New Democratic Opposition leader is dead on: It’s high time Saskatchewan cleaned up the rules allowing unlimited donations from businesses and unions.
But there are a couple of big problems with the way Meili is making his case.
First, it’s never been just a Saskatchewan Party problem. It’s a long-standing political systemic problem that his NDP predecessors could have and should when they were in government.
Second, if change is to happen, Meili and the NDP should stick to their knitting and focus on big problems right here in Saskatchewan. That the NDP seem more interesting in trying make this issue about far-away big international companies like SNC-Lavalin rather than businesses and unions right here in Saskatchewan is suspicious.
That said, Meili likely has bipartisan support for what he is generally proposing. Having witnessed for decades, the problems with those with the bucks controlling political parties, there is a sense that people are a more than little fed up.
It’s high time we saw change. The problem right now is business influence on the Sask. Party, but that doesn’t mean that this has always been the only problem.
Past NDP governments than eagerly to passed laws and policies like the Crown Construction Tendering Agreement in which private, non-unionized construction companies had to pay union-scale wages to bid on government contracts. There was also the most-available hours policy in which private companies were forced to give available hours to the most senior part-time worker _ whether that worker was the best choice or the person most suited for the task.
All this was done at a time when union donations to the NDP were rampant.
Yet certain developers and businessmen looking for government money or support could also be found parked in NDP ministers’ offices.
Of course, Meili argues things will be different if he is premier and, to his credit, did not take union or corporate donations during his successful NDP leadership bid.
That said, it’s more than a little curious that he would go after SCN-Lavalin (who doesn’t donate much here and has donated to all parties) and not local businesses.
Last week, Meili took a run at the giant Quebec engineering company SNC-Lavalin that, admittedly, has a very bad reputation for exercising undue political influence on the national and international scene.
It is alleged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office tried to apply undue pressure on former federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid federal criminal prosecution on fraud and bribery charges. The company has a sordid history of political involvement, including admitting in 2016 that it violated the Elections Canada Act by providing tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations to the Liberals.
But while this is horrific, it should also be noted that SNC-Lavalin is a gigantic international engineering company with businesses dealings in every province including here in Saskatchewan where it has a $700-million carbon capture and storage contract near Estevan and the management of the new Saskatchewan Hospital at North Battleford.
To this, Meili wants a review of all SNC-Lavalin contracts in Saskatchewan, even though none of them have anything to with the goings-on in Ottawa.
Why? Because the giant company plops down a $1,000 for a table at the annual premiers’ dinner like other most other Saskatchewan businesses do for the thinly veiled political fundraiser.
Strangely, we aren’t seeing Meili hold similar press conferences about local companies like Brandt Developments — a big-time donor to the Sask. Party — receiving special consideration like being allowed to build its new headquarters building in Regina’s Wascana Park.
If we are concerned about political influence, surely Meili needs to recognize it begins right here at home.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.