Saturday, May 17, 2008

On loopholes

Not surprisingly, the Cons are out to lunch in complaining that an extension for the payment of Libs leadership debts which is explicitly permitted by the Canada Elections Act somehow constitutes preferential treatment. But there is a serious question to be raised about the terms of any extension which seems to have escaped public notice so far.

The Chief Electoral Officer's authority to grant an extension is found in the following section:
435.26(1) On the written application of a leadership contestant, of the contestant’s financial agent or of a person with a claim to be paid for a leadership campaign expense in relation to a leadership contestant, the Chief Electoral Officer may, on being satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for so doing, in writing authorize the payment, through the contestant’s financial agent, of the amount claimed if
(b) the payment was not made in accordance with subsection 435.24(1).

(2) The Chief Electoral Officer may impose any term or condition that he or she considers appropriate on a payment authorized under subsection (1).
Section 435.24(1) requires that all expenses be paid within 18 months after the end of a leadership contest. As a result, it couldn't be much more clear that Elections Canada has the authority to permit leadership contenders to repay any outstanding loans after the end of the 18-month period if "reasonable grounds" for the extension are present. (And indeed I'd argue that it's likely better for Elections Canada to grant an extension to permit legitimate repayment, rather than simply allowing the original lender to write off the loan as uncollectable - especially when that results in a question of what Ken Dryden's "normal accounting practices" are in loaning money to himself.)

But there's a catch worth pointing out, particularly in the context of the Chief Electoral Officer's authority to impose terms and conditions on any repayment. Take a look at the provisions of the Canada Elections Act defining the contributions permitted in a leadership contest:
405. (1) No individual shall make contributions that exceed
(c) $1,000 in total to the leadership contestants in a particular leadership contest.


(5) For the purposes of this Act, contributions made to a leadership contestant within 18 months after a leadership contest are deemed to be contributions for that contest.
Note that the dollar amounts have been reduced since the Libs' leadership campaign started, so the actual contribution limit applicable to the contest is in fact slightly over $5,000. But the more important wording (from section 405(5)) hasn't changed since the bill which first imposed personal contribution limits in 2003.

From what I can tell, it's at least arguable that section 405(5) sets out a time limit as to when contributions to a leadership contestant are counted for the "contest" in question: donations made before that 18-month period are counted, and conversely donations made afterward are not.* Which would make sense to parallel the 18-month limit on paying claims associated with the contest, since it's assumed that all financial matters are cleared up by then.

But if an extension is granted without conditions, then donations made after the 18-month period wouldn't then count toward the statutory contribution limits. That means that by running out the clock on their outstanding loans and then seeking an extension, the Libs would be able to raise money to pay off their remaining debts without any regard for contribution limits.

Now, I'd think it would go without saying that an extension of time for repaying loans shouldn't serve as a back-door means of evading other requirements of the Canada Elections Act. Which is where the Chief Electoral Officer's discretion to add conditions to any repayment comes in, as it would hopefully be a fairly simple matter to attach a condition that future contributions used to repay the outstanding loans will continue to be counted for the purposes of the contribution limits.

Of course, there are still broader questions which should be asked about the rules which ought to apply to campaign loans - both in terms of the ability of campaign lenders to write off loans, and the availability of loans to begin with. But it's still worth making sure that the law as it now stands doesn't effectively offer the Libs' leadership candidates a get-out-of-debt-free card due to their own failure to repay their campaign loans on time.

*The other possible interpretation of section 405(5) - which I'd think is about equally plausible - is that it acts only a deeming provision which doesn't implicitly remove later donations from the scope of a contribution for a particular contest. If that's the case, then the extra conditions wouldn't be needed to maintain the usual contribution limits.

Friday, May 16, 2008

On politicization

Shorter Colby Cosh:
I can't imagine stronger evidence of a partisan judiciary than five judges appointed or promoted by Liberals overturning a Liberal law.

Opinions for sale

The Globe and Mail reports on Canada's own pay-for-play story, as a federal contract with the Conference of Defence Associations (renewed by the Cons in 2007) actually requires that the think tank meet annual quotas for media appearances:
The Department of National Defence sets quotas for how many times a year a military think tank it subsidizes must appear in the news media, a contract made public at the request of the NDP shows.

Critics say the five-year, $500,000 deal with the Conference of Defence Associations crosses the line from promoting debate to paying for supportive commentary - especially troubling when the Harper government is trying to sustain public backing for the Afghan mission...

A contract the Conservatives tabled in Parliament this week says the department considers the CDA's key goals to include the need "to consider the problems of National Defence" and "to support government efforts in placing these problems before the public."

The March, 2007, contract says the grant is part of a program to ensure an "independent voice for discussion and debate on security and defence issues outside of the academic sphere." It sets out 13 "expected results" for the CDA, including the requirements to:

"Attain a minimum of 29 media references to the CDA by national or regional journalists and reporters;"

"Attain the publication of a minimum of 15 opinion pieces (including op-eds and letters to the editor in national or regional publications)."
As noted in the article, the CDA's history goes back far before Harper's stay in power. (Though I'd be curious to see where the language requiring the CDA to "support government efforts" comes from, as well as whether the Cons' control over messaging has led to any change in the CDA's focus.)

That said, it's worth noting in particular the Cons' convenient decision that only some types of messages deserve publicly-funded advocacy.

Between the DND itself and the defence industry, there's no lack of voices or dollars with a strong interest in supporting the types of messages which the CDA has generally conveyed. Yet the Cons seem to have no qualms about requiring that the CDA use public money to advocate for its cause.

In contrast, one of the Cons' first acts in power was to go out of their way to prevent any public money from being used for advocacy on women's issues - which results in substantially silencing voices which don't enjoy the benefits of a massive government department or major corporate interests.

It may be worth questioning what role the government should be playing in funding "independent" third-party groups at all (rather than justifying their longer-term visions for themselves). But it's clear that the Cons' selective funding has only made matters worse by ensuring a one-sided "debate". And that should offer reason to distrust both the Cons and the groups they're funding.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On parallels

Aaron Wherry documents just a few of the many examples of the Cons' distaste for facts - as well as the lack of as much media pushback as would be expected in the face of a government which cares so little for the truth. But a few more columns like these may be just what the doctor ordered to prod Canadian media into avoiding the same state of denial now inhabited by its U.S. equivalent:
(W)here the Bush administration manipulated a complicit media leading up to the war in Iraq, the Harper government has benefited from a complacent press here. At the height of the election financing controversy, one national news anchor lamented on air that the issue was too complex for the public to be interested in. Relatively few members of the press gallery bother to attend daily question period, and being the first to declare that a scandal is not a scandal seems to have become something of a competition among many of the country's columnists. Indeed, the daily fibbing of the government's ministers is rarely reported at any length. No doubt because many reporters long ago resigned themselves to covering a system of spin and deception. (They are not alone in this regard. A recent poll showed only 25 per cent of Canadians hold much respect for politicians. Just 49 per cent showed similar regard for journalists.)

But, if the Prime Minister still employed a national science adviser, he might ask for a lesson in the laws of action and reaction. The irony of the Bush era is that while many Americans still believe the "truths" peddled by the White House, the President's approval rating has languished in the low 30s for months. It helps that his greatest deception is demonstrated in a disastrous war. But it is surely not lost on most of the population that Iraq represents not the exception, but only the most obvious of half-truths. "I think," MacIvor says, "[Americans] have a sense that they've been taken for fools." If Canadians don't feel similarly so foolish, it is not for lack of effort by the Harper government.
(Edit: added title.)

Selective corrections

A couple of weeks ago, CanWest launched an all-out attack on both Statistics Canada and media outlets who reported its findings on national income without discussing an alternate interpretation of the data. Which would seem to suggest that CanWest should be similarly keen to question whether StatsCan's reporting on GDP numbers might be misleading in failing to consider their relationship to actual income.

So I can only assume there's been some kind of mistake.

The cost of distrust

As Impolitical points out, the news about the Cons' "defence strategy" looks to have taken Harper another step further toward his ideal form of public communication - which from all available indications consists of having unnamed officials taking a select group of friendly journalists to an undisclosed location to say (off the record) that they're unable to comment. But the Leader-Post reminds us that even on the rare occasions when the Cons offer any public information, it's never safe to rely on their word - as the City of Regina is finding out the hard way:
A Regina MP said he is "very confident" federal funding for the IPSCO Place revitalization will soon start flowing, despite concerns that the multi-million-dollar project may be on hold until the fall...

Earlier this week, Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco stated that despite the federal government's announcement of $20 million for the project back in September, the funding has yet to come through, resulting in at least a one-month delay to the project that was to begin May 1. The delay will add at least $1 million to the project's price tag -- an extra cost that must be covered by the city.

Fiacco stated that since the funding still required Treasury Board approval and for a contribution agreement to be reached, he was informed by Transport, Communities, and Infrastructure Minister Lawrence Cannon's office that the funding may not come through until fall.

On Wednesday, Fiacco said he was pleased to hear ground could be broken on the project well before fall. While disappointed that he had yet to speak to Cannon about the situation, Fiacco said he had spoken to Lukiwski several times in the past couple days.

"We're at the stage now that I'll wait to make sure we have the cheque in hand so we can indeed get a shovel in the ground," said Fiacco.
Now, it's noteworthy enough that the Cons' excuse is a need to carry out "due diligence" a full eight months after they first announced that the funding would be provided. In particular, it would seem obvious that any remotely responsible government should have done the bulk of its homework before making public declarations of support - rather than going PR-hunting first, then considering the project's merits later.

But Fiacco's response is even more striking. Having already been burned to the tune of a million dollars, Regina (presumably not alone among other Canadian actors) has understandably reached the point where it doesn't see the Cons' word as being worth a thing. And if the project is actually being held up entirely pending a federal decision rather than going ahead based on funding from the other levels of government, it would seem that the city is far from convinced that the Cons will keep their word in going through the approval process at all.

Of course, if other actors are so rightly suspicious of the Cons' unreliability that they need to see cash up front to bother talking to the federal government, that'll only make it tougher for needed joint efforts to take place. Which offers plenty of reason for municipalities and other levels of government to want to put a more trustworthy government in power.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let the textual reinterpretation begin... it took less than a day for the price tag on Stephen Harper's prophetic vision to increase by $20 billion. But for the Cons' defence industry cronies, this is probably considered more an example of manna from heaven than a test of faith.

Focused partisanship

The Globe and Mail reports that a series of federal focus groups led to a conclusion that the Cons are failing miserably in trying to present their message. But while it's a plus to know just how far out to lunch the Cons are, it's worth backing up a step to question whether the research should have been done on the public dime to begin with.

Remember that the Cons have already faced questions about commissioning publicly-funded research for partisan purposes. But it doesn't look like they've changed their practices at all, as the new focus groups couldn't be much further from dealing with legitimate policy research:
The Harper government is having a hard time convincing Canadians that it is different from Liberal predecessors when it comes to managing the public purse, market research conducted for Ottawa shows.

It's an image problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who swept into office 25 months ago with vows to clean up Ottawa and rein in spending after the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

"Arguably, most of what we heard suggests that participants have reverted to seeing this government as indistinguishable in many key respects [from] the previous one," says a January, 2008, report prepared for the Treasury Board, which vets federal spending.

The reaction was poor.

"On the whole, participants reacted negatively to most of the messages tested; testifying to the difficulty Treasury Board Secretariat may have in convincing Canadians of the benefits associated with this new approach," said the report, prepared by Patterson, Langlois Consultants.

The report also warned Ottawa to assume that Canadians are not broadly aware of the Harper government's agenda and achievements. "The tested messages may be susceptible to the erroneous presumption that awareness of the government's agenda is building."

The Conservatives frequently blame the former Liberal governments' 13-year tenure when they face criticism.

But the research report warned this doesn't work.

"When an acknowledgment of problems is accompanied by any detectable attempt to lay blame or pass the buck, the behaviour is seen as consistent with that of previous governments," the report said.
From the article, it looks like the Cons sought to claim a "new approach" to federal budgeting as an excuse to draw a contrast to the previous Lib government.

But aside from the lack of indication that the Cons have actually taken any new approach worth testing, the subject matter of the focus group doesn't leave much room for argument that any such approach was being evaluated. In particular, the article's repeated references to contrasts between the "new government" and "previous governments" - rather than to budgeting approaches - serves only to highlight that the purpose was to buy the Cons information about how to contrast themselves from the Libs, rather than to actually develop and communicate budgetary policy.

Of course, it's good news that the Cons are wrong in assuming that Canadians are buying the message they've tried to sell. But there's no reason why Canadian citizens should be stuck with the bill for letting the Cons know that they're not winning anybody over. And the Cons' continued insistence on using public resources for their own gain offers yet another example of why Canadians are right to be wary of their claims to have changed anything for the better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On consistent differences

Following up on this post, the other noteworthy (if equally misguided) attack on the NDP has come from the Cons, as Harper and company have made a sad attempt to escape the obvious effect of the parties' respective positions on gas prices. But even the examples pointed out by the Cons serve only both to point out the NDP's consistency, and to highlight the Cons' contrasting disinterest in dealing with either high gas prices or greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the "facts" relied on by the Cons:
* According to economists, under the NDP supported Liberal Bill C-288, gas prices would rise 60% above today’s prices. Jack Layton and all NDP MPs present voted FOR this bill (Division No. 112, February 14, 2007)
* Federal NDP leader Jack Layton wants the federal government to force oil companies to rationalize price rises (Vancouver Sun, May 8, 2004).
* “Green Taxation Reforms: The NDP has emphasised the need to change existing tax laws and tax credits that artificially lower the true costs of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” (NDP Action Plan, previously posted on NDP website)
* “Stop tilting the marketplace towards unsustainable fuel and, over four years, shift government subsidies away from unsustainable fuels towards renewable ones. The first step is to reverse the tax reductions for fossil fuel industries” (NDP Kyoto Plan, previously posted at:
Let's start with the last two, which can be easily dispensed with. First, they both refer on their face to cutting subsidies and benefits to the oil and gas sector to avoid "artificial" prices of any kind. Second, that exact type of action is not only something that the Cons themselves seek to take credit for doing, but something which they've also tried to criticize the NDP for voting against (when packaged into the Cons' reactionary budgets).

Which means that the Cons are criticizing the NDP...for holding a consistent position against oil and gas subsidies which they themselves claim to share.

What about the NDP's proposal to require oil companies to "rationalize" price increases? Well, their recent campaign against high gas prices has been based on substantially the same issue. So this doesn't serve to show any inconsistency - only to emphasize that the NDP is the lone party which recognizes that regulation may be needed to keep the oil and gas industry from exploiting consumers.

It might be noted that this is in particularly stark contrast to the Cons. Harper and his minions nominally claim to be against forcing seniors to choose between "filling their refrigerators, filling their prescriptions or filling their gas tanks" - but make an exception when that's caused by "market forces" (not to mention the occasional giveaway to big pharma).

Finally, let's deal with the first point which the Cons seem to think they're making. And listing the NDP's vote on C-288 manages to make for most ridiculous Con criticism of all.

Keep in mind that C-288 required only that the federal government come up with a plan to meet Canada's Kyoto targets, making no mention of a carbon tax whatsoever. And indeed none of the opposition parties ever suggested at the time that a carbon tax of any kind should be included as part of the plan - let alone as the whole thing.

In response, it was the Cons who pretended that the required emission reductions should be reached only through a carbon tax. By excluding any other means of reducing emissions (including the regulatory strategies which they now claim to support), the Cons generated inflated numbers as to the cost of meeting our international obligations - including the same 60% number which they now seem to be relying on.

Which means that the Cons are pointing to their cherry-picked numbers - themselves dependent on the Cons' choice to rely on a carbon tax which the NDP has never supported - as evidence that the NDP has somehow contradicted itself by continuing to argue against a carbon tax now.

Once the Cons' spin is untangled, the real picture is one which the NDP will be happy to emphasize. While the Libs and Cons have established track records of failing to protect either consumers or the environment, the NDP alone can point to a consistent record of supporting both reasonable prices for Canadians and real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Which makes it understandable that the Cons seem concerned that the NDP will successfully claim both issues for themselves.

On hazards

If we needed more evidence that the NDP is nicely positioned to make plenty of other parties nervous, more has surfaced in the last couple of days based on some interesting attacks from federal competitors.

For now, let's note that the Bloc apparently felt the need to use a statement by one of its members to take a swipe at the NDP for being the only federal party to join the rest of the developed world in recognizing the health dangers of asbestos.

Now, I'm not holding my breath waiting for an outpouring of discussion about how the NDP has smoked out the Bloc and forced it to abandon its environmental voters. But it's still noteworthy that the Bloc recognizes that the NDP poses a serious enough threat to warrant such direct attention - particularly when that means highlighting a stand which the NDP is presumably happy to contrast against the other parties' efforts to pander to the asbestos industry.

On false prophets

For those who held out hope that the Cons' brand of cult conservatism would stop at a mere Stephen Harper portrait gallery, matters have managed to get worse. From now on, Canada's national defence strategy consists of parsing the Glorious Leader's prophetic vision of Canada Firstness.

Mind you, the Cons would likely be perfectly happy if Canada's political scene turned into nothing more than a debate among procurement theologians as to which type of fighter plane is the Chosen One. But there seems to be plenty of room for doubt that a decision to try to base 20 years of military planning on a single staged "vision" will persuade any current Harper agnostics to put their faith in the Cons.

Update: For more, see Greg rightly pointing out that the paperless strategy sounds more like a joke than a real development; Robert on the Cons' dubious choice of titles for their prophecy; and Aaron Wherry on how the defence strategy (like many other claimed Con accomplishments) is all in Harper's head.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On issue selection

A quick memo to Adam Radwanski: just because the Libs are virtually certain to claim that environmental policy begins and ends with their flavour of the month (in this case a carbon tax) doesn't make it so. In addition to its track record as the strongest environmental party in Parliament, the NDP still has a comprehensive Green Agenda to campaign on - which, along with the Libs' woeful track record, should give the NDP plenty of opportunity to hold (and build) support in the environmental community.

Not that I'd dispute for a second that the NDP figures to try to expand its current coalition to include Canadians who stand to be disproportionately affected by high fuel prices, whether those are caused by tax policy or simply a continuation of the status quo. But the NDP still figures to have plenty to offer to voters who agree on the end of emission reductions but don't see a carbon tax as the preferred means - and adding a renewed populist message to their existing environmental position offers the potential for the best of both worlds.

Power to the people

I've dealt with a few of the obvious pitfalls of tying Saskatchewan's future to private nuclear power in a couple of previous posts. But since it can never hurt to look at the effects of similar policy choices elsewhere, let's see what Rafe Mair has to say about the effects of privatized power generation in B.C.:
The Campbell government is issuing water licenses for privately owned power plants on rivers and streams all over B.C., creating power. BC Hydro is compelled by the Campbell government to buy this power at a price that will bring enormous profits for the private producers.

Before the Campbell government took over, BC Hydro, a Crown corporation, produced and distributed 90 per cent of our power requirements, giving B.C. homeowners and industries the lowest power costs in North America.

When BC Hydro made money it went to the government as dividends providing money for schools, hospitals and the like. Under the Campbell government plan, we will pay amongst the highest costs in North America and all the profits will go to shareholders, most of whom don't even live here. Not only is this a license to print money, but the rivers and streams will be badly abused, fish will be at great risk, roads will be built and transmission lines erected and the wilderness will no longer be a wilderness.

These private companies aren't competing in the market place -- they are private monopolies on the dole, big time, from taxpayers' money.
While the type of power generation rumoured for Saskatchewan may be different, the likely results would be substantially the same: less accountability for how power is generated, less Crown revenue streams to fund the province's social priorities, and inflated prices to the government's industry cronies borne by the province as a whole. Which can only add Saskatchewan residents concerned about any of those issues to the list of citizens with strong reasons to oppose any private intrusion onto SaskPower's territory.

On conflicts of interest

Following up on this morning's post, let's note that the Cons' choice of messengers sent out to deliver their position that Canadians should pay no attention to the ideology behind their war against the public sector may also be of interest. While Geoff Norquay was identified by CanWest only as a "Conservative strategist", he also holds a couple of other roles which deserve to be pointed out:
Top Conservative lobbyists Geoff Norquay, of Earnscliffe Strategy Group, and Ken Boessenkool, of Hill and Knowlton, are volunteering for Imagine Canada as it targets political parties for help for the charitable and non-profit sector.

Mr. Norquay, who meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) frequently, is going to go to bat for Imagine Canada on its platform, and with Mr. Boessenkool, and intends to meet with Mr. Harper to discuss the issue.
That's right: the same person sent out to speak on behalf of the Cons is also currently engaged in lobbying them. And it might be noted that Norquay's effort to divert money into the non-profit sector fits nicely with the Cons' theme of undercutting public institutions.

The undeclared war

CanWest reports on the Cons' ongoing war against federal institutions. But while there may not be much new to say about the actual battles, the Cons' poor explanation for the war as a whole deserves to be put under the microscope:
Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay says the Liberals have constructed "a splendid little narrative" out of events that should each be considered separately on its own merits. He said all governments have tensions with regulators, that firings that have taken place were justified and all governments have shut down institutions "that have outlived their usefulness."...

Since Harper won a minority government in the winter of 2006, there have been at least 15 firings, resignations, shutdowns and showdowns with federal watchdogs, advisory bodies and government agencies.

Among them are the Elections Canada fight, the firing of the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the top two officials of the Canadian Wheat Board, the shutdown of the Law Commission of Canada, and the resignation of the chair and advisory panel of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Several senior environmental and scientific positions were eliminated and several officers of parliament - the ethics commissioner, the chief electoral officer and the information commissioner - retired after high profile run-ins with Harper's government.

In addition, Auditor general Sheila Fraser recently exposed a government plan to require her agency and other officers of Parliament to vet their communications through the prime minister's office. The government appears to have realized this is a step too far and backed down.

In each case, the government has had a unique justification for tackling an institution.

It accuses Elections Canada of waging "a partisan vendetta" because it is investigating suspected Conservative party election financing violations but not practices by other parties the Conservatives say are the same.

It fired Linda Keen, the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on grounds she did not take medical isotope supplies into account when she closed an Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. nuclear research reactor for a safety update. Critics say it was not up to Keen to secure alternate isotope supplies and she was a scapegoat for government incompetence.

Norquay says all governments have periodic tensions with some regulators and the Conservatives are no different. He says the Law Commission of Canada was closed because it had outlived its usefulness, that the Wheat Board president was fired because he refused to implement government policy, and that all of these events are unrelated.
Again, it's worth keeping in mind the lengths which Stephen Harper has gone to in order to impose top-down control over the government - a process which is only going further with time. Which can leave no doubt that Harper's handprints are all over the skirmishes with the civil service.

And of course, the Cons themselves have tried to pitch the idea that Harper's every move is based on his own shrewd strategy. (Though for now, Tom Flanagan still stands alone in being willing to talk publicly about what the end goal actually is.)

All of which would seem to leave absolutely no room for the Cons to now argue that it's unfair to consider the big picture that they're aiming for. But that's exactly the argument that they seem to want to make: having publicly sold the story that their every move is a product of Harper's strategic plan, they now want Canadians to believe that it's unfair to link their actions back to the obvious controlling mind and mindset behind them.

Naturally, it would suit the Cons just fine if Canadians were gullible enough to believe that their war against public institutions could be explained by sheer coincidence. But the Cons have offered no reason why they should be taken at their word - and every reason to think that it'll take a change in government to end the hostilities.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nuclear instability

Randy Burton points out a couple more major problems with any plan to build a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan, as the current state of power regulation in Alberta would make such a project just as risky economically as environmentally:
(I)t's not as simple as Wall calling Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and some northern U.S. governors and making a deal. There are also some very complicated market factors to deal with in Alberta, which operates in a deregulated open market for power.

Where there used to be three power producers in Alberta, there are now about 20 different companies competing to offer electricity to the province's larger customers, including commercial and industrial users which together account for about two-thirds of the Alberta market. Local utilities also buy power on the open market to sell to residential users...

Power producers assume the risk of finding markets for what they produce and government is not controlling the pace of new construction. This makes nuclear a particularly risky option in Alberta, because the time frames for constructing a generating plant are so long.

It's relatively easy to build gas-fired plants, so what appears to be a huge demand for power 10 years from now could shrink dramatically, depending on the actions of conventional power producers...

What to do about the risks inherent in the Alberta market is another question.

This is where interprovincial co-operation comes in. So far, the Alberta government has shown no inclination to intervene in the Alberta electricity market to ease the way for nuclear. But it also has a big greenhouse-gas problem that is only going to get worse.

A nuclear plant in Saskatchewan could potentially supply emissions-free power to Alberta and relieve Stelmach of the problem of selling the concept to a population that appears to be less comfortable with the idea than the Saskatchewan population.
Of course, there's little to no evidence to support the assertion that "the Saskatchewan population" is remotely comfortable with the idea of tying itself to nuclear power. But let's leave that aside to point out the implications of Alberta's current power scene.

Both Burton and the pro-nuclear talking heads gloss over the danger of Alberta doing anything other than setting aside a substantial chunk of its anticipated demand for the anticipated supply. But it should be clear that even if a Saskatchewan market would mitigate part of the downside risk, a nuclear plant which is counting on selling half its output to Alberta would face serious difficulties if other plants offer enough capacity in the meantime to render it redundant.

That possibility of other sources coming onstream sooner would be no less real for a project based in Saskatchewan than Alberta. And indeed, there would be far less incentive for Alberta to stick to a current agreement about future power purchasing if any resulting losses would be felt in another province.

Which means that any scheme to construct a nuclear reactor which depends on supplying power to Alberta would leave Saskatchewan entirely at the mercy of Alberta's government. And that could have any number of dangerous side effects - whether it be Ed Stelmach demanding that Brad Wall give in to his plan to drag Saskatchewan into the TILMA, or a future Alberta government having second thoughts about making use of the power supply (or simply seeing an advantage in threatening to use other suppliers in order to win lower rates).

Not that Wall and his ilk would likely mind seeing Saskatchewan's hands permanently tied in order to offer some profit potential for would-be nuclear operators. But the province as a whole can only be all the more suspicious of any plan which can only be sold by overlooking such obvious dangers.