The provincial government is sending out mixed signals these days. In their haste to indicate they are showing fiscal responsibility in a strange new world that informs them they suddenly don't have enough money to spread around at will, they appear a bit lost.
This is a government that has instructed their Crown corporations to "come on home," with no more, or very limited international market access. That in itself, is a strange edict for this regime that claims they are friends to big and middle-sized businesses.
So with a Saskatchewan only focus, they then pull the plug on Saskatchewan's only local television network, SCN.
Arguments can be waged as to whether the local channel was worth the effort and $2.5 to $5 million annual upkeep. The fact that nobody from government had even contacted SCN administration in the past two years, to even bother to find out what they did, how they did it, and how many millions of dollars were being injected into the provincial economy because of it speaks volumes. Apparently the government mind was made up well in advance.
So SCN was yanked with no consultation, a network licence is lost (SaskTel is not a broadcaster and therefore cannot inherit the licence contrary to the government's word), distance education programming is left to drift and local TV just doesn't matter.
A strange edict for a government that claims they are bringing business home to Saskatchewan.
Earlier this year, SaskTel was pulled out of their international business projects. Some were showing success, others were struggling. But it didn't matter what the businesses were showing, they were told to pull the plug and come home.
Then it was announced that a certain segment of SaskTel's information services based in Saskatchewan, were being cancelled and the jobs were being outsourced to California.
So what was the message being sent with that decision?
A few months ago, the provincial government announced that they had entered into an agreement with Northland Power, an outside power production business, which allows them to build and operate a natural gas fuelled power generating plant near North Battleford. Apparently SaskPower is incapable of such a project or perhaps Northland has promised to deliver electricity into the provincial grid at a much lower cost. Of course we doubt that very much since Northland will have to be feeding profits and dividends to their shareholders outside the province, as well as maintaining their contractual obligations in Saskatchewan.
We'd love to see the numbers attached to this project once it's up and operating. We just can't see how it can be done at a lesser cost than what SaskPower could do with a similar mandate.
The skeptic in us suggests that we never will see the real numbers attached to this deal since transparency probably wasn't built into the agreement. We hope we're wrong, but we suspect that electrical power coming from the North Battleford area plant will be at least a bit more expensive to produce and deliver. Naturally the increase will be easily hidden in the ongoing and overall cost increases that are being implemented by SaskPower and government to cover natural growth and the need to answer to new environmental demands such as the clean coal pilot project near here.
It will be easy to blame the major clean coal project at Boundary Dam for the upcoming financial shortfalls at this Crown corporation. Forget the fact that SaskPower has been raped and picked clean by previous administrations as well as the current one for the past 10 years without them breaking a sweat over plans for the future.
We'd love to see these mixed messages receive a little clarification from this administration in terms of just where they think they're heading, but we're not going to hold our breath in anticipation.
And as far as Enterprise Saskatchewan is concerned well, don't get us started on that one!