Monday, May 20, 2019

On buried dangers

There have been a few recent reports dealing with issues surrounding the Northern Village of Pinehouse - including a systematic refusal to answer access to information requests to which continued at last notice, the disappearance of the village's website and public records, an inspection recommending the removal of Pinehouse's mayor and a councillor which has turned into a formal inquiry and audit, and the recusal of Finance Minister Donna Harpauer from all discussions due to a close personal connection to the councillor in question.

But most of the media discussion of the village's current circumstances avoids a crucial piece of background information - even as the mayor who has also been recommended for removal identifies the significance of the issue, without recognizing that it provides no excuse for thumbing his nose at legal obligations.

The relationship between Pinehouse and the nuclear industry has long been the source of justified concern. The same leadership now dismissing any obligations of transparent governance include the same people behind a sketchy deal which included millions of dollars in payments from Areva and Cameco in exchange for a cover-up of the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

And the village's leadership tried to volunteer Pinehouse for a nuclear waste disposal site through communications - which were exposed through what was then at least a marginally functional access to information system under the current administrtion. The attempt to become a dumping ground for radioactive waste was ultimately ruled out due to a lack of support in the community.

So let's turn the spin around.

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be uniquely unable to meet its access to information obligations - both compared to its own history and compared to other Northern and rural communities - even as it receives substantial funding from the uranium industry to cover what would normally be municipal expenses?

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be unable to meet basic access to information requirements, but have enough spare resources lying around to provide free accommodations to cabinet ministers whenever they see fit to stop by? And wouldn't cabinet ministers themselves be expected to notice the problem with accepting that type of gift before somebody else identifies it?

Ultimately, Pinehouse looks only to be a particularly vivid example of the Saskatchewan Party's governing mindset in both its service of industry over people, and its contempt for accountability. And everybody rightly looking at Pinehouse and asking how its administration can be left in place should be asking the same about the province.

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