Green Candidate Answers Chamber of Commerce Questions

Steve Lawrence, Candidate for Prince Albert Carlton shares his answers to very critical questions for Prince Albert and all of Saskatchewan (October 30, 2021)



Initial Speech:

I have been to job interviews where there are people all around a table asking questions but this!! Interviews are important because we want to make sure we get the right mix of people in our company to help it thrive. I hope you will listen to my ideas with an open mind and choose wisely. I work hard for a living but my driving passions are energy and the environment. Lately the news on global warming has been getting me down. Some say if we don’t make a significant reversal in our green house emissions by 2025 we won’t be able to reverse it and the planet may be too hot for survival within150 years. If they are right, 20 years is not a lot of time to make changes. Some answers are emerging and I don’t think it is an impossible task and most changes require more of a change in political will than huge outlays of public money. The market will drive change given the right incentives.

I didn’t want to discuss particular environmental issues in my opening but there is a very important question I would like to address that was not brought up in the Chamber questions. The Tar sands are the biggest creator of greenhouse gases in Canada and they want to grow it by five times. It is also a huge emitter of acid rain. It consumes enormous amounts of energy and water. And it will result in the destruction of a lot of forest habitat. And the oil companies want the resource for next to nothing. We need to get an idea of the possible cumulative impacts of this industry before it gets rolling any further in Saskatchewan so we can decide what the rules for development are going to be. We can not continue to assess it as a group of separate projects.

The Green party platform is also one of social responsibility. What we really want to do to Saskatchewan is to give it a sense of community and pride in what it can accomplish. We want to build community in a way that won’t leave anyone behind. We often look at smaller industries as the driving engine which will provide more entry level jobs and a richer, more stable economy. As we build community we will be taking care of poverty, unemployment, adequate housing, accessible health care and prevention of illness, free education and respect for each other and diversity. The biggest thing that we could is to create opportunities for dialogue, much like here, only let everyone have an opportunity to participate so we can work together.

Questions sent from Chamber of Commerce Office

Q#1 Question One
If you are elected in Prince Albert, what is your Government going to do to ensure that the Pulp and Paper Mill re-opens?

I have some concerns on how some of the forestry operations were carried out before Weyerhaeuser closed. In particular they were forcing the small operators to merge to form larger operations with work orders that left little time to plan harvest operations properly. They were cutting up to the edges of lakes even in poplar resorts. I am concerned that much more of the forest floor was being severely damaged by summer harvesting operations. I was concerned by Weyerhaeuser pushing more and more all weather roads deep into more pristine areas such as the Dore-Smoothstone Lakes area and what the continuous traffic would mean to the wildlife

I am really concerned about how much of the commercial forest still exists within economic distance of the mill. Domtar is willing to give up the FMLA which raises questions in my mind about how exactly they will operate and for how long. A lot of the equipment from the mill is being dismantled, such as the paper mill (which, I believe the government invested a lot of money into) and the lumber room where logs are debarked and chipped up, and they are giving up shares in the lumber mills. All this Raises some alarm bells in my mind as to whether we are just see a salvage operation here. The fact that W didn’t feel the mill was profitable enough when it was producing a value added product when the Canadian $ was $1.80US seems to support this. The mill is being down graded to a kraft mill which is an older type of process which was more harmful to the environment. If Domtar is just making a quick grab of whatever resource is most easily available and the forest resource is being compromised, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to open it because the jobs won’t last for long and government money will also be swallowed up. As an alternative, or back-up, I think we could build a pretty viable community managed forest with many operators instead. This may take time, although there are models out there in Canada from which can we take the best ideas from and make it work.

Q#2 Questions Two
We all say that we want this area to expand economically. What is your view on future opportunities for the Uranium industry including the construction of a nuclear reactor in Northern Saskatchewan or specifically in the Prince Albert area?

The GPS is the only party which is clearly against any kind of nuclear development because of the long lived toxic and radioactive nuclear waste and emissions which will selfishly be dumped into the care of future generations for thousands of years. Not a single country on this planet, after all this time, has figured out what to do with this waste yet. The reason is there is water everywhere on this planet wish can bring it back to the surface and contaminate our ground and surface waters. It also opposes the use of the toxic and radioactive U238(depleted uranium from refineries) from Saskatchewan mines that ends up in the manufacture of armour piercing shells and missiles and bombs of which 2000 tons has been dropped on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and is also spreading, through the atmosphere, throughout the world. Several hours after the bombing they were picking it up in the U.K. Over 200,000 American soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have filed claims for compensation for injuries and effects from the gulf war. I suspect you will soon be hearing stories about our own Canadian soldiers and their children. I don’t even want to think about what it is doing to the residents of those bombed countries. Nuclear energy is a very expensive technology which many nations wish to utilize to create materials for nuclear weapons. I also have to ask myself the question, that if there was a major radioactive incident in Saskatchewan would the people be willing to continue to support it because they really believe in it, or because they may have no alternative at that point, or would they be willing to take a loss and close it down - it is not a cheap industry. Further because it is capital intensive rather than labour intensive we should be making it possible for wind and solar generation right down to the household level that people could sell back on the grid that would not only have the benefit of being clean and safe but could create a whole new manufacturing and service sector to our local economy. Lets also add geothermal heat pumps to the mix. If Saskatchewan does build a reactor it will likely be built in the vicinity of the Tar sands because transmission losses over a distance are still significant, so, Prince Albert would lose out anyway. My research tells me that from mining to waste disposal the nuclear cycle does produce about a 1/3 of the green house gas emissions of coal but, we also have to deal with the radioactive emissions and waste. I suggest we look at Solid Oxide fuel cells which use any type of carbon fuel, including coal, and convert it chemically rather than using combustion technologies so there will be no smokestacks. It is twice as efficient at producing electrical energy, it produces heat as a byproduct which we can use for processing, heating etc. Westinghouse and other manufactures are currently building up to 10 megawatt units but they can also be built small enough to heat a household and sell off the electricity as a bonus. This means we can size a unit to exactly what we need, anywhere we need it with no transmission loss.

Q#3 Question Three
Describe briefly your party’s platform on added value processing of the Prince Albert regions raw materials. What incentives will your party offer to encourage development & growth?

Prince Albert is situated on the transition between forest and agricultural lands and has a major river passing through it and is close to lake country. This begs the opportunity for the community to be involved in a whole gamut of value added wood, fiber and food products as well as wildcraft, medicinal, and herbal products and all kinds of recreational and tourism activities. If we use the governments political will to create a community managed forest with many, many stakeholders utilizing the forest resource many of these kind of industries and endeavours could be possible. With global warming, high energy costs and the demand for healthier, locally grown food and AGAIN ‘political will’, it shouldn’t be too hard to turn our energy intensive, high input agricultural economy into a very much less energy and input intensive organic agricultural economy. Probably the main thing the government could provide producers in this regard is some kind of marketing agency or access to quality expertise in this field so that the producers can concentrate on growing quality crops and value added processors would be able to sell their products. As I have already pointed out processing industries often use heat so encouragement of various cogeneration opportunities would be a natural that would definitely give them a competitive edge. I might add that waste heat from cogeneration facilities would also be very valuable to a greenhouse vegetable industry when transportation for imported goods gets too high.

Q#4 Question Four
Saskatchewan is spending millions of dollars in interest payments each year. Please speak on your party’s plans on debt reduction particularly given the recent spending increases promised by all parties.

The GPS believes that the public debt could be eliminated over time by an increase in royalties collected for our resources. At the present time corporate interests are throwing out tantalizing scraps so that we will almost beg them to come in and take our resources for almost nothing. The main incentive used is jobs. I think we can work a much better deal. Admittedly, this is a global game but if people don’t start standing up for what they are entitled to have at some place and time the average person in this world will always be at their mercy. Society seems to be in a mad rush to exploit our resource as fast as possible. We should also start thinking of our unexploited resources as money in the bank which we can spend as we choose, when we, the people of Saskatchewan, choose. After all we have to leave something for our future generations. Am I worried that companies will decide not to do business - not really - I think they need our resources and would be willing to pay more. Even if things slow down I think it is really time that we start supporting our farmers again and start creating value added industries that will support the sale of the products that they produce. We have options - lets use them!!

Question Five
New business ideas are often abandoned due to taxation costs such as the PST, property taxes and related issues. How can this problem be solved?

“ New business” includes a pretty broad category of possibilities. If it is a value added industry, access to marketing expertise can contribute greatly to a company’s success and is a role that government can fill. Local governments have the responsibility to ensure that the right kind of businesses are established in their communities. If a company can demonstrate that their business could provide services or products that are useful and desirable to the culture of the community, they will have obvious value to the community and should qualify for a break in some of the initial start up costs such as property taxes and income taxes for a reasonable period of time until they are financially able to support their load. This should be particularly true if they are creating a number of quality jobs. In addition, this will have to be balanced against the need to not create an unfair advantage against similar businesses already established. We should be looking at incentives for businesses that sell or produce local green goods and services. Businesses which promote art and cultural forms, and recreational activities which help establish or promote a sense of community should also be encouraged. As our population ages more and more people will be requiring simple services such as landscape care, snow shoveling, groceries, etc. and expertise could be provided to get them started. I think many new businesses fail because they lack an outside perspective on what they could do differently and provision of expertise to prevent business failure of a valued business seems reasonable. However, it is in the best interests of local governments to make sure that local business are supported locally. I am sure some cost sharing arrangement could be set up between governments - I would suggest we should return to the 60% provincial cost sharing that existed during the Blakeney Government.

Question Six
Our current growing economy has created a shortage in available labor pools, including skilled trades people, service personnel, and regional industry specific positions. How will your party ensure that our local colleges and educational institutions our funded appropriately in order to meet the labor needs of the Prince Albert region and including providing an adequate number of training spaces in relevant programs.

Trades programs are financed by the apprenticeship board whose financing should be contingent on the demand for the various trades. Available training spaces needs to be tailored to current demands which will fluctuate over time and actual skills required may also change. To keep training costs down, institutions may have to keep track of what physical training space is available outside of the institution and expand their own facilities if a long term shortage is foreseen. Wages offered for quality jobs by regional and service industries should provide the incentive for people to seek out training. If demand is acute enough, industry should be willing to contribute training dollars as well, in all three sectors.

The other part of this scenario is the preparation that students need to have prior to taking training. To the credit of our schools, most students make out okay but,I have seen a lot of students enter into programs that are doomed to failure before they start because they do not have the skills. In my trade, these would include math and reading skills. This is not a healthy situation. When students drop out, they are no longer eligible for funding and they won’t be allowed back into the education system for a period of time. With no job skills, what are they going to do? Instead we should be testing them for entrance skills that can be upgraded, if need be, before they get into training programs. This would be money well spent because this will help ensure that more become valuable members of the community and our programs will be running at fuller capacity. I also think that our high schools are still streaming students for university. I agree that our schools should provide a liberal education to train our youth for a variety of roles in their communities but I think that high schools, as well as adult upgrading facilities need to see their role as primarily preparing students for entering the workforce and all types of secondary education programs. We need to figure out a way to provide better support services that will turn students on to what skills are important to ensure their success in their chosen career path that will give better focus to their studies.

Another factor that we have to address to keep people in our communities is to make them exciting enough and provide pursuits that truly give people a sense of community. The Rawlinson Centre is an example of what can be done. The Arts, Cultural Activities, Festivals, Concerts, Recreation Opportunities - all these kinds of things have a role to play.

Question Seven
Can you explain your party’s platform on health care in our region, particularly as it relates to the Fyke Report and the development of Prince Albert as the 3rd Tertiary Care Center?

. The Fyke report was delivered in 2001. Basically it called for the rationalizing and streamlining of the health system to reduce cost by 30 to 35%. A lot of this was accomplished by drastically reducing the number of health districts from 500 to 32 and Fyke suggested it should be 11-14 and they should have no control over their budgets. He also focused on more efficient delivery of treatment using more modern and innovative procedures such as tiny incisions and small cameras that would mean a much shorter stay in hospital. It also suggested that some services should be consolidated in one location only, or perhaps not even in the province at all if joint planning with other provinces for delivery could be worked out. Tertiary care facilities were those that contained the highly specialized services. He suggested Prince Albert could be one of three. To be honest, I don’t have the background to make an honest appraisal to what services should be offered in P.A.. I know that I have recently had to travel to Saskatoon to see specialists. `If that means that I got the best care possible, then perhaps that was a good thing. However, I believe everyone in this province should be readily accessible to basic services. Perhaps we could use our technologies to utilize long distance consultations that would reduce travel.

The part of the picture that is missing is prevention. I have been healthy all my life because I eat properly, I have good housing, I have a good social status, good employment opportunities and a good lifestyle. If we want to address health care costs at the front end we are going to have to address those who don’t. People at the lower end of the spectrum don’t tend to have any of these things and they have more health problems as a result. In fact they are likely to pose a greater load on both the health and the penal system. We have to address the issues of poverty, inequality, status, employment and work environment. We have to build a sense of community and foster mutual respect. Local organic foods and products and local small scale industries and affordable, adequate housing are the key. Education and services through community clinics will also help. We will all come out winners in the end.

Question Eight
Please explain your party’s platform on enhancing our regional transportation infrastructure to further encourage the attraction of industry, increase tourism travel and foster economic growth.

We could use some real work in r&d for alternate transportation.

Sometimes we have to use our imagination a little and consider something that, at first thought sounds impossible. For instance, during the period when we were looking at rail line abandonments, tearing down of grain elevators, and the resulting deterioration of our road systems due to increased grain truck movement, I tried to convince several people that we should look at cargo airships (something like Zeppelins) to move our grain. Sounds impossible? As it turns out these things have been used to carry some pretty large payloads for forestry and mining operations in remote areas, they don’t need any roads and yet can go just about anywhere, they get great mileage, they are easy on the environment and talk about land of living skies. Hell, they could be a tourist attraction all by themselves, a new Saskatchewan icon. The downside is we might have to build a few docking stations instead of heavy duty roads. Maybe our forestry operations could benefit as well. Maybe that could be another manufacturing and service industry for us and we can preserve or even rebuild our remaining elevator system.