Sunday, September 12, 2010

On conflicts of interest

The big story in Saskatchewan politics over the past week was the revelation that Justice Minister Don Morgan owned hotels for which he was responsible as minister for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, followed by his resignation from the SLGA post. But while the talk this week has mostly revolved around the unique situation of a minister directly regulating his own private activities (which is apparently a step further than even the Wall government would defend in light of a statutory prohibition), it's worth keeping in mind that the general principle of having obviously-interested parties develop provincial plans and rules for their own industries is one that fits far too well with the Sask Party's style of government.

From paying the nuclear industry millions of dollars to produce a policy wish-list to paying a corporate-friendly group to make key decisions about the potash sector, from creating an overarching agency charged with allowing the private sector to write the province's laws to putting industry groups in charge of enforcement, the Wall government has consistently shown that it sees absolutely no problem putting public functions in the hands of big business. Which in turn has the effect of favouring not only the well-being of the corporate sector over that of the public, but also private actors on the Sask Party's list of donors and connections over anybody who doesn't get hand-picked to write their own rules.

Based on that general philosophy, it's not surprising that Morgan being placed in charge of administering his own corporation's liquor and gaming licenses wouldn't raise any red flags within the Sask Party's circles. But Morgan's resignation still leaves far too much of Saskatchewan's decision-making in the hands of parties who have every interest in directing our public resources toward their own financial benefit - and there's no prospect of that changing as long as the Wall government remains in power.

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