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Tire processing RFPs still a prime focus as week ends at Leg

Daily Leg Update: Attention turns to jobs lost at Shercom as tire processing remains the hot topic of the week at the Sask. Legislature.
Christine Tell and Meara Conway spoke to reporters about the tire processing controversy Thursday.

REGINA - The process of awarding tire processing contracts in Saskatchewan has been front and centre at the Legislature this week.

"It's looking like one big fat tire fire," said Opposition Ethics and Democracy Critic Meara Conway on how a California-based company -- Crumb Rubber Manufacturers -- ended up with the tire processing contract for the southern part of the province at the expense of the incumbent processor, Saskatoon-based Shercom Industries.

CRM won the controversial southern RFP much to the dismay of Shercom, who ended up not bidding and who were vocal in saying they felt they were treated unfairly in the process. The Opposition had spent this week trying to tie lobbyist Kevin Doherty, a former Sask Party cabinet minister, to the awarding of the contract. However, Premier Scott Moe, Environment Minister Christine Tell and Tire Stewardship of Saskatchewan have all denied being lobbied by Doherty on this issue; Tell also noted in the Legislature that Doherty was brought on as lobbyist after the contract was awarded.

On Thursday, the media and the Opposition’s attention shifted to the loss of 60 jobs at Shercom, who previously held the contract for the whole province but who now are out of the tire processing business entirely.

Attention has also turned to the situation for the northern portion of the province, where a processor is not currently in place and for which an RFP has gone out. In the meantime, all the tires from the north are also going to CRM.

Minister Tell was asked about the whole situation, and made it known she thought that once a northern processor was awarded the RFP she believed that jobs would come back.

“There is an RFP out being discussed, as we speak, not by me, but by TSS (Tire Stewardship of Saskatchewan) about the northern process,” said Tell to reporters. “There will, I am anticipating, there will likely be, whoever the proponent is or accepted proponent is for the north, will also be creating jobs…. We are still waiting the results for the northern. Putting them together for the south and the north, hopefully will end up near the same.”

Tell also reiterated she had never spoken to Doherty, and also said it was her understanding the previous minister Dana Skoropad had met with CRM, but only after the RFP was awarded for the south. “And that’s all I know. But I have not met with him.”

Tell also told reporters that it was her job as environment minister to “ensure that the tire recycling in the province of Saskatchewan adheres to certain standards.… The operation of TSS and how they conduct their business on a day-to-day basis, whenever that decision may be is up to TSS.”

“I do not oversee operational issues and decisions of TSS. I do not,” said Tell.

As for Shercom, Tell said “nothing precluded, Shercom from putting their name in and responding to the RFP. That’s my understanding.”

The other thing that was pointed out was that the first RFP for the south did not include the government involvement of SaskBuilds in the procurement. The second RFP for the north does have SaskBuilds involved— a change that was a result of the review by Cam Swan of the first RFP process for the south.

In speaking to reporters, NDP Ethics and Democracy Critic Meara Conway continued to voice concerns about the whole state of affairs for tire processing.

“I think there’s a lot of questions about how that’s going to play out. Yeah, I mean, I don’t put much stock on what the minister says.”

Conway added that “the minister is trying to hide behind TSS, say she has no responsibility for this… this is a government agency. On the organizational chart, she is responsible she is a minister under the guiding act is responsible for stewardship programs for approving the policies in terms of it so this idea that because the first RFP didn’t have the involvement of SaskBuilds and Procurement, so she’s not responsible, is completely false.”

She also raised concerns about a host of other issues including the loss of jobs at Shercom.

“We’ve seen a net loss of over 60 jobs; potentially more, we’re hearing, are coming. So a lot of questions here about the process and results, and why this was even deemed to be necessary to begin with.”