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Check out Part 2 here on the candidate’s positions on the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).

Six candidates are vying to fill Wall’s shoes after his January 28, 2018 departure: former Saskatoon city councillor and justice minister Gord Wyant; former Grant Devine staffer and controversially, the current head of Saskatchewan’s civil service, Alanna Koch; rural MLA Scott Moe, Regina MLA Tina Beaudry-Mellor, and Saskatoon MLA Ken Cheveldayoff, also all once cabinet ministers, and former Conservative MP Rob Clarke.

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.

Otherwise, here’s what you need to know about the candidates:

Ken Cheveldayoff

Predictably, Saskatoon Willowgrove MLA Ken Cheveldayoff has worked incredibly hard since announcing his candidacy in August. Just reading his Facebook page, with it’s marathon lists of campaign stops is exhausting, though reading it a lot easier now that HE’S STOPPED YELLING AT US IN ALL CAPS on social media. At the halfway point in his campaign Chevy, an active, card-carrying member of the federal Conservative party, cleaned out his communications team and brought in the staff Jason Kenney used for his successful bid for the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party.

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Chevy’s campaign policy announcements have kind of been all over the map, predominantly low-hanging fruit for his target voting groups. The promise of high speed rural internet, for example – anyone in rural Saskatchewan still enjoying dial-up, or whatever it is you’re still using? Problem is that SaskTel is already starting to roll this out, albeit slowly, announcing their plan earlier this year as part of a $1.2 billion capital expansion plan set to run through 2021. Installing fibre optics corner to corner in this province is a monolithic task, and I feel like SaskTel probably know what they’re doing by not rushing it.

Railing against legalizing marijuana has also been on Chevy’s list; won’t somebody think of the children? I’m curious, though, as to whether Cheveldayoff will put his money where his mouth is. According to his MLA disclosure form, he’s invested in Saskatchewan’s Golden Opportunities Fund and SaskWorks Venture Fund. Together those two funds own 25% of Cannibis Therapeutics, a Saskatchewan medical marijuana grow-op which is currently poised, one way or another, to become a multi-kajillion dollar company after ganja goes legit in summer of 2018.

Given your opposition to legalized marijuana, have you divested from these two funds Ken, and if not, will you?

Chevy has been campaigning for this job since the day he was elected… possibly since the day he was born. Nakedly ambitious, Cheveldayoff has been locked into a longstanding rivalry with Brad Wall for the greater part of the last two decades. Rumours abound about his ethics and personal life, but it’s difficult to know how much is driven by hard feelings and caucus/party infighting over the years. He wouldn’t be my first choice, but he’ll probably be my second, and he will fight for this win til the bitter end, and his chances are good.

[Note – since I posted this a few hours ago, some of you have pointed out that I failed to include Chevy’s comments to the CBC regarding racism, or what he claimed to be the lack thereof, in Saskatchewan. Totally my bad, there’s a lot to cover and I missed it completely. It doesn’t change how I’d vote, but it is still troubling and I hope he not only addresses it, but demonstrates that he has moved on from that position and is ready to tackle the issues vital to Saskatchewan’s indigenous residents.]

Gord Wyant

The other candidates are growing increasingly worried about Wyant, whose no-drama-Obama-style campaign – low-key but cohesive, disciplined and highly organized – seems to have slowly but surely gained the momentum that it needs to land him in at least in the top three on the first ballot, which is where any candidate with needs to be to win.

He appears to have the majority support of Saskatchewan teachers. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation’s Pick A Premier campaign unleashed the power of one of the biggest and well-organized unions in Saskatchewan, with rumours of thousands of teachers having signed up for memberships – more than enough to decide this race. Wyant was one of the only two candidates who bothered to show up at the Saskatoon Teachers’ Association convention, a strategic win for him, and a mistake that I think is going to haunt the other absentee candidates.

Wyant is also one of only two candidates for Saskatchewan Premier to have released a policy regarding our kids’ education (think about that for a minute). With a commitment to reviewing education funding and using phrases like “integrated solutions” and “individual needs of students”, his is sure to appeal to teachers in this province, a group which has been increasingly disrespected, underfunded and unappreciated.

Wyant’s doffing of his federal Liberal membership at the beginning of the race was a bold and risky move, but it’s paid off in that it was a) the right thing to do for Saskatchewan, whose current interests don’t align with the Canadian government’s, and b) it reinforced the fact that he is not a social conservative.

Finally, Wyant has been the only candidate to actually acknowledge – not just once, but over and over – what everyone else (except diehard tribe members, of course) already knows: something is really wrong with the Saskatchewan Party. He’s been the only candidate to broadly address the deterioration of today’s Sask Party and its relationship with its members and the province as a whole, particularly around trust and social responsibility – taking care of all people, not just political donors. That’s huge, for me anyway.

I would like to see Wyant address the issue of the bullshit chaos that has become political donations in this province, as well as release policies directly addressing the best interests of indigenous residents of Saskatchewan, with particular emphasis on reconciliation and the TRC’s recommendations. Regardless, as of today he would be number one on my ballot.

Scott Moe

Moe’s leadership campaign is so uninspiring that I don’t know where to sta-zzzzzz… oops sorry, I just nodded off even thinking about it.

Let’s be straight about why Moe, who was elected as the MLA Rosthern-Spiritwood in 2011, is in this race and why he’s backed by almost half of his fellow Sask Party MLAs, all of whom have worked closely with Alanna Koch, who was Deputy Minister to the premier, and who don’t like her. Knowing she’s a strong candidate, especially in rural Saskatchewan, Rosetown MLA Jim Reiter was perceived as the original choice to stop Koch. Moe became Plan B when Reiter dropped out.

80% of the way through the campaign, Moe’s big claim to fame remains those 23 MLAs who have endorsed his candidacy. Thing is, in a political climate that is rallying against the Sask Party’s status quo, who cares?

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 8.08.06 AM

Moe has released a grand total of three policy pieces. Maybe four, if you’re generous.

One is a “Ministry of International Trade and Exports, which would replace the Ministry of Economy”. That sounds to me a lot like the well-established Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) authority, so not sure what a new ministry proves beyond more government interference. It’s also a terrible replacement for the Ministry of Economy, which is a huge umbrella covering everything from labour market development and immigration, energy and resource management, to economic development including First Nations, Métis and northern economic development.

He says he’d also hold a review of rural landfill management, a hot mess that Moe probably should have reviewed when he was, oh I don’t know, Minister of the Environment?

Moe would reinstate the PST exemption on crop, life, and health insurance, dated retroactively to August 1, 2017 (he says he will also stick with Wall’s promise to balance the provincial budget by 2019, so…).

And finally, Moe has made a “commitment” to growing the province’s population to 1.5 million by 2030, which I’m pretty sure we’re on track for already, by lobbying the feds to increase the number of immigrants allowed into Saskatchewan, creating that Ministry of International Trade and continuing to do stuff that’s being done already.

The most significant thing about Moe’s campaign was the revelation that in addition to his drunk driving conviction, he killed someone in a different car accident perfectly sober (he only got a ticket for driving with undue care and attention).

The most entertaining thing, by far, about Moe’s campaign has been watching Ted Merriman, a former Sask Party MLA and dad to current Sask Party MLA Paul Merriman, jump on Facebook during the Sask Party’s livestreams of leadership debates and absolutely smear the shit out of Ken Cheveldayoff in real time.

Unity!

Moe’s campaign is unbelievably thin gruel from a man who wants to lead Saskatchewan, and personally I find it even more unbelievable that 23 MLAs – or Moe’s “Team”, as he describes them – stand behind this pablum, nevermind endorse it as what’s best for Saskatchewan people.

A Moe win is not what’s best for us – it’s what’s best for them.

Alanna Koch

Like Chevy, Koch has ground out a gruelling schedule, traversing Saskatchewan’s rural countryside non stop for months. She knows where her vote lives and she’s gone after it, however she hasn’t made demonstrable inroads in the cities.

Missteps in her campaign have made it clear that Koch is a rookie; she’s never been elected to anything – a problem for some people, who consider the Premier’s role the last job that should be backdoored by an unelected candidate. An ill-concieved, self-indulgent news event in early October to announce her nonsensical “mandate letter” – that she wrote to herself on our behalf (I don’t even know) – went over like a lead balloon and damaged her relationship with reporters, who don’t have time for that. She also released a bizarre statement claiming their internal poll results showed her in first place, but refused to release the actual poll – aka proof – publicly or to media (again, who don’t have time for those games).

On policy, Koch claimed on Facebook that she “was the first, and only, candidate to release a full policy platform”, referring to her four and a half page, double-spaced Vision for 2030 which lays out profound gems like “Keep the STEP model” and “A health system that revolves around citizens’ needs to provide them with the best care possible”.

In fact, the only unique idea that jumped out at me was her proposed “Premier’s Council”, which she would populate with her selection of “entrepreneurs, labour leaders, scientific experts, community leaders, academia and industry and professional organizations”.

We elect people to be the Premier’s “council” – they’re called “Cabinet Ministers”. The last thing this province needs is another handpicked layer of political friends at the top of the food chain. Pronunciations like that feel a flicker of empathy for those 23 MLAs backing a real life Homer Simpson to keep her out.

In response to a budding (as of publishing this) scandal involving cheating allegations levelled against her campaign, Koch adamantly denies the accusations, suggesting the other candidates are just jealous because she was so well-prepared, stating, “I have been more engaged in this process than any other candidate.” I don’t think this one is going to end well, but we’ll see.

Koch is the perceived Chosen One of both the Sask Party executive, Brad Wall, executive council, and the conservative white male establishment led by their own lord and saviour, radio host John Gormley, whose dog whistles, pathetic pantomime of neutrality and painfully transparent on-air ambush of Scott Moe regarding that fatal collision pretty much sums up why I really did want, but can’t support Alanna Koch.

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9 of 12 of Koch’s recent endorsements are middle-aged white men. Is that a problem? It will be for the Sask Party in 2020 if she wins, because the balance of power is shifting away from this demographic..

I want a female premier. Unfortunately, I don’t want this one. Sorry, I tried.

Tina Beaudry-Mellor

She had only been a MLA for a year and a half when Beaudry-Mellor jumped into this race, and she’s never garnered the support or momentum she needs to have a chance. She has, however, had a nicely-timed mid-term opportunity to campaign for her seat in Regina, which will likely be in jeopardy in 2020, as well as the opportunity to earn some priceless campaign experience in some of the dirtiest trenches (the internal ones) in politics. I give her a standing ovation for effort, and should she choose to run again whenever this circus comes back to town, I hope she runs, because by then she’ll be a formidable opponent.

In Memory:

Jeremy Harrison

Rob Clarke

Check out Part 2 here on the candidate’s positions on the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).

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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.

 

It’s been quite a few weeks around here, hasn’t it?

My post on Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre’s controversial, ill-advised speech in the Legislature, for which she eventually (kind of) apologized, went viral. It was the second-most popular post this year, surpassed only by the Saskatchewan budget breakdown in March. It’s humbling and terrifying to watch something you put into the universe shape the dialogue of government, however briefly, but I think that maybe the backlash quelled what could have been a dangerous, racist change to our kids’ curriculum.

The next piece on just how many, or how few, businesspeople are funding the race to become Saskatchewan’s next Premier wasn’t quite as popular as the Eyre piece, but it did go pretty crazy as well. Tonight the Leader Post, which has all kinds of lawyers that I do not, has published what I would consider a followup to what I wrote, but uses names, and I’m so glad they did. We should be concerned, my friends, about how normalized the rampant purchase of influence has become in Saskatchewan.

Tens of thousands of you have visited this month, and that is just amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading. I feel like a broken record, but a lot of work goes into those posts and every set of eyes makes every keystroke worthwhile.

When it comes to monetizing this blog, I’ve had all kinds of advice, but the most consistent is to regularly publish a reminder of the ways you can throw some love my way. Doing this still makes me cringe inside – I don’t like even talking about money, never mind asking for it – but your response is always overwhelming and I cannot really put into words how amazing that is and how grateful I feel for all of you. Legit, you rock.

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Like I said last time I did this, I’m self-employed, with job flexibility which allows me to dedicate the time to this blog it requires. I’m not getting rich off this, trust me, but that’s cool. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a day spent writing a post is a day I didn’t earn anything to support my kids. Other non-traditional media sites actively fundraise, so I guess I’m going to do the same.

If you prefer, and 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. I will never paywall, or require readers to subscribe to read this blog, but it’s kind of a cool service if you’re into that.

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Have a great weekend friends. Tam xo

Let’s start with a few facts I think we can all agree on:

  1. Money is integral to the electoral process; campaigning to reach voters requires resources that aren’t free.
  2. Equality – fairness – is integral to democracy.

To reconcile those two facts, solid, effective legislation is required to create a level playing field.

Legislation which caps the amount of money, and thereby influence, any person can impose upon any candidate or party.

Legislation which prohibits corporate political donations, because the sole reason a corporation donates is to purchase political access and favourable policy and legislation development so it can make more money, upon which it will donate more money.

See how that’s a problem?

Which brings us to a third, indisputable fact:

Legislation creating a equal political playing field exists everywhere in Canada except Saskatchewan, and as a result the Saskatchewan political playing field is not equal

Political candidates in Saskatchewan are not players, they are pawns who can be bought and sold to the highest bidder.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Sask Party leadership candidate’s first round of financial disclosures, shall we?

The Big Picture

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What does the above tell us? Not much, really.

Ken Cheveldayoff’s piggybank is a bit fuller, but not overwhelmingly, and not enough to give him a commanding financial edge. Just under half of Tina Beaudry-Mellor‘s total funds are her own (well, on paper they’re from her husband, but I’m calling his money her money because feminism), and most of the rest appears to come from her friends and family, so that’s really all I have to say about that.

The Slightly More Detailed Picture

Things get somewhat interesting when we begin to break down where the other four candidates’ cash is coming from:

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We know that the Sask Party is a party currently driven by corporate interests. It’s indisputable after looking at their donor rolls, and it’s become normalized in Saskatchewan, so the fact that the majority of each candidate’s donations come from corporations is no surprise.

That said, things get really interesting when you break down the industries and regions from where each candidate’s cash is flowing.

(Note – I originally included donors names, but was then warned at least one major donor in the past has attempted to stifle media reports of his/her political donations via legal action. That’s bullshit, and they weren’t successful, but I don’t have the resources or inclination to deal with that.)

Alanna Koch

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 1.36.32 PMOf Koch‘s 29 corporate donors, at least 12 are all companies owned by one guy, an uber-wealthy developer from Regina with business interests all over the province and the country. Of Koch’s $50,500 in total corporate donations, his companies ponied up $20,125. There’s no tax benefit for leadership donations, and all of his companies are multi-million dollar companies, so IMO the only reason for spreading the love is 29 corporate donors sounds a lot better than 17.

Her single largest donation was $10,000 was from another Regina-based businessperson.

Bottom line: approximately two-thirds of Koch’s corporate donations came from two people. They may be powerful people, but that’s not nearly the amount of corporate influence she needs and frankly, it’s stunning.

Gord Wyant

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 1.41.57 PMWyant‘s overall ratio of corporate to individual donations is high, but far more balanced within the details. He definitely has two big donors padding his coffers, but they don’t comprise the majority.

Further, Wyant is the only candidate to not have received cash from out-of-province donors, which is a-okay by my standards.

Wyant also received the largest single donation from a sitting MLA, who also happens to be a Cabinet Minister – $2000 from Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart.

Ken Cheveldayoff

Like Koch’s, much of Chevy’s support is compressed within a few corporations.

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.25.55 AM

His top five corporations donated $10,000 each. One is a lawyer from Ontario who I’m guessing is a friend. One is a Calgary-based oil and busy-business guy, one is a Saskatchewan farming corporation, one is a Saskatchewan property management company and one is a Saskatchewan-owned business.

I’ve got to give credit where it’s due – I was surprised and impressed by the depth and breadth of the industries donating to Chevy’s campaign. There is a nice mix of Saskatchewan-owned and operated small businesses ranging from agriculture, financial services, trucking and wildlife outfitters to doctors, lawyers and blue-collar businesses. There’s some oil money, but it’s not dominant, and there’s some out of province money, but not nearly as much as I thought there would be.

Really, the most egregious thing about Chevy’s financial disclosure statement might be the spelling mistakes.

I mean seriously nobody’s perfect, but if you want to be Premier at least get a second set of eyes on this stuff.

Scott Moe

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Scott Moe‘s individual donations reflect the same patterns as Koch’s corporate – one big donation skewing the overall picture.

41% of Moe’s $61600 in individual donations came from one guy – a guy who also happens to own a construction company with a flood of government contracts, including one at the GTH. Do I really need to say any moe?

Of those 22 MLAs that are endorsing Moe, only two have put their money where their mouth is: Jim Reiter and Fred Bradshaw have each pitched in $1000.

Sharesies

Apparently donors aren’t too worried about going all in on one candidate, because the vast majority of them have only donated to one candidate, with a few exceptions:

  • Gord Wyant and Ken Cheveldayoff share the most donors at eight;
  • Scott Moe shares the most donors, period, with 18 of his donors also having donated to one or two of the other candidates;
  • A handful of donors gave money to each of Wyant, Moe and Chevy;
  • Koch shares the least amount of donors at 10, and six of those are with Moe.

What Does It All Mean?

It means a grand total of ten businessmen (they’re all men) – nine from Saskatchewan and one from Ontario – are currently responsible for over 50% of the corporate funding* of the race for the next Premier of Saskatchewan.

(*an early version of this post said they were responsible for 50% of all donations, but I amended that – math isn’t my strong suit. It’s still a staggering number.)

Ten.

In a province of one million people.

For a party of, at last rumoured count, 15,000 members.

I mean, overall no candidate is setting the world on fire when it comes to donations. There’s not a funding gap between the top four that is wide enough to allow one candidate to get an edge on another, and all are within reach of the spending limit of $250,000.

But every candidate’s funding is skewed by a tight concentration of funding from one or two backers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, every single one of which has a significant interest to boost or protect.

Grass Is Always Greener, Sort Of

A quick look at how Saskatchewan’s leadership rules compare to our neighbours:

Alberta – donors can only contribute $4000 per year combined between parties, candidates etc. Donors must be residents of Alberta. Corporations or non-profit corporations or organizations are not allowed to donate.

However, unlike Sask Party leadership candidates who are limited to a paltry quarter million bucks, there are no limits on leadership campaign spending in Alberta.

For example, recent Progressive Conservative leadership contest winner Jason Kenney spent $1.5 million, or seven times as much on his campaign as the other three candidates combined.

Meanwhile to the east, only individuals who are residents of Manitoba may contribute to a leadership contestant. No contributions are allowed from organizations or corporations, profit or otherwise. There are no limits on spending, but Premier Brian Palliser only spent $152,000 to win his bid in 2011.

(BTW, while we’re talking donations, here is the brand new and shiny Patreon link you beautiful people have been asking for. Thank you so much for support and for reading.)

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.

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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.

 

Saskatoon Stonebridge-Dakota Sask Party MLA Bronwyn Eyre has a rich history of opining on education and educational institutes.

In 2010 Eyre wrote a newspaper column entitled ‘The Slippery Slope of Sexual Education’, wherein she questions whether Grade 5 students need to be taught the anatomically-correct terminology for the reproductive system, or Grade 6 students the basics on how not to contract a STD.

Eyre then proves her point by sharing an anecdote about how when she was 11, she mistook the change pocket on a pair of shorts for some kind of penis-holder, and decries sex education for teenagers as “not doing much to improve teen self-esteem” or to “promote a greater sense of honour and respect in sexual relations”.

In 2009 she blamed, in part, a lack of stay-at-home mothers for the prevalence of colds and flus in schools. In 2011 she declared climate change science “witchcraft reasoning” and that she hoped global warming would return to the prairies (cause winter, get it?).

In a 2012 (2 years after poo-pooing sex education in schools) pro-life column she said:

“I wish women would talk, dare to talk, about the complexity of (fetal development and abortion) and not have to pretend the fetus was the next thing to an appendix or loose tooth.”

Cause that’s a thing, apparently. I mean, what woman hasn’t tied a string to their uterus and then slammed the door?

In 2014 Eyre defended pro-life and anti-gay fanatic Bill Whatcott’s right to spread his disgusting (and I mean disgusting), hate-filled filth on post-secondary campuses in Saskatchewan, and BC’s Trinity Western University for trying to restrict its students’ sex lives to between married and heterosexual couples only.

In 2016 Bronwyn Eyre was appointed Saskatchewan’s Minister of Advanced Education. In 2017 she was promoted to our province’s Minister of Education.

In a speech she gave in the Saskatchewan Legislature at the beginning of November, Eyre outlined her opinion on the future of our children’s education in Saskatchewan, and it’s just as fucked up as what she’s been throwing down in print for the last eight years.

Problem is, now it’s not just her opinion – it’s her plan.

Here are the more troubling excerpts from that sarcasm-laden speech, which was delivered on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 and can be found in its entirety in Hansard here:

“We have arrived at an important crossroads in education. And when it comes to a broader discussion about curriculum… there has come to be at once too much wholesale infusion into the curriculum… too many attempts to mandate material into it both from the inside and by outside groups…the broader curriculum has become watered down…students are becoming guinea pigs in some cases for whatever is being tried out by the system.”

If I’m a teacher, that’s the part where my head tilts a bit to one side, and maybe I squint my eyes.

“…bottom line, you’re not going to be able to change the world on any social issue if you can’t write properly.”

I’m sorry what? Five seconds ago the curriculum was “watered down”, but now our kids are outright illiterate?

She then continues detailing more reasons our kids won’t change the world, including,

“…if you don’t know that 230 years ago French revolutionaries called their movement Citizenship, or that later Maoists were very partial to school children singing indoctrination songs, or that a key tenet of cultural bolshevism was prominently displaying ideological slogans in schools…”

Oh, I see – we’re not indoctrinating enough communism into the curriculum. There’s that sarcasm in action. So mature.

“My grade 8 son brought a homework sheet home the other day — they’re always sheets…”

Goddamn those worksheets, right?

“…he’d copied from the board the following facts which were presented as fact:”

Facts as fact. Cool.

“…that European and European settlers were colonialists, pillagers of the land who knew only buying and selling and didn’t respect mother earth.”

#recordscratch (in Eyre’s head)

“He asked me if it was okay if he could write that he associated with his pioneer great- and great-great-grandparents…I said yes, of course…”

Oh my god the poor little thing; he must have been so confused. How will he ever bounce back from that kind of trauma?

“…they had known poverty in Norway or Ukraine, or war in Germany, that they had come here and tilled the land that produced food for everybody and loved their families and tried to create whole, stable communities in this province, and had loved it here.”

Please.

First of all, what does being poor in Scandinavia have to do with anything?

I freely admit I struggle with the term “settler” and its relatively new negative connotation. All eight of my great-grandparents were European immigrants to Saskatchewan, and I am grateful that their hard work building a homestead landed me where I am today.

However, I’ve also grown to understand that my ancestors, along with thousands of other European immigrants (aka settlers), forcibly displaced Saskatchewan’s indigenous residents (to put it simply), creating a chain of negative events that still feeds the cycle of racism, poverty and lack of privilege (also put simply) plaguing our indigenous population today. And I feel really, really shitty about that. If I could go back and undo my own good fortune so as not to destroy the lives of others I would, but I can’t. Therefore, I do my best to channel my regret through reconciliation, which to me means educating myself, and making sure my kids are educated, about the true context of our personal history and its impact on Saskatchewan and Canada’s indigenous nations, and about the treaties.

But who cares because English was Eyre’s Baba’s second language and the struggle is real, people:

“My two grandmothers went off to school (in Saskatchewan) speaking only Norwegian and Ukrainian respectively, to one-room schoolhouses… And yet one of my grannies became a business owner, what’s known today as a female entrepreneur. The other was brilliant in math.”

Oh for the love of…are we seriously doing this again?

Eyre went down this road last fall, sitting in a room full of Saskatchewan’s Northern and Indigenous residents who were trying, seemingly in vain, to get the reality of their circumstances through her skull. Her response, which she defended in the Legislature, was to compare their grandmothers’ history to that of her own, who she says didn’t have “lunch money” or “running water”.

The implication of that little outburst, of course, being, “and look at me – I’m successful, highly educated, financially secure and ultimately very privileged… what’s your problem?”

Just as, if not more troubling is the fact that Eyre’s more recent speech was given as Saskatchewan’s Minister of Education, in which she is threatening treaty education in the curriculum and broadly and politically condemning teachers, administrators and her own Ministry.

Is it any wonder that the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation is running a campaign pushing their thousands of members to buy Sask Party memberships to Pick a Premier? If its successful and enough teachers buy memberships, it is entirely feasible that they will do just that – and I promise you it won’t be the status quo.

If I’m a teacher – hell, if I’m a Saskatchewan resident with cognitive thinking skills and even a moderate emotional IQ – I’m buying a Sask Party membership right now and making sure anyone who thinks and talks like what I detailed above hits the backbench and stays there.

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Lots and lots of you have asked if I would create a Patreon page, which again, is totally mind-blowing and I’m not crying, you’re crying. I looked into it, and it’s pretty cool – basically a subscription-donation service for people who make stuff, I guess like this blog – so I did. I mean seriously, if everyone who read this blog regularly threw in a few bucks a month, um.. well things would amp up around here, let’s just leave it at that. Anyway, here is my brand new and shiny Patreon link, and thank you so much for support and for reading.

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.

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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.

 

First of all, you guys are AH-MAY-ZING. The response to my lame attempt at fundraising for this blog was outstanding and humbling and I seriously love you all so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Given how hard y’all have shown your support, I figured it was time to get my ass in gear and actually write something, but decided to offer something different this time around. Consider this post a smorgasbord – a little bit of this and that from around the province, courtesy awesome small-town or city news outlets. Never fear, however, a Sask Party leadership post is in the works, as is one on what the Saskatchewan government spent your money on in 2016-17, and with who. Enjoy.

Battlefords-Lloydminster Conservative Party Nomination Race

The Tory nomination for the by-election to replace former MP Gerry Ritz is already hotly contested. Rumor has it that Sask Party MLA Jeremy Harrison will be throwing his hat in the ring, which, frankly, probably makes the most sense if he wants a political future in this province. In the meantime, the current race is… interesting.

The first candidate to jump in was Aron Klassen, whose slogan includes “Our Communities. Our Values” (not a dog whistle).

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(aronklassen.com)

His platform includes: the right to protect “property and family” (absolutely not the same) “without fear of legal recourse”; “prioritizing the family and rural lifestyle” (urban and childless? screw you), and fiscal conservatism ie. “the more money one has… stronger the Canadian economy is” and “MP’s have the right to hold their government accountable…in the house of commons…”

Okay stop. On the latter, if you’re going to run for Parliament, show us evidence you have at least the grammar skillz of a Grade 8 student, k? BTW, Esquire has some great tips on how not to look like a white nationalist, which I’m sure he’s not.

Rosemarie Falk is a young woman and mother throwing her hat in the political ring, which is awesome and admirable, so all I’m going to do is advise her to flesh out her campaign website, stat.

And then there’s hopeful Ken Finlayson. I think all I need to do is leave you with Ken’s picture and a quote from this news story.

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“The price of milk, I would think that’s kind a motherhood issue.” (newsoptimist.ca)

Unbuilding the Saskatchewan Psychiatric Hospital/Jail

While we’re talking about northwest Saskatchewan, how about this little doozy from the Battleford News Optimist regarding the P3 construction of the new Saskatchewan Hospital (emphasis mine):

“An issue with the material used for insulation at the new facility has been identified and will be addressed over the coming weeks, with the defective insulation material being removed and new insulation put in.

According to Lisa Danyluk, director of strategy and engagement for SaskBuilds, the problem was identified through “rigorous quality-control regime on site” by the (P3) consortium in charge of the project.

“What folks might see is some scaffolding going up, and then the masonry and exterior cladding on the outside of the building is going to be coming down.”

In other words, they have to tear down and rebuild the exterior. Danyluk was also adamant that we understand that it is the P3 private partner, not the taxpayer, paying for this construction eff-up – which make no mistake, is massive one.

The provincial government will insist that this is precisely the reason P3 projects make sense – the private partner absorbs the cost of a risk which came to fruition (though let’s be clear, either the insulation manufacturer or an insurer will be paying, not the private partner). Yet it’s also precisely this type of risk that the taxpayer is paying a huge premium for: risk that is measured and allocated in advance with absolutely no empirical evidence, and then triumphantly justified by the government waving around an example of the private partner eating the cost of their own shoddy construction and/or materials used in the build of new public infrastructure.

Doesn’t that make you feel so much better?

Chaos in Carlyle

SGI would like us all to get our shit together and stop the traffic madness on Main Street in Carlyle.

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“When turning left at an intersection (including u-turns), a lot is going on and the driver must be extra cautious and watch out for all vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Not all drivers follow the rules of the road and in this situation in particular, one should slow down and drive prepared for others to make mistakes,” Tyler McMurchy, SGI’s Manager of Media Relations, who apparently intimately aware of this pressing situation in particular, told the Carlyle Observer.

I love Saskatchewan so freaking much.

Premier Says Province Should Probably Still Open a Savings Account. Someday.

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The Premier, who’s leaving in two months, told Pipeline news he thinks Saskatchewan should still open a Sovereign Wealth Fund (savings account).

Someday.

You know, that day, after he’s gone, when Saskatchewan moves away from relying on resource revenue, and when oil prices come back.

(If we’re no longer relying on resource revenue, don’t ask me why we’d have to wait until oil prices come back to start saving money.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 7.01.47 AM.pngLook, you had ten years to move off resource revenue and wean the province “off of the great dependence of it financially”.

You didn’t.

You spent – sorry, “invested” – every penny, and yes, on infrastructure, though don’t talk to me about recent school, long-term care, major highways or hospitals projects, because almost every one of those won’t be paid for until both myself and my great-grandkids are in diapers.

As a publicist I admire Wall’s deftness at dodging the question, which was “do you think we should have” (past tense) opened a savings account, not “do you think we should” someday.

As a taxpayer, I’m unimpressed.

I’ll Have What She’s Having

This Saskatchewan woman is 100-years old (seriously!!):

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Kamsack woman Elsie Todosichuk celebrating her 100th birthday on September 30th. (kamsacktimes.ca)

I KNOW, RIGHT?!? She looks AMAZING.

Damn, Elsie, what’s your secret?

Well for starters, no white flour or sugar, she told the Kamsack Times.

““Also, I drink water with lemon in it every day and eat whole flax with breakfast or porridge. I eat a spoonful of molasses each day and I drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.” The only soft drink she allows herself is the occasional ginger ale.”

Her eyesight is failing and she’s wearing a knee brace, but she still lives in her own home and isn’t going anywhere… and I don’t think she is for a long while yet.

******************

Lots and lots of you have asked if I would create a Patreon page, which again, is totally mind-blowing and I’m not crying, you’re crying. I looked into it, and it’s pretty cool – basically a subscription-donation service for people who make stuff, I guess like this blog – so I did. I mean seriously, if everyone who read this blog regularly threw in a few bucks a month, um.. well things would amp up around here, let’s just leave it at that. Anyway, here is my brand new and shiny Patreon link, and thank you so much for support and for reading.

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.

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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.

I have been conflicted about the whole notion of monetizing, or getting “paid” for writing  this blog since long before I decided to add a Donate Button like this one.
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I’ve always maintained that I am not a journalist, and I’m not, but that every word and every opinion on this site would be fact-based and where possible, linked back to sources. That takes time.
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When I started this blog, I swore I wasn’t going to make it a thing. It was simply going to be a place where I could write down what I saw and what I thought, especially as newsrooms kept getting cut back, and official Opposition to the Saskatchewan government became virtually non-existent. Back then I figured if I got a hundred readers it would be amazing. Amazing it is, because today each new post receives a helluvalot (hella!) more than that, which blows my mind. And I love it, and I love you guys SO much.

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I’m self-employed, and blessed with fantastic job flexibility which allows me to dedicate the time to a post that each one requires, but I’m not getting rich off it, trust me. Which is totally fine. But, the truth I always come back to is that a day spent writing a post is a day I didn’t earn anything to support my boys. Then I see sites like Canadaland, or our old pals over at the site that shall remain nameless but rhymes with Shmebel pretty much constantly fundraising, and I second-guess my decision not to more actively do the same.

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So, in case I haven’t been subtle enough, today I’m launching a bit of a fund-raising drive so I can keep this up. It’s either that or go door-to-door for cans and bottles, and that seems impractical.

I want to keep it up, but I also want this place to be better, with things like a newsletter and a podcast, and guest writers who don’t have to contribute for free. I want oursask to be as uniquely and eccentrically Saskatchewan-focused as possible, and provide a platform for more voices than my deeply, deeply sarcastic one.Donate Button with Credit Cards

Many of you have generously donated in the past, and I can’t thank you enough. Today I’m asking that maybe if you haven’t for a while, consider throwing in a couple bucks to keep the lights on, so I can continue terrorizing holding accountable elected Saskatchewan officials, especially the ones currently vying to take the reigns of this fine province for the next couple of years.

Sometime I might launch a Patreon page, but for now I’ll just leave this little gold button here one more time, in case you didn’t see the ones above.

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I’d also be extra grateful if you helped me share this post on social media (the Share buttons are under the below ads, which earn me precisely nada, I should add).

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Tam.

WHAT’S THAT?

WHAT?

SPEAK UP I CAN’T HEAR YOU

OH SORRY YOU WANT ME TO STOP YELLING okay that’s fine why didn’t you just say so.

For the love of all that is holey Ken Cheveldayoff’s social media needs to stop hollering at us in ALL CAPS.

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OH REALLY THAT’S NICE DID YOU USE YOUR BULLHORN THE WHOLE TIME?

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I WOULD HOPE SO COULD YOU PLEASE YELL US MORE ABOUT IT?

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THANKS TIPS.

What They Got Up To

When he wasn’t breaking our eardrums on social media, Ken was crashing parties. I can tell this story because I was there, but am still going to try and keep details anonymous because the host would prefer it that way.

Every year a rather prominent Saskatchewan person (we’ll call him or her Sandy) holds an invite-only reception in September. Sandy is decidedly not a Chevy fan, so he wasn’t invited. That’s how that usually works.

Guess who showed up, wheedled his way inside, helped himself to Sandy’s free food and drinks, and campaigned to unwitting partygoers while studiously avoiding Sandy, who was outwardly furious?

That’s right.

#awkward #tacky

When he wasn’t snacking on shrimp cocktail he wasn’t entitled to, Chevy did release something resembling substance: the promise of high speed internet, via fibre optics, for rural Saskatchewan.

In five years, and at increased rates (he doesn’t specify if urban account holders would be expected to suck up the cost too).

This is all well and good, but not particularly groundbreaking given SaskTel started a fibre optics pilot program in rural Saskatchewan in the spring. A pilot program, because as SaskTel pointed out, installing fibre optic infrastructure across our vast, and often sparsely-populated province is a monolithic concept that you don’t rush in to. Ahem.

Scott Moe announced he will do what the Saskatchewan government has already said will: balance the budget by 2019-20. Given the current promise… does Moe know something we don’t? In fact, he says he can balance the budget AND reinstate the PST exemption on insurance premiums, forfeiting that forecast $150-million in revenue, getting there by not reducing the corporate tax rate as promised and by reducing the cost of the civil service by $150-million, or 5%, through retirement and attrition.

Hey, remember a few months ago when the Premier personally made the wildly unpopular announcement that the government was going to reduce the cost of the civil service by 3.5% through wage cuts? Clearly nobody told Wall that his government could reduce the civil service by a whopping 5%, simply by waiting for employees to leave on their own.

Color him embarrassed.

One other thing Moe got up to that really, really annoys me is this:

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That’s a picture of Scott Moe last week, conducting an interview on his SaskParty leadership campaign with a Yorkton reporter… in Greg Ottenbreit’s MLA office.

You know, the office paid for by the taxpayer for Ottenbreit to execute his duties as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The rules are extremely clear about what constituency offices are to be used for, and politics is not on that list.

I know it’s a little thing, but it’s the little things that bug me the most. These are the rules that are easiest to follow, so why break them… because you can? What happens if you get the power to break big rules?

Ottenbreit and Moe knew this wasn’t cool, because the picture was up on Facebook for about thirty seconds before it was ripped down.

I don’t know where to start with Alanna Koch. Maybe I should ask her, because it seems like nobody likes talking more about Alanna Koch than Alanna Koch.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who uses the word “I” a lot? Grating, isn’t it? Some of the best advice one can receive on public speaking and broadcasting is to banish that word completely.

In a video posted to her Facebook page on September 30th, Koch uses “I” six times in 38 seconds, and says stuff like, “It’s been amazing to hear… how interested (people) are in my candidacy and how much support I’m getting and the momentum that’s building on my campaign.” Really. That must be delightful for… you.

On October 3rd Koch posted another video, this one 60 seconds, in which she says “I” 14 times.

“What people have told me about my leadership style is that I’m very authentic,” she says. “I come across as genuine and sincere and I think it’s because I really care about people.”

You know who needs to say that about Alanna Koch?

Not Alanna Koch.

Honestly, if you claim other people say you’re authentic and sincere, the last thing I’m going to believe is that you are authentic and sincere.

Combine this with with some of her comments in media lately, and it kind of seems like Koch needs a reality check.

“Koch has not yet unveiled any policy points,” read a recent article about Koch’s stop in Prince Albert. “She said she “wouldn’t want to make promises” that she can’t keep….she’s not campaigning to make promises, but to engage supporters and lay out the principles she’s running on.”

Look, when you’re campaigning you don’t “lay out” anything for voters – you listen as voters lay out what’s important to them. Further, it’s absolutely jaw-dropping that anyone who has never actually been elected thinks it’s totally fine to parachute into the Premier’s office without gracing us with policy or, god forbid, promises.

You know how employers write mandate letters to their employees telling them how to do their job? Last week Koch called a news conference to announce that she was releasing a mandate letter to the people of Saskatchewan.

Sooooo, we work for Koch? What?

Confused? So were media, who didn’t report on it because it was dumb (and potentially put her campaign’s future media coverage in jeopardy, because reporters’ time is valuable and the so-called announcement she hauled them out for was definitely not).

What’s in the mandate letter? It was about her (surprise!) and what her mandate will be as Premier. Most people call those “promises” but not Koch, apparently, because those she’d have to keep. What I know for sure is nobody has given her the mandate to do anything yet, and if they do, those that elect her will be writing it, not her.

Tina Beaudry-Mellor was in northern Saskatchewan, because her “vision to build Saskatchewan into the economic powerhouse of the West includes a plan for northern communities in the province” which have “struggled with higher rates of suicide, domestic violence, and HIV and AIDS…symptoms of poverty, low graduation rates, and birth rates twice the rest of the province”.

This grand plan seems like something she could have came up with when she was, oh I don’t know, Minister of Social f***ing Services, but sure, why not.

Gord Wyant, who IMHO is emerging as the most balanced, solid contender, was pretty quiet, perhaps because he was the living embodiment of a SaskTel commercial, embarking on a marathon road trip that took him from Maple Creek to Melfort and beyond.

Doubling down on his efforts to continue to detach himself from the federal Liberals, Wyant picked up a picket sign and marched with the Regina Chamber of Commerce against the Trudeau government’s proposed tax changes, and railed against the decision to scrap Energy East, which many folks around here are also hanging on the feds shoulders.

Wyant, bless his heart, was also caught up in some fantastic contenders for Awkward Family Photos:

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Is it just me or do they all look like they’re gritting their teeth and trying not to touch each other?

And my god do I love this one:

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Olauson: “Guys can I be on the front bench for on-”

Everyone else: “Nope.”

Chevy: “I don’t know what to do with my hands.”

Kid to his right: “Point at your crotch!”

Here’s where each candidate has been in the last couple of weeks:

Gord Wyant: Maple Creek, Eston, Elrose, Blaine Lake, North Battleford, Melfort, St. Brieux, Weyburn, Regina, Grenfell, Yorkton, Saskatoon, Davidson

Alanna Koch: Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, Lloydminster, Unity

Scott Moe: Saskatoon, Watrous, Humboldt, Saskatoon, Melfort, Outlook, Beechy , Kindersley

Ken Cheveldayoff: Weyburn, Yorkton, Saskatoon

What They Need To Do Next

I feel like a broken record, but Ken Cheveldayoff’s digital campaign is a mess. The SHOUTING, the weird collage videos that look like they’ve been put together by an 8th grade classroom working using MS-DOS; I don’t get it. Chevy has the money to hire professionals, so why isn’t he?

Oh, and the address for his MLA web page now points to his leadership page. If I was in his riding I’d be less than impressed, and ask him to reinstate the proper channels to contact him in the capacity to which he’s been elected.

Alanna Koch needs to stop talking about herself and start talking about concerns she’s hearing, and what she’s going to do about them. However, if you believe her messaging, she’s not hearing any concerns because everything in Saskatchewan is totally fine and nothing needs to change. For example, she’s “not sure” a public inquiry into the GTH is “absolutely necessary” – are you kidding me right now? Even the SaskPartiest-SaskPartier wants one. To me this suggests that she’s either not being honest with us, or not being honest with herself. Either way it’s a problem.

According to pretty much everyone, Scott’s Moe-mentum has flatlined, which is going to be a problem for both him and half of the SaskParty caucus, which will be faced with ass-kissing a leader they rejected.

And, his optics still suck. Seriously, what is this supposed to be?

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Stoic? Thoughtful? Sleeping with your eyes open?

Between the weird pictures and videos, and both him and Koch hiding behind status quo messaging (Koch described herself to a reporter as an “insider-outsider” – wtf does that even mean?) they’ve told members precisely zero about themselves. Combined. Define yourselves – not by talking about yourselves, by standing out. Post testimonials to your authenticity voiced by someone who actually said it. Do SOMETHING.

Gord Wyant needs to keep up the rural Saskatchewan tour. He’s begun the process of defining himself quite nicely and will need to continue reinforcing it, member by member. I’d also like to see another bold policy announcement and some engagement with First Nations communities and issues.

Tina’s northern visit is going to win her precisely zero votes, and feels a bit like a) the Tina Beaudry-Mellor Redemption Tour instead of a leadership campaign, and b) defeat. That said, I’d love to see her keep it up for as long as she’s in this thing, because it gives me a glimmer of hope that inside the Sask Party at least one person has new ideas and cares about something other than business and bashing the federal government, even if their timing is off and these ideas would have been far more helpful a year ago.

One last thought: some of you are asking/snarking about why I’m not blogging/snarking about the NDP leadership race. I’ve said I will, but right now, frankly, I don’t care. The SaskParty race decides who will become this province’s next Premier so it’s way higher on my priority list.

T-10 days and counting to the first SaskParty leadership debate…

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

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This was supposed to have been a post about a scathing expose put together by a massive team of investigative journalists, researchers and educators from across North America.

But it’s not.

I mean, at it’s core is an important story – sour gas from oil wells posing serious, even fatal health risks to Saskatchewan residents.

The stories I’m referring to, released earlier this week, were researched and produced by “an unprecedented collaboration of more than 50 journalists and editors from three Canadian media outlets, four journalism schools and a think tank.” There was cross-reporting on the various platforms of the Toronto Star, National Observer and Global News.

For the sake of simplicity and clarity in this post, we’ll call this massive group the “Media Group” or “Group”.

And don’t get me wrong, what this Media Group did was impressive. However, it also raised at least one of my eyebrows, because for every comment, story or Tweet I saw on the actual story, I saw another self-indulgent comment, story or Tweet from the Group about their “historic” consortium and the resulting stories.

This seemed really odd to me, because the story of sour gas in Saskatchewan was revealed by the Saskatchewan CBC two years ago. It’s not new.

In 2015 investigative reporter Geoff Leo, now widely regarded for his work blowing the GTH story wide open, released an investigative piece revealing the culture of secrecy and risk around the oil industry, the Saskatchewan government and sour gas emissions.

I mean, far be it from me to apologize for the provincial government, but I needed to pause and examine the entire picture, because there’s a huge difference between a bombshell report on a government/oil industry coverup, and a story that may have just felt like such to j-school students and Toronto-based journalists.

In other words, just because they didn’t know about sour gas doesn’t mean we didn’t, or that it’s fair or even accurate to paint this issue as a coverup.

Consider this piece, subtly titled That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy (also a letter-perfect description of my teenaged son’s bedroom). It opens by detailing the story of the Galloways, a family living in southern Saskatchewan whose lives have been greatly and negatively impacted by the oil wells that surround their farm – more specifically, the hydrogen sulphate (H2S), or sour gas, those wells emit.

That is super shitty, and I feel terrible for the Galloways. I’m sure you do as well.

According to the Group’s story:

“Documents obtained through freedom-of-information requests and from whistleblowers — internal correspondence, meeting minutes, presentations and inspection reports — disclose findings of failures in performance by oil and gas companies, including serious infractions, failed safety audits, daily H2S readings beyond provincial air quality standards and a death in 2014.”

Ok… but while the Group might have used FOIs and whistleblowers to uncover their “findings”, the Saskatchewan (and beyond) public already knew about them, because the CBC’s 2015 story had all of them, including the tragic and untimely H2S-related death in 2014 of Saskatchewan man Michael Bunz.

Emphasizing that they used FOIs and whistleblowers to write their story suggests the sour gas was a secret or a coverup, essentially confirmed by the story’s next line:

Yet regulatory standards remain largely unchanged and H2S incidents and risks remain hidden from the public.

Hidden?

Here’s a chunk from the Saskatchewan CBC’s decidedly not hidden 2015 story (emphasis mine):

“This is a big and serious problem,” said Ed Dancsok, the assistant deputy minister for the petroleum and natural gas division of the Ministry of the Economy. Dancsok said it’s been caused, in part, by a lack of focus by the industry and the ministry, which is the regulator. “There’s been sites that have not received the attention they should,” Dancsok told CBC’s iTeam. “So our stepped-up enforcement actions are starting to correct that.” Dancsok said Saskatchewan’s sour gas problem is now his “No. 1 priority.” 

The Group’s many, many stories, the most concise of which, IMO, is this one, details events going back to 2012. For example, one document obtained by the Group was a map of sour gas hotspots, which was part of an April 2012 PowerPoint presentation by the Saskatchewan government to CAPP.

Says the Group’s story:

Sources say ministry staff pushed to make the (map) data public but senior government officials said “there’s no goddamn way that is going to be released.”

And it wasn’t, which is indeed not cool.

But then consider this quote from the provincial government in that 2015 CBC story (which let’s be clear, the Media Group had access to, presuming they ever Googled the words “Saskatchewan sour gas”):

“The Ministry of the Economy said it tested 43 facilities in southeast Saskatchewan that were leaking sour gas “with average concentrations at 30,000 ppm.””

Yeah okay, it’s not a map from a 2012 Powerpoint, but that’s still pretty darn specific, no? Shouldn’t that 2015 subsequent disclosure of regional leaks, even to a different media outlet, still be in the Group’s story?

The CBC story continues:

“…the ministry audited 22 random wells in southeast Saskatchewan in the summer of 2013. “And 21 of them failed,” Dancsok said.”

So if you read this CBC story in 2015 and lived in southeast Saskatchewan, you pretty much knew it was time to buy a hazmat suit.

The Group’s story goes on about communication regarding sour gas between CAPP and the provincial government from 2012 to 2014ish, but does not disclose anything the government said about it to the media or in the Legislature in 2015. Their story references a “secret ministry report” which contains information that appears to match what an official from the same ministry freely stated on the record to CBC. In fact, the CBC story tells the tale of a Saskatchewan family who received a phone call from the ministry warning them of sour gas levels at a nearby oil well site.

After the CBC’s story was released in April of 2015, Minister Bill Boyd was questioned by the NDP in Question Period about the disclosure, or lack thereof, of sour gas. Boyd, as per usual, didn’t have any answers, but this highlights that this issue has been on the radar, even in the Legislature, for over two years. In 2015, subsequent to the CBC story, similar stories on sour gas, including information and quotes from the provincial government, ran in Estevan, the Western Producer, and in a detailed Q&A with Dancsok in Pipeline News a month later.

Here’s my point… I do have one, and it’s not that sour gas isn’t a problem, or that the government of Saskatchewan and the oil industry are transparent and forthright.

My problem is that if you only consumed the Group’s reporting (and initially I was totally guilty of that too), here is what you’ve been led to believe:

  1. In 2012 the provincial government refused to release a map of sour gas hotspots and a teenager on the Galloway farm almost died from sour gas poisoning;
  2. the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) internal response to the Galloway incident uncovered a whole plethora of sour gas problems, failures and general bullshit, which smaller oil companies didn’t want to deal with;
  3. in 2013 the Saskatchewan government sent a letter to every oil and gas operator in Saskatchewan telling them to get their sour-gas-shit together or face consequences;
  4. in April of 2014, the government again refused to release a map of sour gas hotspots, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC) apparently sent letters to the provincial government rejecting government-proposed fines – up to a $1 million – for sour gas leaks. The proposal was later scrapped;
  5. in May 2014 a Saskatchewan resident died from sour gas poisoning;
  6. all of this has been covered up by the provincial government until October 2017, when it was revealed by the Group’s report.

All of that is true…except No. 6.

The reality is that the sour gas issue, and the shitty communications response, or lack thereof, from the Saskatchewan government, was brought to light by first the Saskatchewan CBC, and then other Saskatchewan media outlets and the provincial NDP, two years ago.

So jacked-up rhetoric like this, from the media and about the media, needs to just calm down:

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Because it’s sparking inaccurate mindsets in the Group’s audience, like this:

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…instead of keeping the focus on the inadequate (though not “hidden”) information, communications and response from the Saskatchewan government and their corporate funders in the oil industry, as well as the legitimate concerns raised by the Group about whether or not, and where, the numerous sour gas leaks reported to the Saskatchewan government have been recorded, tracked and rectified.

Maybe Patricia Elliot said it best, in response to Leo himself, who finally broke down and Tweeted in response to the breathless praise of the Group’s story:

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Bingo, Ms Eliott nails it – framing what the Group wrote through the lens, or at least including the lens, of the CBC stories that surfaced in 2015 creates appropriate and fulsome context for the sour gas story.

Instead, the self-promotion of, and emphasis on the journalists and media outlets involved in the Group has hijacked the narrative, in part for some and totally for others, such as the media-consumer/Tweeter I highlighted above.

I’m no journalist, but I’m pretty sure that’s never the goal.

Regardless of what happened between 2012 and 2015, what Saskatchewan residents need to see now is collaborative journalism from this Media Group – or any, for that matter – on whether or not the provincial government did the things it promised it would when this issue became public in 2015.

In the meantime, once you’re done here, read what Postmedia columnist Murray Mandryk wrote here. He totally cuts through the crap and crystallizes what’s really important: the stark contrast between the communications strategy the government uses for any number of other departments (is there a poor poached moose in Saskatchewan that didn’t get its own news release?) and the oil industry. It’s not acceptable, and regardless of how we got here and who brought us, it’s time it’s taken seriously.

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

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Let’s check in with the Wannabe Premiers, shall we?

Officially Official

It takes a certain amount of ego to run for elected office, given that you’ve got to convince a significant portion of the public that you’re awesome. Not everyone can pull it off, and I admire those who can try, because losing is part of the process too, and it hurts. I’ve seen losing candidates sob on election night like their house just burned down. With the dog in it.

So it’s not surprising that ego was on full display last week, with candidates solemnly boasting about making it “official”.

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First….FIRST? Ahhhhhhhhhmagawd!!

Apparently Albert isn’t quite as excited about Moe’s candidacy as Moe is.

ProTip: hide or delete comments like Al’s. Facebook is not a democracy, it’s a marketing tool, so feel free to censor your detractors.

But WAIT….
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You can’t both be first (as you’re about to find out), so who was it?

Ricky1

Put the rulers away, boys.

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 7.17.49 AMAlanna Koch proudly declared that she had surpassed the nomination requirement of 250 signatures from 25 different constituencies, collecting 450 from 46, and someone had the audacity to hit the crying face on her announcement post instead of the thumbs up.

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#hopehewashedhishand

“Is there GTH documents in that file folder?”

The comments on these candidates’ pages are killing me.

Curate, admins. Curate.

The only one who didn’t post anything about officially entering the race was Tina Beaudry-Mellor, and I’m not certain she will. More on that later.

What They Got Up To

You can tell a lot about a candidate by where they spent their time. Based on each candidate’s website and social media:

Koch: Indian Head, Wolseley, Redvers, Weyburn, North Battleford, Beechy

Moe: Regina, Swift Current, Fox Valley, Estevan, Moose Jaw

Chevy: Moose Jaw, Rosetown, Kindersley, Saskatoon, Regina

Wyant: Regina, Saskatoon, Regina and Rosetown

Beaudry-Mellor: Regina

Koch is knocking out a gruelling, one-vote-at-a-time campaign targeting existing (her stops included riding associations) rural members; Moe and Chevy are taking a split urban-rural approach, aiming for quantity over quality; Wyant is focusing on urban support which means selling new memberships, and Beaudry-Mellor is back in familiar territory.

Sometime in the last few days Alanna Koch posted her policies on her website. Underneath each heading she explains why each concept is important, but provides no specifics on how she would advance them. The only theme that emerges is that everything is fine and nothing will change if she becomes Premier.

In other policy news, Ken Cheveldayoff took some content down, specifically the “five approaches” he was going to use (remember the “thought leaders’ council” and hunt for “winter weather” industries?). His policies are “coming soon”, but he did release his position on the beleaguered Global Transportation Hub (emphasis mine):

  • he “would not rule out an inquiry” to answer the “questions around” the GTH;
  • he has “consulted with Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) in Ontario and corporate bankers who specialize in this area”;
  • “government should not have been involved in this business venture from the onset”;
  • and then finally he gets to the point, namely he would “immediately begin action to sell the GTH to the private sector“.

I would respect this more if, in addition to the above, he hadn’t devoted an entire mealy-mouthed paragraph to justifying the Tappauf/Marquart/GTH land sale.

Ken, the investigation into that transaction is sitting in a prosecutor’s office somewhere, so just stop. Seriously.

I’m going to assume that Cheveldayoff didn’t consult with any of the Ontario real estate companies that he’s personally invested in, but he’d sell the GTH, so #slowclap for that.

As expected, Gord Wyant pulled the plug on his federal Liberal membership.

“Wyant believes any leader of the Saskatchewan Party, must be able to work with whomever leads the federal government… and should not be affiliated or associated with any federal political party,”

read his release, which also said Wyant would resume holding annual policy conventions for Sask Party members.

“I have heard from many long-time members of our Party who are feeling disengaged, or who have not renewed their memberships, because they felt there was no reason to. This is a concern.”

I don’t have enough good things to say about Wyant’s willingness to face the Sask Party’s demons head-on.

That said, let’s be clear that yes, Wyant shunned the federal Liberals to realign himself with the Sask Party’s constitution, but also because it would be political suicide to stay linked to the federal Liberals in light of their proposed tax reforms, which have business owners, who predominantly vote Sask Party, outraged.

Interestingly, federal Liberals I spoke to were totally fine, if not a bit resigned to Wyant’s decision. Conservatives and pundits, however, howled at his announcement, declaring Wyant’s campaign over. That couldn’t be further from the truth, if anything it appears to have picked up steam.

Scott Moe didn’t do or release anything new, but did utilize social media to share more awkward videos.

Sigh.

As for Tina Beaudry-Mellor, she announced that she would reinstate the PST exemption on insurance premiums, which aligns with her platform to “position Saskatchewan as the economic powerhouse in Western Canada”. Cool.

I was pretty hard on Tina in the last post. This time, I’m just going to copy and paste, verbatim, some of a DM-conversation I had with a longtime Sask Party organizer and race insider.

“I admire (Beaudry-Mellor) for doing it yet she knows she doesn’t have a hope in hell. She’s under no illusions,”

said this person.

“Yet she’s trying to push the party and giving up five months of her life and cabinet salary to do it…Not saying she will get there…just that she is in it for the experience and to give new face to the part.”

So, fair enough.  Will Beaudry-Mellor file her nomination papers and $25,000 entry fee? She can probably afford to lose the latter, but she’s also probably got better things to spend it on. Either way I like my friend’s perspective on TBM’s candidacy, and we’ll see what happens.

What They Need To Do Next

Let’s start with something that shouldn’t be happening next:

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I can’t EVEN with this. Alberta residents can’t be Sask Party members, so is this some kind of fundraiser? Surely a guy who wants to be Saskatchewan’s next Premier isn’t asking Alberta businesspeople for cash to make that happen. Right?

Chevy’s next step needs to be to cancel that bullshit and give his head a shake.

I need to see more of Gord Wyant in big rooms, hosting big events and talking to big groups of people. I need to see him commanding a room to feel confident he can command a province. And more Mark Docherty, because Mark Docherty makes me believe in politicians.

Alanna Koch needs to start taking steps to make it evident that she has game in the city, and isn’t trying to cash in on and exacerbate the Sask Party’s rural-urban divide. If she wins, she’s got to lead the whole province, not just the parts with populations under 5000.

Less videos and Moe policy please. He hasn’t released anything of substance for almost two weeks, which is way too long. May I remind you that you’re running for Premier?

Tina can just keep doing what she’s doing, if she’s doing what I’m told she’s doing. I hope she makes it to some of the October debates.

This popcorn doesn’t have enough butter. Talk soon!

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

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(Sorry, everytime I see the word Balgonie I think of the many sandwiches of my youth.)

I’m not going to pretend I have any answers on this one, but I do have a bunch of questions.

Once upon a time, the intersection at the Town of Balgonie’s Main Street and Highway 1 was a death trap. Residents were forced to either cross two lanes of the busy TransCanada to turn left and head east, or to get into town, or merge into highway-speed traffic by turning right to drive west to Regina (thank you to everyone who helped me out with the directions in that sentence). Unsurprisingly a lot of people have died at this intersection, including this nasty 2014 crash which killed one man and 12 horses, and that had residents calling on the provincial government for a solution.

That solution was found when talk began in 2010 of the Regina Bypass, which would include a new Highway 1 overpass for Balgonie. Fast forward to July 2017 when that overpass opened with much fanfare, with particular focus on the roundabouts included in the design, because there’s an irritating narrative in this province that suggests Saskatchewan people aren’t smart enough to navigate them.

Anyway, it was a matter of days before shit started hitting the fan, not because of the high rate of incidents of drivers trapped in endless roundabout loops, but because semis and tractors were getting stuck in the Balgonie-overpass roundabouts’ narrow, single lane design.

The provincial government immediately assured the public that they totally did that on purpose.

“The provincial Ministry of Highways said access road width was “absolutely not” an oversight. “The interchange is, in fact, designed for large trucks, and farming equipment can get through,” said David Stearns, executive director of major projects for the ministry.”

But…

“Stearns said drivers carrying large equipment may have to drive onto the curb.”

Oh, okay. And…

“”we are looking to make some potential changes to some of the curbs, where instead of having square faced curbs, we would have rounded curbs.””

Got it. Makes perfect sense that you wouldn’t have thought of this initially.

“He did not give a specific figure on how much changing the curbs would cost, but said it would not exceed the budget.”

While all of it is ridiculous, that last bit is a total pile of bullshit.

See, what I don’t understand is that nobody (that I can find) is talking about the fact that this roundabout is not just your normal, everyday roundabout – it’s a P3 roundabout, meaning the Ministry of Highways can’t just march in there itself and alter the curbs, and the Regina Bypass’s private-sector partner (a group which aptly named themselves the Regina Bypass, but is made up of a consortium of construction companies and engineers) sure as hell isn’t going to do it for free, or within “the budget”.

Even worse for the people of Balgonie is the fact that their former access to and from town – that deadly intersection mentioned above – has now been totally blocked off, as per a decision imposed on the town council in 2014.

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“Mr Wakabayashi, tear down these barricades…” (Facebook)

This sucks because while Local Area Farmer is trying to pry his hundred thousand dollar tractor (or a trucker their trailer, or a mover their RTM) out of the roundabout, the town is basically cutoff from the outside world.

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I would snap. (From Facebook)

Understandably, the town’s volunteer firefighters and first responders are howling, because if they get a call and one of the roundabouts is plugged, someone in a crumpled car on the other side is going to die waiting for them.

2000+ people have signed a petition, and there is a Facebook group dedicated to reopening only the right turn lanes at Main Street – meaning eastbound traffic could turn right to enter the town, and drivers exiting the town could turn right to head east – aka Right In and Right Out.

To be clear: Balgonie residents are not asking for the entire intersection to be reopened or to cross the highway – they just want to be able to turn right.

Back when the Regina Bypass was just a twinkle in the Saskatchewan government’s eye, the Ministry of Highways did present options to the Town of Balgonie, including one which would have kept their Main Street access open in addition to the overpass, and that’s the one the town selected. Shortly afterwards, however, the Ministry came back and said nope, the Main Street access will be shut down completely – and they’ve been stubbornly refusing to give ever since.

“Any time you have at grade intersections there’s potential for conflict,” said some useless deputy minister. “Putting in an overpass takes away the at-grade component of it. So we’ve made it safer by adding the overpass. With the overpass there, there’s no need to have the intersection.”

Here’s what I think is really going on.

I think that the monolithic contract signed between the Saskatchewan government and the Regina Bypass’s P3 partner clearly lays out the route of the bypass, including that existing stretch of Hwy 1, and the provincial government can’t go ahead and change that route – ie. reopen Balgonie’s Main Street access, even partially – because the altered traffic pattern would contradict the terms of the contract.

Even if I’m not in the ballpark on that theory, I know the Ministry of Highways can’t just declare the curbs will be changed, because they don’t have the right to make that change themselves. According to Schedule 19 of the contract, the province has to submit a “Variation Enquiry” (fancy-shmancy way of saying Change Order, but whatever) to the Regina Bypass, and then the two parties will spend a couple months going back and forth hashing it out, including what the taxpayer is going to pay for said Variation. Then once – and if – the Variation is approved and everyone has extricated themselves from the red tape, the Regina Bypass will eventually commence the rebuild/addition/alteration/etc.

Has the Ministry of Highways submitted a Variation Enquiry on the roundabout, or on re-opening Balgone’s Main Street access (even just partially)? I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone else knows either because to the best of my knowledge, the Ministry hasn’t actually mentioned any of this.

That said, should they commit the taxpayer to paying for a “Variation”? Sure, the provincial government signed off on the design, but is the Regina Bypass really going to eat the cost of fixing this hot mess on a regular basis for the next 30 years?

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But ornamental grasses! (From Facebook)

Because remember, this is their roundabout to maintain, not ours.

The above picture was posted on Facebook on September 18th, and those curbs don’t look rounded, so my guess is this issue is locked in a dispute between the provincial government and the Regina Bypass over who’s going to eat the cost of redoing those roundabouts (because make no mistake, they will be redone), and/or whether or not the Ministry of Highways can alter the traffic patterns, which form the basis of the Operations and Maintenance terms of the contract, by reopening the Main Street intersection for right-hand turns.

Here are my questions:

What impact does the P3 contract have on this issue? So much of the contract that is available to the taxpayer has been redacted by the provincial government that it’s impossible to answer this question myself.

Has the Ministry of Highways brought up the P3 contract during their debate over this issue with residents of Balgonie?

Did representatives of the Regina Bypass consortium attend the public forum called by the Ministry of Highways last week, and if not, why not?

The provincial government likes to say it owns the Regina bypass, but how that works when it’s not even close to being paid for is beyond me. However, if they are positioning themselves as the ultimate decision maker on this issue, I believe they are not being completely honest.

What I do know for sure is that residents of Balgonie will win this if they keep up their fight, but they must get political about it. The town is located in Don McMorris’s riding of Indian Head-Milestone, which he won by a massive margin in 2016, including the Balgonie polls. This is a double-edged sword for residents, because while they’re the SaskParty’s base, but there’s also very little risk they’re going to vote against them, so there’s not as much incentive for this government to work with them (sad, but oh so true). The fastest way to get action is to telegraph clearly that your votes are not a given.

What I also know for sure is that residents should be focusing their efforts on SaskParty and NDP leadership candidates – polling each of them on where they stand on this issue and then holding whoever wins to account. Further, tell the next politician, or Sask Party apologist radio talkshow host who snipes that Balgonie residents whined for the overpass and now they’ve got it so shut up, that if a kid asks for a kitten, and mom and dad present the child with a dead one, the kid isn’t going to be happy and the parents don’t get to say “you wanted a kitten and you got one, go play with it”.

Finally, if Balgonie hasn’t been given clear and transparent answers on how the P3 factor is impacting their access to the outside world, they need to demand them. I’m certain there are epic levels of bureaucracy underneath the surface of this issue that they don’t know about.

The Balgonie overpass is the first to open along the Regina bypass. There are ten more to go.

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

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