Dundurn – The Saskatchewan Liberal Party is rebuilding, fielding just three candidates in this election. But they have numerous issues they would like to see addressed through their platform, and many of them focus on renewable energy implementation.
Liberal Leader Robert Rudachyk spoke about their platform by phone from his acreage near Dundurn on Oct. 17.
Climate change and power generation
“Some of the major issues for me, are dealing with climate change and getting up and working on improving our energy portfolio in this province,” Rudachyk said
“One of the big issues for me is the fact that Scott Moe is spending all his time saying that, as his solution to climate change, we're going to go into small modular nuclear reactors. Now, the problem with that is this: there are no small modular nuclear reactor prototypes that are licensed for commercial use in Canada yet. And the timeline for those things being licensed is a minimum of five to 10 years.
“Following that you're going to have the choosing of locations for these things. You're going to have the environmental assessment reviews. You're going to have the protests. You're going to have the court challenges. You're going to have all that stuff. You're looking at another minimum five to 10 years after these things get licensed before they're even going to be approved for construction. And then you're going to have the construction phase, which you're looking at another five to 10 years before they're fully built and tested and online, producing power.”
He continued, “The coal fired plants in Estevan must be shut down by law in 2030. We are bound by international treaties and laws set that have we're signed, by the Sask. Party themselves even, that stated that those plans will be shut down in the year 2030. That's 10 years from now.”
Rudachyk continued, “It's going to be a minimum 20 years before nuclear comes online. That's a 10-year gap. How do we cover that? How do we cover our power needs during that 10-year gap? We can't get an extension on this one. And any government that tries to do that is committing political suicide.”
He said, “Our party has a plan to go full into renewable energies and power storage. We want to change the SaskPower Act, to mandate SaskPower to purchase renewable energy from local producers at a fair market rate, and then offer financial incentives to any farmer, any rancher any First Nations reserve, and any homeowner, or recreational homeowner that wants to convert to wind, solar, or geothermal, and produce power there, so that whatever they produce that is above and beyond what they're using is going to be paid. They're going to receive a fair market rate for that power.”
The Liberals want to offer a feed-in tariff at 50 per cent of what SaskPower is charging retail customers. If SaskPower charges 14.3 cents per kilowatt hour to its customers, it would pay small power generators 7.15 cents. Doing so would be “more than cost effective for large scale solar, wind and geothermal operations,” he said.
He used the example of Western Australia using Tesla mega-battery farms for energy storage. Another option would be to create hydrogen from electrolyzing water, and then store that hydrogen underground, to use in peak times.
Regarding carbon capture and storage, he said, “We pay a financial penalty every month we don't send them (Whitecap Resources) enough carbon. And as the last numbers I looked at last year, we only have one month out of the entire time that CCS was online where we did not pay a penalty. That project is a white elephant, that is going to be costing us for decades to come.”
He called it a boondoggle, saying, “This one makes Spudco look like small potatoes.”
The Liberals would like to set up 1,000 rapid-charging stations for electric vehicles across the province, 100 per year. If they were set up at local hotels and restaurants in small towns, it would benefit those businesses as people could eat there while their vehicle charges, and those businesses could make some money off the charge, too.
Rudachyk is also a strong proponent of the concept of a mid-Canada corridor, building road and rail links in a corridor across the northern part of Canada. Those areas are becoming more habitable, and there is “so much resource development up in the north,” he said.
Asked if that corridor would include an oil pipeline to the east. He’s not against a pipeline, but Quebec is. “Unless they can be turned around on that. It's not going to happen,” he said.
On education, Rudachyk said, “Our education system in this province is terrible, especially in the rural areas. Consistently Saskatchewan ranks either ninth or 10th in quality of education, amongst all the provinces, year in, year out.
“We are not seeing the results of all that revenue that came in during the boom times. Why was that money not invested into education that way? We're getting saddled with large long-term debts for P3 schools that will not benefit this province over the course of the 30 years that these contracts are usually signed up for. We need to focus on training and retaining teachers in this province, both in rural areas and in urban areas, reducing classroom sizes, especially during this time of COVID, and giving our students the resources they need so they can thrive in the modern era,” he said.
Regarding health, he would rather see less money put towards management and administration, and more on front-line workers.
“We do need to spend more money on our health care because we do have an aging population,” Rudachyk said. “If that means that the wealthy have to pay more in taxes, the big corporations have to pay more in taxes here, then I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with that, I know that the people in this province are getting the health care they need,” he said.
Deficits and revenue
The terms “deficit” and “revenue” did not appear once on their website’s platform statements. Asked where the money would come from for these programs, Rudachyk said the Sask. Party has run deficits for the nine of the last 10 years. He said they would bring back the film tax credit, which would bring in $200 million a year for the Saskatchewan film industry.
“We put all our eggs in one basket with the commodity prices with oil with potash with uranium, then the oil prices collapsed. So what happens? We lose a huge chunk of our revenue. During the 10 years prior to that, did the Sask. Party do anything to diversify our economy and to come up with new revenue streams that would increase our tax base and increase provincial revenues? No, they did not. They just basically they acted like rig workers when the oil prices were booming. They blew the money as fast as it came in and they didn't get any thing of value for it.
“Now that we're stuck in a situation where we are not seeing that revenue coming in, and suddenly we have to pay for it. Our idea of diversifying into renewables, that increases our revenue streams, it increases our opportunities. We want to look for new newer and better ways to do that as well, bringing back the film tax credit would bring in a huge amount of revenue into this province as well. Making large corporations pay a reasonable provincial income tax, rather than trying to always be the lowest one of the low, when it's not bringing in new businesses into this province, is just foolish and short sighted.
“Look at what happened in Alberta. Jason Kenney cut the corporate income tax even further, when the when oil prices bottomed out and all it happened was the big oil companies started leaving in droves even more, because they knew what was going on.”
He added, “I would support that I would also support higher taxation for the, for the wealthy in this province, because the rest of us are low, the lower income people and the middle income people were paying taxes through the nose.”
The Liberals are only running three candidates in this election, and their leader, Robert Rudachyk, is in fact the interim leader, taking the position just weeks before the election writ was dropped.
Asked why bother running with only three candidates, Rudachyk said, “We want to keep the party alive right now, and I mean we have to run a minimum number of candidates to keep our official status. At this point, I still want to have our voice going into the Legislature. And the reality is that we do have a very solid platform and we do have some very strong ideas for how to improve the local economies, and the economy of Saskatchewan overall that none of the other parties have even looked at.”
“Our previous leader left us in a very weak situation,” he said, referring to Naveed Anwar, who stepped down on Sept. 9. “Essentially what we know that we are not going to be forming government. So, promising the moon as to what we want to see as a government is really a waste of time and an insult to the intelligence of every voter in this province. The reality is basically we're in the process of rebuilding the party after our previous leader left us in a bad situation and that rebuilding process is going to be starting on October 27, the day after the election. And what we're doing is we're wanting to build bridges. I'm trying to build bridges and build dialogue with all those parties involved with all these concerned individuals who would want to see some of these things happen, so that we can flesh them out a little more and to build them up stronger.”
Rudachyk works in a Saskatoon meat processing plant, noting, “I’m a working Joe.” He has worked in mining and manufacturing as well as construction, transport and logistics. He’s spent nine years working in health and safety management.