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John vs Tammy.

It was the name of this segment we used to do during my four years as executive producer of the John Gormley Live Show, from 2007 to 2011.

I would be set up with some stupid position to “debate” Gormley on live radio, then Gerald, Rick and Gord, or some combination of middle-aged males thereof, would call up and berate me for being stupid. The segment would wrap, and Gormley would be declared the winner.

We did dozens, and Gormley won every single time. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Here we are, seven years after John vs Tammy ground to a blessed halt, but Gormley still can’t stop playing. He’s still getting off on berating me on social media and on air, especially now that I’m not there to mount the predetermined, feeble defence I was given.

It happens every few months. I don’t know exactly what fuels this bizarre behavior, or care. What I do know is I haven’t seen or spoken directly to the man since I quit in 2011, so it’s troubling.

The latest segment of JvT kicked off Thursday night on Twitter, and then apparently turned into a bit of a barn burner on his show.

Which is all fine, if he had been riffing on facts.

He wasn’t.

He had been given false and incorrect information by people who have very big, and likely mental-health-related problems (they know who they are, and they know I know who they are, but we can talk about that another time, if need be).

Gormley Tweets

It’s me… I’m the “some communications person”.

He knew his audience would know he was referring to me. He wouldn’t have Tweeted it otherwise. Problem is, I did not get paid $60K over the six months I was with the Broncos, never mind in the first six weeks. Not even close.

Minutes later, Gormley seems to realize he’s screwed up.

Gormley Tweets

Now it’s “who/how/why”, as opposed to just one person (aka me).

Now he’s nervous that the unverified intel he had just spewed publicly was inaccurate (spoiler alert: it was).

Gormley Tweets

Ah… “accuracy”. Three public statements later, we’re worried about accuracy.

I knew Gormley was hot on the trail of this riveting public-interest story two weeks ago when a reporter from his radio station called the Broncos and asked about my remuneration.

A few days later I ran into friend and former colleague Wray Morrison, and we talked about it. Wray is the sports director at Rawlco, and after the crash he and his staff relied heavily on me and Takt to tell Broncos’ stories. Stories Rawlco paid them to tell, so Rawlco could be paid by advertisers, so Rawlco could pay people like John Gormley. So what was the problem with me needing to pay my rent? There wasn’t one, Wray insisted.

tweet

Tweet no. 4: virtue signalling.

Which brings us to Tweet no. 4.

Wray denies he told Gormley anything like that. Which makes sense, because I didn’t say anything like that.

Even if I did, who cares? Not the point. Point is I had an off-the-record, private conversation with a friend and journalist. A private conversation which inexplicably made it’s way to broadcast.

But I’ll let those two and their ethics advisors fight that out.

Here’s the truth.

On April 6, 2018, about five hours after the crash, a client asked me to phone then Broncos-president Kevin Garinger with an offer of air travel and financial assistance. During our call Kevin was bombarded by reporters, so I gave him advice on how to handle them.

“Can you help us?” he asked. I was in Humboldt by 8am the next morning, and helped deliver the first live Broncos’ news conference. Then, after it was over, I drove back to Saskatoon. I didn’t say goodbye. I felt like an outsider (I was) and wanted to get out of their way.

But halfway to the city I got a call from a Broncos’ director (can’t remember which one). “Where are you?” he asked, clearly not happy with me. “We have a meeting right away.”

I joined them by conference call for the rest of the day, and then on Sunday dragged my kids to Humboldt and locked them in the only available room at the Canalta hotel for fourteen hours. I was volunteering, and never did expense that room (in fact, the first I expensed any of my fuel, mileage, meals or accommodation was for the club’s AGM in August).

By Day Four I could not handle the communications demands of the tragedy alone, volunteer or otherwise.

Knowing that the Broncos’ would be working mainly with Saskatchewan reporters, I told them they needed to retain a local firm. One that would be able to drop everything, work inexpensively and quickly, and could work under unfathomable pressure in the short-term, and, after discussion with the various directors, to where I could transition relatively easily if I was going to be needed for the long-term. I gave the Broncos’ a number of options, explaining the differences, including in fees. They chose Takt Communications. I’d worked with them before. I knew they were great and supported the choice. Takt was eager to get going but bore with me while I micromanaged the transition, because there were so, so many sensitivities, complexities and minefields to maneuver.

So.

Many.

Minefields.

But I digress.

Takt billed the Broncos at a deep discount from beginning to end, but working fulltime for free for six months wasn’t an option. There was a 30-day retainer agreement in place, no formal contract. In the summer we mutually agreed that Takt’s services would end after the September 7 home opener. It was all very pleasant and simple.

Here’s what Global News Regina recently said about Takt’s (and by extension, my) rates for the Broncos:

“Global News spoke with other public relations firms that handle crisis communications in the province. All the firms Global spoke to said the discounted rate Takt offered was well below market price and that his standard pricing is fair, one even saying it was on the low end.

That same day, four days after the crash, a nice lady named Louise thanked me for volunteering with the Broncos. At that point I was volunteering, and had no plans to “take a penny” for the work (I never did for that period of time). In my reply I tried to convey that the situation was evolving. I noted the Blouise tweetroncos’ were bringing in “outside agencies, ie. comms”, and that “I may be a part of that…”, but also that I wasn’t going anywhere. I was heavily emotionally-invested and already had too much corporate-memory of the crisis to just walk away. If necessary, I would have kept volunteering as long as I was able, if that’s what the Broncos had decided they wanted from me.

But until that was figured out, I kept working 20-odd hours per day, without any clarity about what would happen next, nor any expectation of payment in the interim.

In the end, before fully transitioning the file to Takt and letting them lead, I donated about 100 hours. In a “normal” crisis I would have billed more for that alone than I ended up earning per month: $9000. $2000 went to the nanny I had to hire fulltime so I could do the job. After deductions I ended up bringing in less than before I ever set foot in Humboldt. I had to let go of almost all my clients, because I simply didn’t have the capacity to work with them at the same time, and did nothing during my time with the team to build new ones, so today I’m still not sure what I’m going to do next. I don’t care, and regret nothing. I’m not sharing because it matters to me, but because clearly it does to some people.

If a comms agency in Saskatoon stepped up do it for free, like Gormley is suggesting, I didn’t know about it. Nobody else seems to either. Either way, once that tragedy calmed down and became the daily, all-consuming nightmare it has been ever since, they’d have been long gone.

Which brings us back to this shit show.

On Thursday night Takt Communications provided Gormley with detailed information to correct that which he had just lied about on Twitter. It didn’t matter, because Gormley doesn’t care about Takt, truth, or anything other than smearing and discrediting me. I know this for a fact, because I watched him do it to people for years.

On Friday morning, Gormley knew the first narrative he had planned was screwed, so he made up another one, live on the air.

No longer was the “marketing” (don’t ask me why they called it that) line item amount in the Broncos’ annual financials bothering him, despite his Tweets.

Instead, he resurrected the above-mentioned Tweet I sent Louise, stretching it to suggest I deliberately misled people to believe that I wouldn’t “take a penny” at all, ever. That I’d conducted a “bait and switch” on the Broncos by saying I’d initially work for free and then ambushing them with costs.

That I’m some kind of soothsaying monster who knew, on the night it happened, what the full, staggering extent of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash tragedy would be, and so must have called them to volunteer as a way to get in the door to take advantage of it.

Can you imagine? Seriously?

Totally false.

Yet here we are.

I’m not surprised. Gormley and his best friend and lap dog ran a similar smear campaign in April when I started with the Broncos. It didn’t work, so they tried again. The reality is this was always coming – Gormley had been waiting, like a kid on Christmas morning, to get ahold of a scrap of something Humboldt Broncos’-related that he could use to come after me.

He couldn’t get anything out of the job we did, because like everyone else who was consumed by the aftermath, volunteer or not, we did a good job. We even booked guests for his show. Gormley knew months ago the Broncos’ had retained Takt, because he used them himself.

For weeks, the Humboldt Broncos’ tragedy was one of the biggest international news stories out there. The communications needs were extensive for a really long time, and they needed professional assistance. The end.

But John v Tammy has been going on, to varying degrees, for seven years. It went on, to different degrees, for the four years before that. He had thirteen producers in the nine years before me – you think that’s because he was awesome to work with?

I’ll never forget sitting in the radio station’s general manager’s office, sobbing.

“He’s Gormley. He’s not going to change,” I was told. In other words, they had no intention of trying to mitigate his behavior, and if I didn’t like it, I could leave.

In April, if I owed Twitter an immediate follow-up detailing how I stayed on to help the Broncos while keeping my bills paid, I was not aware of such requirement. I could barely hold it together enough to shower and brush my teeth consistently for the first six weeks of working that crisis.

But it wouldn’t have mattered, we’d still be here today, on something else.

Every second I spent working with the Broncos, and with the amazing people I met doing so, was a privilege. I came out of that experience with people I’ve never met hating me, and people who hated me before hating me even more. More importantly, I met people who I will always love and consider friends.

And it’s for them that I feel awful.

Gormley’s attacks on me are attacks on the people who led the Humboldt Broncos through those dark, horrific, indescribable early days. Volunteers, with fulltime jobs and families, who nearly killed themselves to hold the fragments of that team together.

To those people, I apologize, and its for them I write this. I didn’t want to and hated having to do so, because it’s what Gormley wanted – to force his way into my head, to make me react.

To feel in control.

But you’re not, John. And you need to stop.

Those awesome people don’t deserve to be dragged into this, or to be led to believe by a bunch of very sad, sick individuals that they were conned at one of the darkest points of their lives.

Those who lost loved ones or were otherwise hurt by this tragedy will continue to be hurt by people – far too many, to be honest – using other peoples’ pain and loss as a weapon to settle personal scores.

I don’t charge for my content, but if you think you got something out of it, feel free to show your support by hitting this Donate button. 
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PS: Many of you have asked for it, here’s a Patreon link. Basically you subscribe a couple of bucks of month, which collectively accumulates into steady subscription revenue for this site.

For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in political strategy, media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca

 

I’m back. 

A huge thank you to everyone who encouraged me to get back to blogging, and who kept your Patreon subscriptions active (if you didn’t, I totally get it). I’ve been extremely tied down with a communications contract for the last five-ish months, and it was tempting, at times, just to shut this site down, as opposed to seeing it sit unused.  But that’s over now – I’m glad I kept it, and here I am.


So I’m sitting in a restaurant in small-town Saskatchewan recently, listening to a small-town Saskatchewan radio station playing behind the counter. My ears perk up when I hear a bombastic male voice say “Indian residential schools”… and then my jaw drops.

The voice belonged to former Saskatchewan broadcaster Roger Currie, who says he’s now a news director for a community-owned radio station in Winnipeg, which appears to be run by the original cast and crew of Three’s Company.

*Sept 24, 2018 (10AM-ish) update: I thought it would be obvious, given the opening line specifies that I was in Saskatchewan, listening to a Saskatchewan radio station, that I wasn’t in Winnipeg, listening to a Winnipeg radio station. To make it abundantly clear – I did not hear this ad on CJNU. However I think the fact a longtime Canadian broadcaster and on-air newsperson is behind it is relevant, because those roles, under any circumstance or on any issue, are quite powerful when it comes to influencing public opinion. 

What I was hearing was Currie’s “commentary” in a paid radio ad from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP).

And holy wow, was it amazing – in all the really, really worst ways, which I will dissect for you now, because what the actual f**k Saskatchewan?

The ad begins:

“For many years now, we’ve been told that the residential school system deserves the blame for many of the dysfunctions in indigenous society…”

Currie could barely conceal the scorn in his voice for anyone who was “told” that and believes it.

Update Sept 24, 2018 (5PM-ish) update: 

According to this unreal good, in-depth story by the CBC on the issue:

“The ad was voiced by Winnipeg-based freelance radio personality Roger Currie. He said he was “regretful” for his role in the piece and that he “made a bad call.”

“That’s not who I am,” Currie said.

“I regret doing it. I apologize for any hurt and offence … that my participation may have caused. These are not my thoughts, but that’s not a real, valid excuse.”

….When presented with the script about residential schools, Currie said he was hesitant but in the end, he said he took the word of Peter Holle, president of the FCPP, that the script was based on accurate research. Admittedly, Currie said, he didn’t know if it was true or not.

“What can you say?” Currie said. “I have not read the Truth and Reconciliation report. Very few people have.””

Oh Roger, you were so close. So close. But good on you for saying something.

I mean, one could conclude that intergenerational trauma has long been researched extensively and accepted as fact by the general public and notable researchers, psychologists and general experts.

One could peruse this research paper (one of the many, many available on the internet) entitled The intergenerational effects of Indian Residential Schools: Implications for the concept of historical trauma, which provides “empirical evidence for the concept of historical trauma…the consequences of numerous and sustained attacks against a group may accumulate over generations and interact with proximal stressors to undermine collective well-being.”

For anyone at the FCPP that’s interested, you can find that paper on the National Centre for Biotechnology Information‘s website, which is a subsidiary of the US National Library of Medicine. I’m sure you’ll dash right over.

Anyway, we’ve been “told”.

Next up, the commentary helpfully clears up some of the prevailing confusion Currie seems to feel exists around residential schools.

(Remember, I’m listening to rural Saskatchewan radio and this is a paid advertisement.)

“Myth: residential schools robbed native kids of their childhoods…”

I’m sorry, what?

Did you just say “Myth”?

Sure did.

The ad then counters that so-called myth with the “fact” that the average residential school stay was a mere five years.

Oh, well then. What could possibly go wrong with a school-aged child forcibly taken away from their parents and immersed in a perverse and probably horrifically abusive environment for just five measly years? (Representing anywhere from a third to half their life at that point, but who’s counting, besides not the FCPP?)

He doesn’t leave it there though, blowing our minds with the little known tidbit that

“…the vast majority of aboriginal youth never attended a residential school.”

By the 1920s residential schools were f**king mandatory for school-aged indigenous children, Roger. I’m not even going to link to a source because I swear to god my kid learned that fact in Grade 6 social studies.

It is actually painful to continue typing this stupidity, but I’m going to, because I really think we need to understand that not only does this attitude and ignorance exist in Saskatchewan, but it buys broadcast advertising and nobody seems to notice.

We’re next advised that the “myth” that residential schools robbed indigenous students of their language and culture is negated by the “fact” that those same students were “more likely” to retain their culture than those who did not attend residential schools, and more likely to provide leadership in cultural preservation.

The ad then goes on to cite various sources quote research explain where that little gem came from nope nevermind.

I’m not saying that residential school survivors were not or are not strong, or haven’t made an effort to recover and/or preserve their culture and language. What I am saying is that the insinuation that residential schools actually helped that effort is…I don’t even know.

Maybe a facepalm emoji? Cause there really are no words for that kind of ignorance.

Let’s wrap this up, cause no one around here is getting any smarter.

“Myth: the harm that has been done to those attending residential schools has been passed on to today’s generation.”

Wait waitwaitwait… wait a darn minute.

The ad JUST finished explaining how there was no damage inflicted by residential schools. In fact, the commentary basically suggests residential schools were a colonial-Disneyland, with indigenous kids lining up at the gates, begging to be let in to have their lives magically transformed.

So what is this “harm” you speak of?

“In fact there is little evidence that abuse suffered by a grandparent had any effect on the academic success of the generations that followed.”

Let me get this straight: according to the FCPP, there was really no harm or abuse inflicted by residential schools, but in the extremely rare case there was, that abused, broken pupil went on to have a perfectly normal life – keeping busy furthering their indigenous language and preserving their culture, undoubtedly – and raising their happy, healthy family.

This ad is almost breathtaking in its Trumpian-like absence of facts.

It then concludes by urging “all Canadians” to address “today’s problems” and their “real causes”.

Translation: the extensive social and economic barriers currently plaguing indigenous nations and peoples across Canada today are their own fault because bad choices, and residential schools were actually awesome – and this message is being broadcast across cars, tractors, restaurants and kitchens in rural Saskatchewan.

I heard it on a radio network, so I’d be willing to bet it’s a bulk ad buy playing across the province on any number of local radio stations.

How do potentially thousands of Saskatchewan people hear this kind of narrative – a completely false narrative that does NOTHING but stoke even more racial tension in rural Saskatchewan – and not speak up?

In the event that you need to hear this ad yourself, you can find it on the FCPP’s website here.

^^ *Sept 24, 2018 (4:30PM) update: the audio file that this post is regarding has been removed and replaced with some essay that isn’t relevant to this discussion.

What really freaks me out is that the FCPP is actually considered pretty credible. It’s a political thinktank, the rightwing mirror to an entity like the leftwing Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. When the FCPP releases a study or survey the media turns it into a news story, like this one on the potential sale of Saskatchewan Crown Corps, or this one on Canada Post, which was a national story.

This is a third-party credibility (aka publicity 101) strategy which amplifies and legitimizes the FCPP’s profile as trustworthy… meaning when commentaries like this one run on the radio, people don’t think “hmm, maybe this is a paid advertisement”.

Instead they think, “This is on the radio so it must be news.”

So here’s what I think needs to happen:

  • the radio station needs to pull those ads immediately, because they’re not fact-based commentary, they’re simply spreading misinformation and untruths;
  • the FCPP needs to take a hard look at what exactly they’re trying to accomplish, because someone(s) in that organization not only allowed Currie’s commentary to exist under the FCPP banner, but also thought “We should pay for this message to be spread in Saskatchewan”;
  • if the above doesn’t happen, media then needs to decide if the FCPP remains a credible source of actual news going forward.

In the meantime, humor me while I imagine a morning on coffee row in small-town Saskatchewan with this crap on the airwaves:

“June, did you know residential schools were actually good for native children?”
“But… didn’t the government pay billions of dollars in settlements, and Stephen Harper apologize for residential schools?”
“All I know is I just heard it on the news on the way into town so it must be true.”
“I knew it. They just want to blame us and <insert more racist stereotypes here in a rant which eventually spills over to the other tables and definitely includes at least one reference to Gerald Stanley>.”

….aaaaand scene.

The FCPP boasts that its “respected Board and team of Expert Policy Advisors includes both experienced public policy innovators and prominent academic specialists from around Canada and the world.”

So where are they?

I don’t charge for my content, but if you think you got something out of it, feel free to show your support by hitting this Donate button. I need to feed my kids! 🙂
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For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in political strategy, media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca

I suppose it could be a coincidence that Johnny Manziel announced he has signed on with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Ti-Cats… early on the Saturday morning of a long weekend.

I mean, why would the Heisman Trophy-winning, turmoil-plagued quarterback want to bury the fact that he is doing the northern walk of shame for washed-up former NFL stars?

22nd overall, Manziel was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. He then went on to throw as many interceptions (seven) as touchdown passes over his two seasons.

Yet Hamilton’s head coach June Jones literally thinks Manziel is the best thing to ever happen to Canadian football.

“I think he’d be the best player to ever play up here,” Jones said in January. “He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do.”

Alrighty then.

I really could care less about Manziel’s on-field stats.

What makes me laugh is watching the CFL twist itself into a pretzel trying to justify its approval of Manziel, who has a troubled history, including of domestic violence.

In 2012, then 19-year-old Johnny was arrested after his friend started yelling racial slurs at a black man, resulting in a fight breaking out. Manziel was charged with carrying fake ID and some kind of misdemeanour assault.

In late 2014, not long after being drafted by the Browns, Manziel gets in another fight. His first year with the Browns is unproductive and tumultuous. He goes into rehab in 2015.

In late 2015, now his second season with the Browns, Manziel and girlfriend Colleen Crowley were stopped by the cops after a reported argument. No charges were filed, but a video of the incident was later released in which she says he hit and grabbed her.

By early 2016 the Browns are fed up with Johnny, who generally just DGAF.

In early February 2016 Crowley once again accuses Manziel of domestic violence, claiming he threatened to “kill [them] both” (no charges were laid). Manziel’s dad whines to media that if Johnny (both Manziel Sr and Jr are trust fund babies – grandpa was a Texas oil tycoon) doesn’t get help, he “won’t live to see his 24th birthday.” Johnny’s agent turfs him, and news breaks that Dallas police are investigating yet a third domestic violence allegation, this one from January 29, 2016.

Manziel is cut from the Browns, loses his endorsements, including Nike, and in April 2016 Dallas County grand jury indicts Manziel.

The indictment accused Manziel of “intentionally and knowingly causing bodily harm” to Crowley “by striking complaint with a hand and by forcing complainant into a vehicle and against a vehicle dashboard.”

Manziel goes on to do what most of us would do in his situation – goes to a Justin Bieber concert, gets a tattoo… on a plane, and breaks a bartender’s nose, who goes on to sue Johnny for $1-million.

In December 2016 Manziel and his lawyers finalize a plea deal with the Dallas DA’s office: as long as he completes counselling “on how to make better choices when facing conflict” within one year, he’ll receive a conditional discharge. If he fails, he’ll face full prosecution, a year in jail and a fine.

In March 2017, with the threat of prosecution still hanging over his head, and one month after he was told by a judge in February 2017 that he wasn’t taking the plea  deal “seriously”, Manziel’s CFL rights were snapped up by Hamilton Ti-Cat general manager Eric Tillman.

I mean, “threat of prosecution” ain’t no thang to Tillman, who in 2010 was criminally convicted himself, and slapped with an… absolute discharge.

“In this case there’s no suggestion that Mr. Tillman is not generally of good character,” said the sentencing Saskatchewan judge at the time, one day after accepting Tillman’s guilty plea to SEXUALLY ASSAULTING A TEENAGE GIRL.

Absolute discharge: it never happened. Despite the fact Tillman fully admitted it did.

Jesus Christ. Anyone out there still wondering where #MeToo came from?

Anyway, in November of 2017 Manziel’s counselling conditions are completed and the charge is conditionally dismissed.

In December 2017 the CFL announced it was undertaking a “thorough process”, including an assessment by an “independent expert on domestic violence” (lest you were labouring under the assumption Manziel or the CFL had their own), lawyers, and a one-on-one chat between Manziel and CFL league commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

Presumably, prior to their chat, Ambrosie brushed up on this New York Post’s in-depth story, where Crowley goes into deep detail about several instances of abuse she endured from Manziel during their 17-month relationship.

On December 28 the CFL confirmed it would approve a contract for Manziel for the 2018 season as long as he continued to meet a number of super-secret conditions. A week later Hamilton says it has offered Manziel a contract.

Manziel immediately starts doing whatever he needs to do – including publicly offering to play in the NFL for FREE – to not have to go to Hamilton.

Then, early on the Saturday morning of May 19, 2018, Manziel felt around for his clothes on the floor, tiptoed out the front door and admitted defeat he was headed for the CFL.

I do have a point here – in fact I have three of them.

First – why does the CFL insist on rummaging through the NFL’s dumpster looking for something – anything – that might still be useful?

We’re like that booty call you hit up when no one else is answering their phone. Not only do they answer, you realize they’ve been waiting since you last called six months ago. You’re kind of disgusted with both of you, but you go anyway, because it’s better than nothing.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge that neither the NFL or the CFL have substantial policies addressing domestic violence, likely by design.

Here’s some of my favourite lines from the CFL policy, which was released in 2015:

“In cases where there are clear and documented cases of violence against women – determined by the police, the courts, or confirmed by the perpetrator – the CFL will impose sanctions.”

We believe wome- nevermind.

If the abuse is “clear and documented” by the authorities, or the player admits it, there will be consequences.

“The CFL will also impose sanctions when there has been a clear violation of protection orders or other directives put in place by the courts or police…These sanctions will range from suspension for single or multiple games to a lifetime ban from the CFL, depending on the severity and number of incidences.”

How are we gauging “severity”… open hand vs closed fist? What is the magic “number of incidences” of domestic violence tolerated before things get real around here?

All these caveats are rich, coming from the same folks who dreamt up the CFL’s pass interference rule.

Finally, we should talk about the fact that in some parts of the world – including in Saskatchewan -you can plead guilty to domestic assault…and then pretend it never happened.

There are Domestic Violence Courts in Saskatoon, Regina and North Battleford.

You can read all about them here, but here’s the Coles Notes’ version:

  • the accused is advised that if he (yeah, I’m nodding to the stats and using “he” – deal with it) pleads guilty and then goes through Don’t Hit Women programming, he’ll get an absolute discharge – he’ll walk;
  • or, if he pleads not guilty and takes his chances in regular court, he could end up in jail;
  • so he pleads guilty, takes some classes and then a year later is “sentenced” conditionally – as long as he’s a good boy for one more year, then he’s absolutely discharged.

As if it never happened.

Given what we know about what women are willing – or more accurately, not willing – to tolerate today – isn’t the notion of pleading guilty to hitting a woman and then walking away just a tad antiquated?

Why aren’t we imposing punitive measures on those convicted of domestic violence, AND putting them through counselling?

Why are we operating under the assumption that grown-ass men convicted through Saskatchewan’s Domestic Violence Courts didn’t know better before they hit her?

It seems obvious that society, including our sporting institutions, would take a zero-tolerance position on violence against women – but for god’s sake, shouldn’t the courts? 

Saskatchewan, which has boasted the highest rates of domestic violence in the country for(what seems like)ever, is set to publish its review of domestic homicides – 48 in nine years – next week.

The review was supposed to be out months ago… but whatever. Just like the Johnny Football and the CFL, it’s better than nothing.

Maybe it will address this bizarre loophole in our court system.

Meanwhile seems like a good time to promote a conversation I AM super proud to have: Football Saskatchewan’s Be More Than a Bystander program (full disclosure – I worked with the amazing team who brought it to Saskatchewan).

Sponsored by the Heather Ryan and David Dube Foundation, Football Sask’s Be More Than A Bystander program focuses on men, not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abuse taking place around them.

Being More Than a Bystander is about intervening in abusive attitudes towards women in its earliest stages – before it escalates to violence. It’s about empowering Saskatchewan youth to not sit idly by in preventing violence against women.

Because there are still role models out there – plenty of them. And we need them.

Some of our province’s top amateur football players have been trained as spokesmen to speak up about violence against women, to present to young people how important it is for them to do the same.

Today the Be More Than a Bystanders presentation has been delivered in schools and locker rooms across the province, and everywhere it goes its a hit with teachers, students, adults and youth alike. If you’re interested in bringing this free presentation – and the amazing football players who present it – to your school or community, please email me at tammyrobert@live.ca and we’ll make it happen. We’re booking into fall of 2018, but still have plenty of openings in June.

I don’t charge for my content, but if you think you got something out of it, feel free to show your support by hitting this Donate button. I need to feed my kids! 🙂
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I’ve always wanted to headline a post with clickbait. Preferably one that doesn’t include swear words (many, many of you, especially my male readers and my mom, get quite disgusted when I do that). Will it work? Let’s watch.

It’s true though. In a recent poll commissioned by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and conducted by Abacus Data, people across Canada were questioned extensively on their views on not only carbon pricing (or carbon “tax”, depending on what side of this debate you lie), but on the state of our environment – why things are they way they are – and the strength of our commitment to protecting it.

I assumed that, especially given the fierce anti-carbon pricing messaging over the last few years from former Premier Brad Wall and the current Saskatchewan Party government, the results from Saskatchewan residents would be something along the lines of climate change isn’t real and any action to mitigate it, never mind a carbon tax, equals pure, unadulterated evil.

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Make no mistake, there are plenty of people around here who think exactly that, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion (just ask them).

I’m not sure how many of them understand (and this theory is supported by the poll results, not just my own arrogance) that the federal pricing legislation, released in January and formerly tabled last week, specifically excludes farmers in all ways shapes and forms.

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 11.18.01 AM.png

One example from federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. There are more, feel free to search the rest yourself (linked above).

But I digress.

Those results are also likely valid, but don’t negate these, as this was a fairly exhaustive survey*. Now, as per usual, Saskatchewan’s results were combined with Manitoba’s (its a population thang), but in my experience nerding out on studying poll data over the last decade (or more, who am I kidding), that doesn’t make them any less relative to Saskatchewan alone. Like it or not, we generally think like our neighbour to the east.

So without further ado here’s what this poll, entitled Perceptions of Carbon Pricing in Canada, revealed about Saskatchewan’s thoughts on climate change and carbon pricing.

Q: In your view, is there conclusive evidence, solid evidence, some but not conclusive evidence, little evidence, or no evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?

53% of Saskatchewan residents believe that there is conclusive or solid evidence that the earth has been warming over the past few decades. That surprised me, but that surprise was offset by the fact that 35% – the highest in Canada – of us believe there is only some, but not conclusive evidence.

Q: If the earth is warming, do you believe that cause is mostly…?

In Saskatchewan, a full 64% selected …”because of human and industrial activity such as burning fossil fuels.”

That’s a lot of faith in witchcraft reasoning.

But 36% were not buying that and selected “…because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment.” This was the second highest percentage in Canada, falling behind Alberta, where 46% of residents believe that the earth is warming all by itself.

Below is a list of possible public policy priorities. How much of a priority do you feel each one should be?

I don’t love this section, because I think it’s flawed without listing other policy considerations (ie. health or crime and safety). They did do that on a national basis, however, which I’ll provide below as well.

For now I’ll list each environmental policy and how Saskatchewan ranked it, from a choice of

  • a top priority
  • a very high priority
  • a high priority
  • a moderate priority
  • a low priority

Improving the state of the environment.

64% in Saskatchewan rated ‘improving the state of the environment’ as anywhere from a top priority to a high priority.

But I mean seriously, who’s not going to say that. (Well, technically 6%. Tied with Alberta as the highest in Canada, that’s how many in Saskatchewan said it was a low priority.)

Taking action to solve climate change.

63% of us rated this as a top priority to a high priority.

Got to admit, higher than I would have thought.

13% rated this a low priority, just behind (surprise!) Alberta at 16%.

Shifting our economy to a clean energy economy.

I’m guessing the magic word in this one is “economy”, because 68% in Saskatchewan gauged shifting our economy over clean energy as a top priority to a high priority.

As heartening as those numbers regarding policy priority might be, at least for some, again I don’t put much stock in them, especially when compared to where the environment rates nationally (not very high) on an overall list of public policy priorities:

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 9.35.03 AM

10th, 12th and 14th to be exact.

Do you believe in climate change?

34% in Saskatchewan consider themselves believers, and a whopping 49%, which is on par with almost every other province in Canada, consider themselves as leaning towards believing in climate change.

Think about that… 83% in Saskatchewan either believe, or are leaning towards believing that climate change is an actual thing.

Even if that number is out by double digits, it’s still… wow.

I guarantee that even five years ago the combined total would not have even touched the fifty percent mark.

Generally speaking, how would you like to see governments in Canada emphasize policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Now here’s one where we are actually quite far apart from Alberta – in Saskatchewan, 56% of respondents would like to see more emphasis on policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while only 46% our next door neighbours to the west would like to see the same.

Put another way, over half of Saskatchewan residents want to see more action on pollution from the Sask. Party government – a hint, perhaps, that Prairie Resilience is a little too resilient to being accepted by residents as a satisfactory plan for our province.

Rank the following choices for how you would prefer governments use policy to reduce emissions.

Now we’re ranking each emissions policy as our first, second, third or fourth choice to reduce pollution in Saskatchewan. First on the list…

Rules and regulations.

I’ve heard this before, but it never ceases to amaze me.

In a supposedly free-market-driven province, where we are terrified to sneeze in the direction of an oil company lest they run screaming (never mind do something like, oh, make changes pithy royalty structure), more government rules and regulations on emitters – ie. oil producers – is our number one choice to tackle pollution. 47% of respondents picked this one.

Just ahead of us is British Columbia, where 52% chose more government interference in regulation of emitters as their top solution to pollution (unrelated: “solution to pollution” is fun to say).

I just don’t get it.

Low carbon technology solutions.

In other words, government cash incentives for companies making “green” tech.

This one got the big thumbs down from Saskatchewan, with only 31% selecting it as their first choice, tied for the lowest in Canada (again with BC). It was our highest second choice, however, at 41%.

Carbon pricing.

Let’s just say not so many of us chose carbon pricing as a first choice, which is on par with the rest of Canada.

Ultimately, every province in Canada chose more rules and regulations as their first choice in policy to control carbon emissions, with tech solutions coming in second, and carbon pricing a distant third.

The latter can be considered somewhat good, however, because carbon pricing still came in ahead of…

Do nothing.

Overwhelmingly this was all of Canada’s last choice; approximately 75% chose it last. Even in Saskatchewan (though still just second behind Alberta, where only 64% chose ‘do nothing’ as their last choice) 70% of respondents essentially do not consider zero action on reducing pollution an option.

Rank the following reasons to do more to combat climate change from most important to least important to you.

Once again we’re choosing from the following as our first, second, third or fourth choice as reason to battle climate change (or reduce emissions – pick your poison).

Moral responsibility.

Congratulations Saskatchewan, you have a conscience!

So does most of Canada, with every province (even Alberta) choosing this as their most important reason to battle climate change, at an average of approximately 38%.

Shifting to energy efficiency and clean technology.

On this one Saskatchewan came out ahead of the pack, with 28% of us choosing it as the top reason to battle climate change – the highest in Canada. 

Transition to more renewables or fall behind economically.

Now we’re moving into “meh” territory, with only 19% of Saskatchewan respondents worried that our province’s economy will suffer if we don’t get with the climate change program, and just 28% choosing it as even their second choice.

We were the second lowest in Canada on this one, just behind the Atlantic provinces. Even Alberta was ahead of us in making the connection between their economy and renewable energy.

Last, and least, we have…

Weather disasters are costly.

Okay so once again, mind is a bit blown. Saskatchewan ranked this the lowest on their list, in fact ranked it the lowest in Canada.

Um… forest fires? Flooding? Hello?

*crickets*

Okay, fair enough. We’re not connecting our broke-ass fiscal position to the gazillions of dollars the province has paid out through the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) and spent on forest fires, and/or we’re not connecting those two sets of circumstances to carbon pollution.

What Does It All Mean?

Even if these numbers aren’t perfect, I believe they still mean that overall Saskatchewan residents are getting antsy about establishing a way forward on mitigating our carbon emissions.

So far any talk of potential steps for Saskatchewan have been drowned out by Wall’s and now Moe’s (and still Wall’s) political posturing against the federal Liberals and the threat of (expensive) court action in the event carbon pricing is imposed upon our province.

Even if the message is getting through that carbon pricing is not the right solution for Saskatchewan (which I think obviously it has) the vast majority of Saskatchewan people believe in climate change.

Approximately two-thirds believe climate change is man-made, and well over half of us want the Sask. Party government to get moving on doing something… anything.

Are they listening?

*Methodology:

Online survey

Survey was conducted online with Canadians aged 18 and over. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform.

Sample Size

2,250 Canadians

Margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Field dates

February 9th to 15th, 2018

Statistical Weighting

Data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.

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(Featured image credit: @swbooster)

Full disclosure – I bought a Saskatchewan NDP membership to vote in their leadership race. I bought a Saskatchewan Party membership to vote in their leadership race too. As of posting this, I have not yet voted in the Saskatchewan NDP leadership election. I also really like both Meili and Wotherspoon, both of whom I know personally (I also like and know personally some Sask Party MLAs, so settle down), so it’s kind of hard to write this post… but there can only be one winner.

What?

I said it was full disclosure.  

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It is tempting to write the NDP leadership race off as boring at best, inconsequential at worst.

Resist that temptation.

A healthy Opposition is absolutely vital to good governance by the party in power. The role of the Opposition is to challenge government policies, hold the government accountable for its actions, and, often referred to as the “government in waiting”, it is supposed to give voters an alternative in the next election.

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John Gormley once mocked me for “begging for money on the internet”. Because what good capitalist doesn’t believe in providing a product or service for free?

The decimated Saskatchewan NDP has failed, more or less, to do any of this, largely since 2011. That equals seven years of the provincial government operating knowing that their colleagues across the Legislative aisle are extremely under-resourced, making it nearly impossible to keep up on scrutinizing all policy-making, decisions and spending. It has equaled almost total freedom, especially when coupled with ever-shrinking Saskatchewan newsrooms, for the Saskatchewan government to do what ever they want.

What could possibly go wrong?

The finger-pointing inside and outside the Saskatchewan NDP party has never really resulted in any sort of significant “aha moment” (thank you Oprah) as to what has gone terribly wrong since the days Dwain Lingenfelter sat in the Opposition Leader’s office. I mean, that’s probably a good start right there, but that run of bad luck transferred, in fact was amplified through the next leader, former Saskatoon MLA Cam Broten, and the doldrums perceived through Trent Wotherspoon’s stint as interim leader.

Despite promising and guaranteeing that he would not attempt the transition from interim to permanent leader, Wotherspoon went on to announce he’d do exactly that. While one would have thought the 14 months he spent auditioning for the job would have given his campaign a significant edge, yet it really does not appear to have made a difference. No clear frontrunner has emerged in the race, which has seen Wotherspoon’s only challenger, Saskatoon Meewasin MLA Ryan Meili, take a significant lead in collecting donations, despite announcing early his campaign would not accept them from unions or corporations.

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To be fair, no discussion regarding eliminating political donations can be complete without also addressing lowering the cap on individual donor amounts, which Meili did not. However, in a province that could easily be perceived as being ran by political donors, and after a Sask Party leadership race that saw certain candidates funded almost solely by select corporations and their owners, it’s a blast of fresh air to witness Meili’s ability to raise over $157,000 from actual human beings who have an individual stake in democracy.

It’s hard to say which candidate the Sask Party would love to see installed as Scott Moe’s Opposition counterpart. For a long time the general feeling was it was Meili, given what were expected to be his impractical, idealistic, far-left wing campaign planks, which presumably would scare a predominantly right wing, or centre-right Saskatchewan voting base right back into the arms of the Sask Party in the next general election.

Meili, perhaps with the good sense imbued by the experience of his two previous campaigns, along with now having actually been elected to sit in the NDP caucus he wants to lead, has failed to meet those expectations. While decidedly left wing in flavour, he produced detailed and thoughtful policy, and has unabashedly campaigned on the premise that not only does he represent change, but change is exactly what the Saskatchewan NDP need. It’s difficult to argue with that premise after that party’s showing in the last two elections.

Meanwhile, Trent Wotherspoon, who many perceive as more palatable for the mushy-middle voter, has emerged firmly entrenched in the Saskatchewan NDP status quo – which many Sask Party strategists consider a very good thing. Wotherspoon has rolled out a never-ending reel of endorsements – a veritable who’s who of the names and faces who have been in the trenches as the party has crashed and burned, including former Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten, who failed to lead his party out of the wilderness in 2016’s provincial election, and in fact lost his seat himself. I’m sure they’re all really great people – in fact I know many of them are – and are likely still revered by the subset of the NDP base that clings to the notion that the party’s problem is everyone else, not them.

Regardless, one wonders at the wisdom of associating oneself with the architects of the recent downward spiral of the NDP. I mean, if you were rebuilding a tower, would you promote yourself as the first choice of the arsonist who burnt it down?

What I know for sure is that, just like the SaskParty was a month ago, the Saskatchewan NDP is facing an existential challenge on the subject of change. It may not feel that way right now, given the two men vying for the leadership aren’t exactly fresh faces, both having ran for this job previously.

However, scrape even just a little below the surface and the differences between Meili and Wotherspoon are there.

Those differences are highlighted best by examining the two choices facing the NDP member as they consider their ballot: do they want to hinge their party’s future on the Sask Party government and new premier imploding, leaving Saskatchewan voters little choice but to go back to the NDP, whether they want to or not? Or do they want to risk change (or renewal, as Meili would likely rather it put) – an overhaul of party image and policies in the hopes it can attract voters to come over willingly?

I have to say this, because it seems really obvious as I write this: you know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

As the Saskatchewan NDP’s new leader is unveiled on March 3rd at the party’s convention in Regina (held at the Delta Hotel, which admittedly surprised me because that’s fancy), it’s unlikely that the entire province will be watching on the edge of their seats.

It’s a decision of vital importance, however, as not only will the NDP’s new leader almost immediately begin shaping the fate of the Sask Party government in the general election two years from now, its new leader could also be the factor determining whether the Saskatchewan NDP still exists two years from now.

I don’t charge for my content, but if you think you got something out of it, feel free to show your support by hitting this Donate button. I need to feed my kids! 🙂
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I want safe air travel, and I understand that in light of these troubled times, extra steps have been taken at airports to ensure that we all arrive at our destinations safely and in one piece.

So, I do my part, dutifully dumping my products into travel bottles and squinting at the volumes on my creams and cosmetics. I keep my purse neat and as empty as possible, putting my liquids in a separate ziploc bag. I dress without metal clasps and avoid wearing jewelry, and take my laptop out and put it in a separate bin. Coming home I keep receipts and fill out all the required forms. I don’t import alcohol or tobacco, or try to bring in foreign meat or exotic produce.

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I like to think I’m well-traveled; I’ve been through dozens of airports worldwide, including those in underdeveloped or unstable countries, or countries that are routinely targeted by terrorists. But I swear to god, I have never, ever been treated as poorly as I have in the Saskatoon airport, whether departing or arriving. It’s gotten so that I’m at the point where I’d rather drive to freaking Calgary and fly out of their airport than deal with Saskatoon’s Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) or Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) employees.

Like I’ve already said – I get it. These folks have a job to do. I imagine they deal with plenty of crooks and fools of all shapes, sizes and colours every day. That said, there is no excuse for the rude, abrasive and intimidating behaviour exhibited over and over again by Saskatoon officials. And it’s not just me who feels this way, but this is my blog, so I’m going to tell my stories.

Going through pre-boarding security in any city is always an ordeal, but in Saskatoon it’s always felt a little… intense. It feels like Saskatoon CATSA agents might enjoy their power – for a few moments they control whether we’re getting on that plane – just a bit more than those in other cities.

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And it has gotten worse lately. I wasn’t surprised when I saw that a couple of weeks ago the Saskatoon Airport Authority issued a statement warning travellers that the wait times for security screening had become “significant”. I showed up early for my flight and sure enough anxious flyers were lined up like cattle, while CATSA agents barked out instructions with military-like exuberance. A petrified elderly couple huddled, shoeless, at the end of the conveyor belt as an agent accusingly dangled a plastic bag in front of them like it was a kilo of coke instead of one too many bottles of hair gel, while already exhausted travellers watched as their children were swabbed and their bags torn apart. It felt like I was checking into a maximum security prison instead of our (brand new) airport departures lounge.

However, I was feeling pretty confident in my packing, until it was my turn and the CATSA agent flipped my purse upside down and shook out its contents like a kid dumps Halloween candy out of a pillow case. Then – and I swear this has never happened to me before – he dumps my makeup kit. Perhaps “kit” is a bit of a stretch – it’s a few tubes of your basics – mascara, powder, lipstick etc. I’ve never, ever had an issue with it or had it counted against my liquids total, but there we were. Hand to god, he opens my pressed powder and starts rubbing it with his fingers, explaining he needs to determine if it “smears” (presumably then a liquid, which would count against my total volume) or an actual powder.

I was amazed. That had NEVER happened before. I didn’t even know there was a total volume – but now I sure do, and my mascara counts against it, so tonight the world is a safer place.

Coming home is fun too. Travellers from Vegas seems to be a popular target for Saskatoon CBSA agents. Like many of you, and many of my friends, I’ve been hauled aside and had my suitcase tossed like a salad. Looking for what, I don’t know – maybe smoking hot outlet deals? I mean, I declared those, but maybe Dave just wants to see my new Marc Jacob’s dress for himself. Or, maybe he just wants to make sure I know he holds my fate, just for a moment, in his soft, callous-free hands.

Last night was the last straw.

Returning from Cabo, my 85-year-old grandma was met at the plane door, as she always is, by an attendant with a wheelchair, who wheeled her down to customs, accompanied, as she always is, by my aunt. Bypassing the lineup, as she always does, the attendant wheeled my grandma, followed by my aunt, to the front of the customs queue.

Except this time was different. When it was their turn, the CBSA agent abruptly and aggressively confronted my aunt. While she explained she was accompanying her elderly mother through customs – AS SHE ALWAYS DOES (she wasn’t yelling, but I am) – the agent who was clearly compensating for his tiny penis ordered my aunt to the very back of the lineup, snarling at her to leave my bewildered grandma with him.

He cleared my grandma, who is a fall-risk and gets confused in unfamiliar circumstances, then had some other staffer push her out to the baggage claim, where she was unceremoniously parked and abandoned. Thank god total strangers, recognizing she was in distress, were able to get a sense of what had happened and waited with her for 45 minutes until my aunt made it through customs and came through.

Frustrated and upset, my aunt asked a CBSA agent for the name of the asswipe who had been so ignorant. She was denied – until she reminded him that they were both public servants, and to give her the goddamn name already (she takes after me), which they did. I know his name, and he knows his name, and now far more important people than him or I know his name, so I won’t share it here. Let’s just say that any puke who mistreats and puts at risk an 85-year-old woman isn’t fit to serve the front line of a McDonald’s, never mind our country.

I love to travel… that feeling of an adventure ready to unfurl in front of you. In my opinion the best part of any trip is the departures lounge, and Saskatoon’s newly renovated one is amazing. I realize that CATSA and the CBSA are two different agencies, and the Saskatoon Airport Authority has no actual authority over either of them. But somebody has to do something, because despite the shiny new construction and beautiful aesthetic, the Saskatoon airport experience is not a pleasant one at the moment.

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Hi everyone – I’m trying to write more for this blog, but it can be difficult to keep up because of the time it takes me away from my paid gigs. Like the Saskatchewan government, the bills don’t pay themselves around here, so if you appreciate the content, please consider hitting that donate button so I can keep this up. I really want to, especially with the provincial budget coming down in a few weeks. Thanks!

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It’s about time, right? I have been so slow in posting over the last couple of months, in part because I’ve been blessed with offers to write for money for other publications far more esteemed than this humble little blog.

But, you guys have been asking and that’s so awesome. I really appreciate your patience.

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I have a six-year-old son, Maksim, who is extremely stubborn and strong-willed.

No idea where he gets that from.

When Maks doesn’t want to do something, he has all kinds of strategies to delay the inevitable. He goes into Slow Robot mode – a delightful machine who, oh-so-slowly, moves one joint at a time. Or he just slumps over at the waist, fingertips brushing the floor and shuffling his feet an inch at a time, ensuring we all know what an Oppressed Prisoner he is to our cruel demands.

My personal favorite – one I know many parents have experienced – is Dead Weight. He lays on the floor (or bed, or sofa – really any flat surface will do) and goes limp, refusing to move while moaning piteously or hollering furiously, depending on his mood and level of resistance. The end result is usually some combination of me blackmailing, threatening, begging, and/or dragging him across the floor to do whatever needs to be done.

But this isn’t about my multiple parenting awards.

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This is about the Saskatchewan government doing their best version of Dead Weight as the federal government and the rest of Canada moves toward the legalization of marijuana across the country. The Sask Party government has made it abundantly clear that once marijuana is legal, the sky will come crashing down to earth, and the sun will cease to continue to rise and set as normal. They’ve employed impressive Slow Robot, Oppressed Prisoner and Dead Weight tactics that would make Maksim proud.

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Maksim doing his best impersonation of the Saskatchewan government’s approach to federally imposed changes in the province.

Consider this line from Saskatchewan’s most recent Throne Speech, delivered October 30, 2017:

“…government has no choice but to prepare for this historic revision to the Criminal Code.”

That’s how that tends to work – the feds are responsible for federal legislation and the provinces are required to subsequently make adjustments as necessary. I believe the framework for this was determined around the year 1867.

In Sask. Party MLA for Estevan Lori Carr’s speech in response to that Throne Speech, she said marijuana legalization is “something that we have to think seriously about. Now this is going to happen whether we agree with it or we disagree with it.”

Genius logic there. Genius.

From Sask. Party MLA for Kelvington-Wadena Hugh Nerlien’s Throne Speech response: “… we will need to face the challenges of ill – timed and, frankly, inconsiderate marijuana legislation that is politically expedient at the federal level but shifts an incredible regulatory burden onto the provinces.”

Soooooo… someone is making you do your job?

“Our challenge is the safety of our roads and workplaces, schoolyards and families. We don’t know the long – term impact on health care, social services, law enforcement, the judicial system, and equally the financial impact on the province.” –  Hugh Nerlien, Sask. Party MLA for Kelvington-Wadena

Just to clarify – twenty-nine months ago Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised, as part of his party’s campaign to win the 2015 federal election that he would legalize marijuana in Canada.

Twenty-two months ago, in April of 2016, Trudeau confirmed that they would be making good on that promise by delivering the new legislation the following year – which they did.

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In April 2017, or ten months ago, the federal government unveiled their new marijuana legislation, for implementation nationwide on July 1, 2018.

The Saskatchewan government has literally had years to get their act together on this and they simply have refused, like a child determined not to do something, or at the very least, to make their parent’s life hell before they do.

But it’s Sask. Party MLA Dan D’autremont who wins the prize for most ridiculous anti-marijuana rhetoric in his Throne Speech reply.

“Can you go to school and stand out on the sidewalk?”

Why yes, Dan, yes I think you can.

“Because you can’t smoke in school, but can you go to school and smoke out front of the school, your joint?”

Given you’re the GOVERNMENT, maybe you could start answering the questions instead of asking them? And who exactly are you asking, for that matter? Pretty sure you know the federal government doesn’t regulate municipal sidewalks.

“Yes, you’re not supposed to have it unless you’re of legal age — 18 or 19, 21 perhaps depending on which province you’re in — but you can legally possess it at age 16.”

The federal government did put a vague clause inside the Criminal Code changes stating that the cops will have the option of not charging a kid between the ages of 12 and 18 for possessing five grams of weed or under. But guess what? If they were actually trying to make progress on this file, D’Autremont’s government would know it has all the jurisdiction it needs to ban Saskatchewan minors from possessing any marijuana.

“So are we going to have high school kids going and standing on the sidewalks and having a few tokes before they go back to chemistry class and do their chemistry experiments?”

And I’m sure that has never, ever happened in the history of chem class or high school kids in Saskatchewan.

“I don’t know because the feds have never allowed time to work these things through. They just simply, you know, made the promise in 2015 and they’re implementing it next summer, and you’ve got to live with it. You figure it out after that point… I think this is a recipe for disaster.

I can’t even.

On that notion of the Saskatchewan government not having enough “time” to work through regulatory changes and new policy, let’s consider Bill 40.

Bill 40 would have allowed the Saskatchewan government to sell off 49 per cent of any Saskatchewan Crown Corporation. Think about the implications, had that gone ahead, of a sale of 49 per cent of SaskTel, for example. The implications for thousands of public servants, SaskTel operations and its customers.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that more people in Saskatchewan have some kind of contractual or reciprocal relationship with SaskTel – or SaskPower, or SaskEnergy etc. – than smoke weed.

Maybe not that many more, but more.

Yet in the span of twelve short months, the Saskatchewan government managed to introduce, pass, and then repeal that section of Bill 40. On cannabis, they’ve had almost twice that long just to do the first bit – prepare legislation regulating use in Saskatchewan – and they have outright refused.

Today, with just a mere few months to go til the feds pass their legislation, Saskatchewan and Nunavut share the distinction of being in last place in the country when it comes to level of preparedness.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 3.29.01 PM

This is, indeed, a recipe for disaster, as D’Autremont puts it, but for his government (which I’m pretty sure is not what he meant).

“It’s too soon to have that discussion,” Justice Minister Don Morgan said at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) 2018 convention’s “bear pit” forum, in response to a question from Regina Mayor Michael Fougere on how cannabis taxation revenue could be shared between the province and municipalities.

“It’s a discussion for further on down the road…We don’t know what the demand is going to be, we don’t know how many drug recognition experts we need, what kind of testing will be required…We’ll look at that further on down the road.” – Justice Minister Don Morgan on his government’s ridiculous refusal to prepare for legal cannabis in Saskatchewan.

Really. Almost every other province in Canada has figured out their road safety and policing plan, but it’s “too soon” for Saskatchewan – you know, the province of out-of-control drunk driving fame.

What could possibly go wrong?

Also in that bear pit session, Weyburn Mayor Marcel Roy asked Sports, Tourism and Culture Minister Gene Makowsky about what consideration the province has given to regulating weed tourism, which is totally going to be a thing in southern Saskatchewan once our neighbours across the American border figure out they can come up here for some high times. People from all over North America have been flying to Amsterdam for decades to do the same thing, so you can be fairly certain they’d drive up from Minot.

“Too soon,” Makowsky replied to Roy, echoing the Justice Minister’s approach of moments prior.

This is so remarkably tone-deaf, never mind politically amateurish. I mean, it’s not just urban centres looking for answers from the government, it’s the Sask. Party’s rural base as well. Bear pit questions on cannabis regulation came from SUMA councillors from centres like Rosetown and Unity. In fact, SUMA has an entire section of their website dedicated to lobbying the Sask. Party government to do their job on this issue.

Why?

Because they NEED MONEY, HELLO.

All I know for sure is that the Saskatchewan Party government’s lagging on implementing the federal Liberal Party’s marijuana legislation had better not be about any allegiance to or advancement of the political agenda of the federal Conservative Party of Canada.

Fred Bradshaw, Greg Brkich, Steven Bonk, David Buckingham, Lori Carr, Ken Cheveldayoff, Herb Cox, Bronwyn Eyre, Jeremy Harrison, Warren Kaeding, Greg Lawrence, Don Morgan, Eric Olauson, Greg Ottenbreit, Laura Ross, Warren Steinley, Lyle Stewart, Corey Tocher, Christine Tell, Randy Weeks, Nadine Wilson and Premier Scott Moe – aka over half the Sask Party caucus and Cabinet – are members of Andrew Scheer’s CPC.

To refresh your memory, the CPC’s official position on Trudeau’s marijuana legislation is “keep our great country safe from all the weed”, and that it will turn our kids into drug mules.

If you could allow me one more moment with my tinfoil hat: this delay, particularly in releasing the plan for issuing marijuana-retailing licenses, had also better not be about the provincial government giving their entrepreneurial and investment-savvy friends all the time in the world to get their cannabis-related business plans together and go on to make a ton of money.

This government would never do something like that, right?

Tourism, taxation, economic stimulus – this is a new market and industry that is about to blow up in Saskatchewan and bring a much-needed revenue stream into towns and communities, along with costs that need to be projected and managed. Yet the Sask. Party government sits idly by on their anti-weed high horse, not just refusing to clear the way for, but deliberately blocking new cash flow. It’s inexplicable, insulated, politically stupid, and potentially fiscally reckless.

Legal marijuana is coming whether the Sask. Party is ready or not, but it will be the taxpayer – many of whom are also their voters, for now – who loses if the government refuses to even try.

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It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting on my patio at the lake one hot August morning, learning that the rumours were true: Brad Wall was resigning.

It’s been a long, gruelling campaign – a marathon ran at a sprint’s pace – and as much as I’ve given candidates a hard time, they really deserve kudos tonight for putting themselves out there to take on this job. It took guts and stamina to jump into this race, and I’ve no doubt that it took its toll on the candidates at times both physically and emotionally – and it will continue to do so tomorrow night as four out of five of them start processing their loss.

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Tomorrow I am going to live blog the day’s festivities using this post. I don’t have any fancy technology to do so – basically I’m just going to keep hitting the Update button, so you’ll need to keep hitting the Refresh button on this post. I will Tweet as much as I can as well, but I wanted to have a permanent record, so to speak, of tomorrow’s events, because they will shape the future of this province in a way we haven’t seen for at least a decade.

So check back in and I’ll try to keep it as entertaining as possible – I’m guessing that won’t be too difficult. 🙂 Talk later, Tam

8:30am:

I’m up. Well, I’ve been up since 5am, actually, writing the outlines for the op-eds I’ve been commissioned to write after this shindig today is all over. I considered running a bag of Egg McMuffins over to the convention hall, given the Sask. Party’s itinerary says they’ve been counting ballots since 4am. I didn’t, though, because there’s no way they’d let me in confusion over what they’re actually counting – just the external envelopes and verifying IDs, or opening the ballot itself and tallying the votes. The latter seems strange, given that if that was the case, the Sask. Party leadership committee already know who won this thing. But, the itinerary says specifically “4am: Vote Counting Begins” so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯?

I’m guessing this won’t be the first or last question I’ve got today about ballots.

The provincial government’s cutting edge Highways’ Hotline map thing is blinking yellow all around Saskatoon, thanks to the copious amounts of snow that got dumped on us the moment I stepped off the plane from Mexico which is total bullshit over the last couple of days. Apparently yellow means icy sections and swirling, drifting snow blah blah blah, but I promise and guarantee you that the parking lot at Prairieland Exhibition will be chock-a-block with half-ton trucks from every corner of the province, as nothing is going to stop the Sask. Party’s rural base from showing up to bask in Brad Wall’s warm glow one last time. Well that and the fact that many, if not most of them have been driving half tons through blizzards since they were 9-years-old, so a little bit of blowing snow and black ice aint no thang.

I live close to Prairieland Exhibition Centre so I’m considering walking hahahahahahahaha just kidding as if.

But seriously, if any assholes jump on the hood of my SUV as I’m trying to get in to the parking lot, I promise I’m getting out to punch them in the face and subsequently show up on the 6 o’clock news in a grainy cellphone video have a word.

I’m super excited for today. Also, I need a life. Ttyl.

10:45am:

I have to go downtown to return a blazer I bought because as if I’m ever going to wear a blazer? What? I don’t know what I was thinking, but today is my last day to return it so it’s a whole thing.

First though, a few of you have asked what time it’s all happening today. Here’s the itinerary I’ve got:

12:00 PM Convention Registration Opens
In-person Voting Begins
2:30 PM Program Begins (Hall B)
2:40 PM Candidate Speeches (10 Minutes per candidate)
3:40 PM Last Call for Voting
4:00 PM Voting Closes
4:15 PM Premier’s Keynote Speech
6:00 PM Results Announcement
6:30 PM (approx.) Premier-designate Victory Speech
6:45 PM Celebratory Reception

So I think I’m going to go around 1pmish, depending on what time Mandryk gets here (he’s not answering my texts right now so presumably he’s driving and being all responsible).

The candidates’ speeches are pointless given that voting is all but completed, so I’m guessing those will be laden with gracious sentiments directed at fellow candidates sprinkled liberally with pleas for unity.

(Which is kind of funny when you think about it – in countries around the world political opponents and their followers imprison or just straight up murder each other. Here we’re all like “please PLEASE be nice to each other on Facebook!!”)

Based on the time allotted for “Results Announcement” I’m guessing they’re going to just put up the results all at once, as opposed to exploiting the melodrama that accompanies going round by round.

One more thing – apparently Stop the Cuts, you know, of Premier’s Dinner car-jumping and general dickery fame, are planning another protest today at 11am. I’m probably too late, but a few words of advice:

  • don’t be idiots, because I guarantee there will be moderate voters attending this convention who you will absolutely alienate from ever voting for your side ever again;
  • don’t attempt to obstruct any one else’s participation in democracy, because that’s really dumb and counterproductive;
  • in case that wasn’t clear, don’t jump on, push or even touch (even with your pinky finger) someone else or their property;
  • don’t be idiots
  • be loud, be rowdy, be proud of your message and make your point…
  • but don’t be idiots.

Now I’m going to the mall.

2:15pm:

Well I’m here. I nearly hit Brad and Tami Wall in the parking lot. To be fair to me, he was totally cutting cross country instead of using the lots roads, Brad. God.

Can you imagine if that happened?

I drove by the protestors this morning on my way to the mall. There was like one cop for every four protestors, so it was pretty subdued. All they did was walk sloooowwwwwwly around the four-way stop crosswalks – which to their credit, was infuriating, especially since I wasn’t even turning into the Exhibition parking lot so they probably could have had the sense to let me pass. But, it was effective, clearly, and peaceful, so good for them. When I drove in a few minutes ago they were gone.

Right now I’m sitting with media and feel like a total fraud, go even I don’t normally ever ask for accreditation nor consider myself media, even though I am writing up a piece afterwards for Maclean’s and the local newspaper I write for. But I asked this time simply because I didn’t want to sit alone (which I totally would have been doing), and surprisingly, was politely accepted. So yay us.

Chevy’s team has filled up an entire section, just in front of the media pool, for his supporters. He saved the seats by putting his signs on them, which wouldn’t be allowed if this was a resort and they were pool loungers.

There is weird house techno muzak playing in the background. Not loud enough to actually hear it, but just loud enough to hear the bass. Imagine standing outside and up the street from a club. A club full of cowboy hats and tension.

Beyond that it’s really, really quiet in here. The only candidate I’ve seen is Chevy, who is currently pacing nervously in front of his section. Actually no, he just came over and said hi. Dammit, he drives me nuts but I have a soft spot for him. He says what’s done is done, and he slept well last night.

Alanna’s supporters are wearing bright yellow t-shirts and have formed a kind of human chain in front of the entrance to greet people – which is so futile given there are maybe a dozen votes left to be cast. Maybe it will come down to that, who knows.

Tami and Brad are now hugging Chevy. There will be a lot of that vacuousness going down today.

I wonder if Don McMorris knows his iPhone is discoverable as a wi-fi hotspot.

A former Sask Party MLA called me a couple of hours ago. While they requested not to be named, here was the message they asked me to give you:

“The Sask Party leadership voting process is illegitimate by design.”

Having no proof of such, I have to add. That said, this paper ballot/self-policing business to elect the next individual controlling an $8-billion budget is really rather banana republic and we should probably talk about it at some point.

Unless Gord Wyant wins, in which case I’m totally fine with it let’s move on.

I have to go find some water. Apparently there is none provided in the media room, which is weird. I mean if f I was running that media room, there would be water. Hell, there would be soda – even club.

2:50pm:

Lyle Stewart is introducing Gord Wyant. For those who don’t know, Stewart is a hardcore badass who once stabbed a carjacker with a pen. Also, he’s Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister.

Gord Wyant’s theme song is I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas. Interesting choice. He’s also got a new hair cut, and I like it.

Wyant’s speech is all about restoring the “mainstream” aspect of the party. I’m telling you though, if he wins somebody needs to inject that man with some life.

Derek Myers – who? – is introducing Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

“Ladies and gentleman, it’s Tina time.”

OMG it’s not her… it’s a video montage? Set to what I believe might be a hybrid of DMX and AC/DC?

Dear god there’s B-roll of her walking. Never do that.

Her introduction guy is now jumping up and down and screaming. What’s happening?

We get another five seconds of AC/DC which segues into TBM’s theme song, which is Beyonce’s Run the World… as she strides on stage wearing all white.

Niki Ashton called, she wants her gaffe back.

3:15pm:

After Tina Beaudry-Mellor comes Alanna Koch, who doesn’t have anyone introducing her, despite the fact that MLA and former cabinet Minister Don McMorris was one of her main guys. Instead she has a video montage of pictures of herself with various people no one knows set to cheesy country music.

Gord Wyant mentioned Brad Wall once. I don’t think Tina did at all. Koch is giving his eulogy.

Surprisingly, for the first time ever in this campaign Koch just admitted that maybe the Sask Party was a bit “on its heels”.

She says something quasi-inspirational and there’s a smattering of applause throughout the crowd, primarily from her supporters. Chevy’s section sits stone cold. As she finishes and walks off her entourage cheers wildly and there is a smattering of polite applause from the rest of the room.

Now Scott Moe is up. In a rare display of personality, he cracks a joke about seeing Tina Beaudry-Mellor driving a combine. Whatever.

Moe is followed by Chevy, whose theme song is Don’t Stop Believing. Not much subtlety here.

Chevy has gone a gorgeous shade of brunette for today, I see.

He’s introduced by his little brother, Kevin Cheveldayoff, who is GM of the Winnipeg Jets. Mandryk is uncharacteristically animated. Presumably about the Jets, not Chevy. Predictably, his entourage is definitely the largest and loudest. What I’m noticing most about Chevy’s speech is it sounds like a victory speech, not a campaign speech. Like Wyant, I gotta feeling, but one likely different from his.

Guys, I think Chevy might have this. The wild card right now is totally Saskatchewan teachers, who aren’t in the room but still loom large. Chevy is actually the only candidate to acknowledge them.

4:15pm:

There’s a child – Sask Party Youth president – lecturing us on humility and perseverance from the podium now. Where is the Social Services Minister when you need him?

Alright folks here we go. Premier Brad Wall’s final speech. The whole room – for the first (and last, I’m sure) time today, in unity – is on its feet.

Wait, where is he? It got awkward for a minute as everyone looked around, panicked. Had he left already? Oh there he is. PHEW. Can you imagine?

Wall opens his mouth and he’s crying. After a while he hardens up and gets into a groove thanking everyone. His wife Tami is still here, still smiling and bouncy and cheerful and really, she’s adorable and/or awesome. I hope it’s her time to shine now, in a big way.

He asks for a second time for the party to be as good to and supportive of the new leader as they have been of him. His tone and demeanour suggest this isn’t just something he thinks he has to say. He then refers to the leadership race as a “family competition”.

When me and my sisters compete for something, someone usually ends up bleeding and definitely more than one is crying.

I’m sure that’s not what Wall means though.

Now he’s talking about how unlike the rest of the country, something something about the 80s and 90s, the Sask Party government will have the budget back to balance within this term (ie before 2020). He’s on his way out, so I guess he can say what he wants.

Today’s NDP – Saskatchewan and Alberta – bears little resemblance to era of Roy Romanow. That era is dead. More comfortable in a coffee house in downtown Toronto than they would be on coffee row in Arcola.

Just as he says that, the Saskatchewan NDP’s chief of staff walks in to the room. #awkward

Alberta is bad, very bad. Modern NDP and drivers of our economy – oil and gas, uranium mining, resource development, crop science.

OH GOD WHY are we talking about Alberta?? I think he’s crying again.

Okay we’re talking about the Alberta NDP because this portion of the speech is definitely about him pouring gasoline on the NDP’s house and tossing a match behind him. He’s reminding the room that their common enemy is the NDP, not each other. He’s using the NDP in a last-ditch effort to unify the decidedly not unified room in front of him.

It’s rather brilliant.

6:05pm:

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m not doing this fast enough, but this is harder work than I thought and I have a headache. Somebody call me a whambulance please. Right meow.

They’re about to announce the results of the first ballot, which are kind of useless because all its going to show is Rob Clarke dropping off. Tina will go next. I predict a strong showing from Chevy – first place. If the teachers showed up for Wyant he’ll land in third, then needs Moe to go to push him into first. That said, I think Chevy’s support will be strong, and he could shave just enough off Moe to win on third ballot.

God it’s cold where I’m sitting, and I don’t think it’s just the chill between supporters.

6:20pm:

Emcee says “before we get to the results I just want to thank a few people…” Everyone seems really excited about that. WTF just get to it.

Oh, she says that MNP has been auditing the entire leadership election process since the beginning. This was not been widely publicized to say the least. Now the MNP accountant guy is telling us what they did to protect the integrity of the race. He says they’ve been contracted as “fairness advisors”. Check and balances, random checks of data yada yada.

“I’m pleased to report that the electoral officer has conducted this election with extreme diligence…” fairness throughout. The electoral officer is the party CEO, and they paid you to say that, so forgive me for not caring.

Look, the Sask Party is rolling in effing cash – they could have outsourced it and they didn’t. That’s the last I’ll say about it.

There’s an echo in here and it’s super annoying.

annoying

annoying

God I feel like I’m going to puke? Why do I feel that way? You could cut the tension with a damn knife.

“Before we read the first ballot results, I’d like to thank…” SHUT UP BUNDROCK AND READ THE DAMN RESULTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Incidentally, Patrick Bundrock has a very nice, calm speaking voice. I did not know that about him, and it’s lovely.

OH GOD IT’S HAPPENING

There were 17,159 ballots counted.

Rob Clarke got 46 votes, or .28%.

Oh my god this is awful – Tina Beaudry-Mellor got 226 votes, or 1.32% of the vote. She got obliterated. This isn’t just leadership career-ending, it could be career ending. That’s a devastating showing and she’s in a vulnerable riding already.

Wyant is in fourth at 21.54%. There aren’t enough votes in Beaudry-Mellor’s camp to push him further so he’s done too.

Chevy is THIRD OMG WTF with 4177 votes, or 24.34% of the vote. Moe has 4483 votes or 26.13%, and Alanna Koch as 4529 or 26.39%.

Question now is where do Wyant’s votes go – IMO they’ll go to Chevy and Moe. I don’t think this is good news for Koch. But, I’ve just proven per my previous update that I don’t know shit, so ignore me.

6:35pm:

I just asked a group of teachers who their second choice was after Wyant, and they said Moe. That surprises me, as Chevy was the only other candidate who engaged teachers.

Here’s two things I know for sure: less than a quarter of this room is going to leave here happy tonight, and if Moe wins there’s going to be some drunk cabinet ministers tonight.

They’re now reading the second round of results showing Tina Beaudry-Mellor is out. Chevy’s section is subdued. They’re rattled, you can tell, but that’s premature because this is way too close to call. There are thirty-eight – THIRTY-EIGHT – votes separating Moe and Koch, and 331 votes separating Chevy from Koch.

This is still anyone’s game between the top three. There’s no consensus on the floor whatsoever over where Wyant’s votes are going to go.

I really have to pee but there’s no way I’m getting up. Which is annoying because this is only being dragged out because it can be – the votes are already long counted. Well, it’s only annoying because I gotta pee, but still.

6:40pm:

A spontaneous cheer for Chevy goes up after he stands up to motivate his despondent supporters. Chevy supporters Eric Olauson and that other guy who beat Cam Broten – Harrington? – who cares, are walking around like someone just killed their dog.

Or their chances of ever making cabinet.

6:50pm:

Tina Beaudry Mellor’s votes have been redistributed. Wyant is officially out, as are this party’s chances of being a centrist coalition ever again. Moe and Chevy are both card-carrying Conservatives and Koch, who worked for Grant Devine, is reportedly farther right than those two.

Half of  TBM’s votes went to Moe, while the others were split between Chevy and Koch.

Well Chevy is done. The general consensus around here is the majority of his votes will go to Moe.

Can somebody tell me why Lenore Swystun is here?

7:45pm:

Well. That was special.

Scott Moe, who is basically a living breathing Homer Simpson, is Saskatchewan’s new premier and the new leader of the Sask Party.

Brad Wall he aint.

But we knew this.

Right now Moe is over giving Rawlco/John Gormley an interview before any other media, which is always a great way to make friends. Wonder if he’s going to ask Gormley why he ambushed him on the air in an attempt to sabotage his campaign in favour of Koch?

Probably not. He’s going to need that mouthpiece.

I’m tapped folks. Lots of analysis to come. Right now I truly believe Chevy deserved the win over Moe, so I should probably stop writing and think for a while. Plus I’m super hungry… and I still haven’t peed.

Have a good night friends and thank you so much for reading!

Oh and PS, Lenore Swystun was here because she was covering the event for the community radio station she works for. She came over and chatted with me and was super nice so now I feel like a bit of a dick.

But let’s face it, there’s no way I was going to leave this convention without feeling that way.

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Let’s establish parameters around the notion of political patronage, and why it matters.

Political patronage occurs when a person is rewarded – usually through favors, appointments to public office or boards, or by receiving contracts or grants –  for supporting a specific party and/or politician by campaigning for them, or through financial donations.

To be clear: patronage is not illegal. In fact, there are valid grounds for the argument that patronage is politically responsible; we elect a political party to govern the way they promised, so it makes sense that they would appoint people who share their vision to fill key roles.

Nor is patronage equal to corruption, which is defined as the abuse of political power for personal gain, and is illegal. Patronage can creep into corruption, however, if a politician breaks the law to patronize their supporters, such as by bypassing terms of the tender on a government contract in order to give it to a party donor.
Donate Button with Credit CardsAnd finally, patronage is not new.

In his biography of John A. Macdonald, author Richard Gwyn said Canada’s Father of Confederation “…made little attempt to pretend that his purpose was good government rather than the good of the party…and he made certain that his supporters understood the rules.” Wilfred Laurier did the exact same thing.

In the 1980s, Conservative leader Brian Mulroney went to town on then-Prime Minister John Turner for the blatant appointments Turner made on behalf of his predecessor Pierre Trudeau. Mulroney won the general election – some say on that issue – and then did the exact same thing.

Here at home, the Saskatchewan NDP were notorious for it, and now the SaskParty – always quick point out they are doing exactly what their predecessors did – are notorious for it too.

I’m also going to save the lecture on why diversity in leadership and on boards is important – there are entire organizations and copious piles of research devoted to that fact.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 3.13.37 PM

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 3.14.30 PM

From Independent Directors and Board Diversity, Australia’s Regnan Institute

American computer scientist and United States Navy admiral Grace Hopper once famously said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.'”.

With all that in mind, here’s when and why you should care about diversity and political patronage on Saskatchewan government Agencies, Boards and Commissions (the ABCs).

They’re a big deal. ABCs are responsible for public spending, service implementation, regulating industries, and making judicial or quasi-judicial decisions about people’s lives and property. If someone is appointed to their position because of their loyalty to a political party, what comfort does that provide you that they’ll put the public interest first?

There’s cash involved. Yes, it’s often modest, but most ABC appointees are compensated with a retainer of about $10,000 per year, plus a fee of $500 or more for attending each board meetings. Even if the appointee doesn’t need the cash, that’s still a nice little trip to St Kitts every year.

ABC roles in public service are career-builders. Often they are stepping stones to higher profile, higher paying posts. They can including paid training.

Most importantly: these are public service roles and the management of distribution of major tax dollars is in play.

Merit and a commitment to diversity, not who your friends are, should be the deciding factor on Saskatchewan board appointments.

But, in Saskatchewan, ABC appointments are made by Order in Council, or in other words, the Premier’s inner circle and a handful of key Ministers. It’s nearly impossible to find information on vacancies, nevermind apply for them. Contrast this with provinces like Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which all have websites dedicated to advertising vacancies and inviting applications from their residents.
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Despite their seeming commitment to openness, however, the Ontario government has still recently received criticism for its patronage appointments, by way of a Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) report.

In the deeply sarcastic release, the CTF rakes the Liberal Wynne government over the coals:

“ABC appointments dating back to 2011 reveal that patronage appointments were given to 9 per cent of federal and provincial Liberal candidates who failed, retired, or subsequently won an election between 2007 and 2016. The data shows a total of 39 apparent cases of Liberal candidates receiving patronage since 2011.”

9%, or thirty-nine cases of patronage, out of thousands of appointments made to Ontario’s hundreds of ABCs, and the CTF was outraged.

I wonder how they’d feel about Saskatchewan.

To the graphs!

I looked at the board composition of eight major Saskatchewan Crown Corporations: SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskTel, SaskWater, SGI, Sask Housing Corp, the Global Transportation Hub and the new Saskatchewan Health Authority.

A whopping 49% of directors on the boards of these Saskatchewan Crown Corporations are donors to the Saskatchewan Party, according to party returns filed over the last five years.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 11.16.19 AM

Based on individual donations, or donations from a corporation over which the director has financial control.

In fact, the number is probably higher, because I didn’t delve into Sask Party candidate returns from the 2016 election.

70% of the SaskPower board donated to the Sask Party in 2016, and at least one, who has essentially built a career on Crown Corporation board appointments, is a Sask Party constituency president.

Jeremy Harrison’s campaign manager is a board chair.

The chair of one Crown Corporation owns a private corporation in the exact same industry, and another chair has significant investments in his Crown’s industry.

I’m sure there are plenty more eyebrow-raisers, because those examples are just the ones I stumbled on accidentally.

For some good news: these eight boards have almost reached gender parity.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 11.19.42 AM

In fact, the majority are completely balanced. The exceptions, largely responsible for the 10% gap, are the board of the GTH, which has two women sitting on an eight-member board, and the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation which has one woman out of six directors.

Now for the bad news. The really, really bad news.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 11.14.07 AM

Yeah.

I checked once, twice, and even a third time. Surely I’m missing something.

But no… no I’m not.

Of the 84 directors that comprise these eight boards, five of them are indigenous individuals.

Of the 84 directors, seven are a visible minority.

Just to be clear, even if we expected these boards to simply reflect the demographics of the population of Saskatchewan, they’re still way off. According to 2016 census data, over 16% of this province’s population identified as indigenous or aboriginal.

2016 census data also shows that 11% of the population identifies as a visible minority, which is defined by Stats Canada as “persons, other than Aboriginals, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”.

Diversity means valuing not just elements grounded in expertise and experience, but in personal characteristics such as gender, age and ethnicity.

Independent directors are directors who do not hold management positions with the Crown or business relationships that may interfere with the independent facilitation of their judgement – are also vital. You don’t need me to tell you that either. I fail to see how the fact that at least half of Saskatchewan’s Crown board appointments are Sask Party political supporters promotes the notion of independence.

On the gender front, Saskatchewan is killing it, and that’s awesome. But it’s not good enough. To be clear, Saskatchewan is not an outlier on diversity – most of Canada is behind.

We are absolutely the outlier on political patronage and out of control political donations.

It’s time for the Saskatchewan government to shine a light on board appointments, open up the process to the entire population – not just their friends – and revisit their commitment (I’m assuming that buried somewhere is a policy) to appointing indigenous and visible minority residents to the groups leading this province deeper into the 21st century – because we’re headed in that direction, no matter how much it feels like, at times, this province would rather do anything but.

Like what you’re reading? I’d love to keep doing it for free, but I have to feed my kids, and these posts take forever to write. By clicking the Donate button below, your generous contribution makes sure I can keep doing both.

Donate Button with Credit CardsMany of you have asked for it, here’s a Patreon link. Basically you subscribe a couple of bucks of month, which collectively accumulates into steady subscription revenue for this site.

For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca.

Check out Part 1 here for what you need to know about each candidate’s campaign. 

The nomination deadline for the Saskatchewan Party to select the successor to Brad Wall—and by extension, the next premier of Saskatchewan—has passed. Ballots have been mailed out to party members and now we await the results, which will play out on January 28, 2018.

If you want to read more of my thoughts on the overall implications of this race, you can check out a recent piece I wrote for Maclean’s magazine here.

The race has been sorely and glaringly lacking in policy for indigenous residents of Saskatchewan. I’m not wasting words on the carbon tax, because you what their position on that is already.

However, no matter how far the Sask Party brass shove their heads in the sand, the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) is the single biggest issue determining the future of this party, regardless of what happens with the RCMP investigation.

(In case you’re new to Saskatchewan or have been living under a rock, here is CBC Saskatchewan’s Geoff Leo’s comprehensive coverage – two years worth, almost – of the GTH scandal.)

Here’s what you need to know about each candidate’s position on this boondoggle:

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Ken Cheveldayoff said in a September 12, 2017 news release that he’d sell the GTH, but wouldn’t make an individual or personal commitment to an inquiry, in part placing the decision back on SaskParty MLAs.

  • “…would not rule out an inquiry after the police investigation; this decision lies with the new Premier, Cabinet and Caucus.”
  • “Mistakes the government made should be acknowledged along with admittance that government should not have been involved in this business venture from the onset.”
  • “…if I become Leader of the Saskatchewan Party and Premier, I would immediately begin action to sell the GTH to the private sector”

Gord Wyant said on September 5, 2017 and October 10, 2017 that the GTH issue is significant, he will hold an immediate public inquiry and patch up Saskatchewan’s weak Conflict of Interest apparatus.

  • “appoint public inquiry at the earliest possible date”
  • “…broaden the powers of Saskatchewan’s Conflict of Interest Act to ensure the province’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner has all the legal tools necessary to investigate matters such as the GTH.”
  • “There is a cloud over our government, and that needs to be cleared… The issue with the Global Transportation Hub is probably the most significant issue our party has had to deal with.”

Scott Moe channelled his inner Captain Obvious on September 1, 2017 and October 10, 2017 when he said stuff, but made no commitment to reviewing the GTH’s viability or integrity.

  • “The people of Saskatchewan have an expectation, an expectation of their public figures in the province”
  • “We’ve had processes in place to protect that in this province, and those continue to be in place.”
  • “The fact of the matter is that, as we move forward, this team here that we have today will be having discussions on all sorts of public policy.”
  • “We need to ask the questions as well is that the appropriate amount of energies to look at this and start to accept what the findings have been if they start to line up”

Alanna Koch told CBC’s Blue Sky radio talk show on December 12, 2017 that everything is totally FINE and public inquiries are really expensive you guys.

  • “I’ve indicated that I want to see the results of the RCMP investigation”
  • “…the challenge with public inquiry is that it takes quite a bit of time to unfold, it’s actually pretty huge investment on the taxpayer’s part to investment into a public inquiry”
  • “…it’s a lot of money and I’m not confident that a public inquiry is the way to go”
  • “I think the GTH is a pretty phenomenal investment for the people of Saskatchewan”
  • “…provincial auditor did a very full review and all changes have been implemented”
  • “….concerned with spending a lot of money and a lot of time”

Tina Beaudry-Mellor tries, and fails, to walk the fence in her September 6, 2017 statement.

  • “I support the call for a judicial inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) land transactions.”
  • “I believe it is important the RCMP investigation that is currently underway be allowed to complete its work before an inquiry is launched.”
  • “…questions remain about issues and individuals surrounding the GTH. This has been amplified by recent revelations and it has eroded public trust and confidence. This trust and confidence must be restored.”

Check out Part 1 here for what you need to know about each candidate’s campaign. 

Like what you’re reading? I’d love to keep doing it for free, but I have to feed my kids, and these posts take forever to write. By clicking the Donate button below, your generous contribution makes sure I can keep doing both.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Many of you have asked for it, here’s a Patreon link. Basically you subscribe a couple of bucks of month, which collectively accumulates into steady subscription revenue for this site.
For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca.