries through the government’s Saskatchewan First Policy and has sought to privatize any publicly-delivered service not deemed a “core function” of government. So perhaps it should not be too surprising that Friday’s announcement by the government that it will privatize four rural liquor stores completely contradicts Mr. Wall’s promise in October of 2012 “not to privatize existing government-owned liquor stores.” This government has been remarkably adept at denying its privatization agenda, so I eagerly await the intellectual contortions necessary to justify how this latest broken promise is actually not further evidence of the government’s privatization agenda.
In the United States, prisons and privatization have become as American as apple pie. Today, approximately 130,000 people are incarcerated by for-profit companies in the United States, an 1,664% increase over the last 19 years. Even those prisons that remain state-run have sought to turn over almost every conceivable service – medical, mental health, educational, food, maintenance and security – to the private sector. Indeed, the Americans have demonstrated an almost devout ideological commitment to prison privatization even in spite of the perverse incentives it causes, such as the reprehensible “kids for cash” scandal. With such a wealth of experience and dedication to prison privatization, we should probably pay close attention to the American experience – particularly when we seem determined to emulate it.
The following commentary was quoted on page D1 of yesterday’s Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post:
Thursday’s fourth-quarter report indicates that PotashCorp paid “provincial mining and other taxes” of $194 million on potash sales of $3 billion in 2013. In other words, Saskatchewan’s resource surcharge and potash production tax amounted to just 6.5% of the value of potash sold.
Adding the basic Crown royalty (which PotashCorp includes in “cost of goods sold”) and subtracting New Brunswick potash suggests that Saskatchewan is collecting no more than a dime per dollar of potash extracted from the province.
January 17th, 2014 · Simon Enoch · Aboriginal Issues, Alberta, Environment, Media, Saskatchewan, Satire
Has anyone else noticed the explosive rise of fact-checking in the Canadian media as of late? This is certainly a welcome development. Instead of the usual “He said, she said,” muddle in the name of balance, we are in the throes of a renewed quest for pure facts and unadulterated veracity. Surely this sea-change in fact-checking must be in response to some scandalous claim by a major politician or some other Canadian that wields an immense amount of power over our daily lives.
In response to the provincial NDP’s call for an independent evaluation of the costs of the government’s proposed P3 school construction project, Minister of Highways and Infrastructure Don McMorris dismissed the opposition’s concern stating that “there will be an independent evaluation, not by government,” but by an independent “accounting firm, whether Ernst & Young or Deloitte.” Pressed by CBC Radio Host Sheila Coles regarding the independence of the evaluation process from government, Minister McMorris added:
The Saskatchewan Party has appropriated the province’s name, flag and football team. More recently, it asserted a new symbol of Saskatchewan patriotism: the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Earlier this year, provincial energy and resources minister Tim McMillan had the following letter in Regina’s Leader-Post:
Province Needs XL (January 28, 2013)
I write in regard to recent Leader-Post coverage of the Keystone XL Pipeline. As Saskatchewan’s minister responsible for energy and resources, I strongly support this project as it has considerable benefits for Saskatchewan’s oil industry and the people of this province.
Regardless of the outcome in the City of Regina’s wastewater referendum being held today, there is one thing that is certain. We need to establish very clear rules for how City-wide referenda should be conducted in the future and we need very specific rules on how the City communicates with the voters on the referendum issue. The catalogue of controversial and borderline unscrupulous practices by the City during the entire life of the referendum are almost too numerous to list. Before the referendum was even confirmed we had the attempt by the City Clerk to raise the petition threshold, the disqualification of signatures that did not include the year in the date, and the strange use of two verification procedures for the petition signatures that appears to have contravened the Cities Act. Once the referendum was underway, we had city staff promoting the Vote No side, splash pages on the City’s website advocating for the No side, the City twitter feed used to promote the No side and even voter information cards emblazoned with arguments for the Vote No campaign. (Paul Dechene has an excellent run-down of the various incidents here).
As the referendum on whether to privatize Regina’s wastewater plant nears, the Regina Leader-Post is printing a column a day advocating the P3: John Gormley on Friday, Bruce Johnstone on Saturday, and Murray Mandryk yesterday.
Johnstone and Mandryk repeat three of the City’s key claims. Gormley only gets to one of these claims because he mostly just attacks the messenger, implying that a P3 would be good because CUPE opposes it (another common City tactic).
It does not make sense for governments, which can borrow at low interest rates, to pay private operators to finance public infrastructure at higher interest rates.
Regina is engaged in a controversial debate about a proposed public private partnership (P3) for the city’s wastewater plant.
Residents formed a Regina Water Watch group to keep the facility public. They collected enough names to take the issue to a municipal referendum on September 25th, despite attempts by the city to disallow signatures on spurious grounds. Regina mayor Michael Fougere launched an aggressive advertising campaign in support of the P3, spending over $300,000 in advertising and robocalls. (For its part he Regina Water Watch group has produced an excellent video, starring Eric Peterson).
Three issues haven’t received much attention in the public debate over Regina’s controversial wastewater P3 project, but they should give residents there and elsewhere cause for concern (although others have raised some of them here).