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Lorne Calvert

Nothing equitable about policy

Can no one shake this man's belief in his own righteousness?
Has he read the judgment?

Lorne Calvert

Learning Minister Andrew Thomson's recent musings on public-sector wage restraint are a classic case of government-speak, at once vaguely reassuring, yet totally meaningless.

He seems to be saying that the government's public-sector wage mandate is not about saving money, it's about helping people.

That might sound like a stretch, given that Premier Lorne Calvert's austerity package is the most draconian such initiative of the last 20 years. Roy Romanow never went this far. Neither did Grant Devine.

And neither of them were any great friend to labour, certainly not in the way the Calvert government likes to portray itself. That this particular government can hang such a horse-whipping on the unions without a full-scale revolt is an astounding stunt.

So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Thomson can't bring himself to utter the word "restraint." In fact, he doesn't characterize zero, one and one over three years as an austerity move at all.

Thomson says the wage mandates "are there for a reason and that's to make sure that all public-sector workers benefit equally and we see wages move up accordingly across all categories and all sectors," Thomson said.

In other words, this is not about restraint. It's about equity.

If you can get your head around this concept, then it should be no trouble at all for you to understand that when the government says three years, it actually means four.

After eating dirt for three years, public-sector workers will be rewarded for their patience with a cost-of-living increase in the fourth. Thus the provincial austerity package is no longer 0-1-1. Now it's 0-1-1-?

You can insert your own numeral at the tail end of the equation, based on your best guess at the rate of inflation in '05-'06. If inflation is running at three per cent, then the government gets away with a five per cent raise over four years, which would have to be termed a major success.

The problem is not with the result so much as it is the process. Rather than simply explain a policy at the outset, the Calvert government has a nasty habit of hiding crucial details of its plans, only to have them leak out later. Usually it's fee increases, but this time, it's wages. We heard nothing about the cost-of-living wage carrot at provincial budget time, we heard only about the big stick of restraint.

The reasons for this were purely political. In its rush to sugar-coat a one-point hike in the provincial sales tax, the talk was all about the need to tighten our belts, make the hard choices, etc. etc. Thus, imposing a wage restraint package was the means Calvert and Co. chose to make a tax hike more palatable.

It was only months later that we discovered there was a clause in the wage agreement the government called a "light at the end of the tunnel."

Maybe the government didn't actually lie about this when the policy was first announced. It merely failed to tell the whole truth. It was a political parlour trick, that's all, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Thomson now talks about it as though it was the guiding principle of last spring's budget. If that were the case, then you might expect the pain to have been shared equally. Yet the job cuts that came along with wage restraint affected only civil servants in the countryside outside the capital city.

Government workers within the NDP's Regina power base were barely touched. Even at that, the savings achieved through job cuts amounted to only $8 million, hardly the austerity drive that was promised with such fanfare.

The whole argument looks exceedingly weak now that the government is riding high financially on $50 a barrel oil, higher royalties on uranium and natural gas, and $370 million in back pay from the federal government on the equalization account.

As today's mid-term financial report will show, the fiscal crisis described in the March budget has been washed away in a rain of cash just six months later. It's small wonder cabinet ministers are now looking for new arguments they can use to prop up the wage restraint package.

Not surprisingly, the province's teachers don't seem to be biting.

Somehow, I just don't see the teachers buying into three years of pain when the government is wheeling buckets of cash into the treasury room. At one time, this government had a clear policy of what it would do with surpluses, which was to split them three ways between debt reduction, tax relief and program improvements.

Not any more. This government seems to like to react to pressure, thereby encouraging a free-for-all among a variety of interests. The policy vacuum makes it all the harder to hold the line on public-sector wages, no matter how it's justified.

Thomson could simply call it getting tough with the unions. He could even call it policy on the fly. He just shouldn't call it equity.

Does our premier really think it is polite to ignore and condescend to individuals that a Queen's Bench judge has found to have been maliciously prosecuted by his government?

Premier feels media access taken for granted: Calvert to control media access more carefully

REGINA -The premier won't be speaking to reporters as often. Officials say Lorne Calvert feels he has made himself too accessible to reporters and thinks that access has been taken for granted.

Calvert refused to answer questions Wednesday after a public appearance at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention.

"I will speak when I am prepared to speak, and today I am not prepared to speak," he said.

An official in his office says the premier thinks reporters are being disrespectful towards him, and that one journalist interrupted him during a private meeting Wednesday,

Calvert appeared irritated earlier in the week when reporters asked repeated questions about an election promise he may not be able to keep.

"I think I've spoken to the question, I can say no more," he said.

Deputy Government House Leader Pat Atkinson says the premier has asked cabinet ministers to now do more of the talking.

"If the public has a question, there are ministers responsible for every department and the ministers are to be available to the press to answer questions when it comes to their department," Atkinson said.

Atkinson said Calvert has been one of Canada's most accessible premiers, and that he would continue talking to reporters on important matters of public policy.

Our sorry excuse for a premier, Lorne Calvert: Sorry, can't say sorry

Rev. Mervyn Brass from CKOM tracked down Lorne Calvert in B.C. where he is apparently stuck because of avalanche warnings.

Calvert echoed the previous government hacks. No apology.

Lots of sympathy for the Klassen family and what they went through, blah, blah, blah.

Brass pointed out that the police chief apologized twice.

Calvert says he will wait and see what happens with the appeal.

All legal opinion we have heard so far indicates that apologizing does not affect or influence an appeal.

We have every reason to think that Dueck is also intending to appeal. On Wednesday we will receive full clarification from Judge Baynton about whether the three defendants will be held to the agreement signed by both counsels, Gerrand and McKillop that in the event they lost the liability phase, they would have to wait until the conclusion of the damages phase before any appeal could be filed.

You would think Premier Calvert would not be frightened by an avalanche since he has shown himself to be completely at ease with using piles of snow to cover the truth about what goes on in his government. --Sheila Steele

Calvert wants to say sorry

Premier Lorne Calvert would like to offer an apology to Richard Klassen and his family, but says he can't while the matter is still before the courts.

During a conference call Friday, Calvert said since the province has appealed the malicious prosecution lawsuit, he is not prepared to apologize during that process.

"It would be inappropriate for myself as premier to intervene in that legal process," said Calvert.

But at the end of the legal process, if the initial finding is upheld, "I would want to be the first to make an apology, but that, at this moment, is not an option that is available to me," said Calvert.

Klassen and 11 others won the judgment last month against Saskatoon police Supt. Brian Dueck, Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, who were involved in falsely prosecuting them for sexually abusing three Saskatoon-area foster children in the early 1990s.

The province has begun the process to appeal the Dec. 30, 2003 verdict, prompting protests from the plaintiffs, who believed they had an agreement that would forestall an appeal until after damages were determined.

Premier won't apologize before Klassen appeal

REGINA -Premier Lorne Calvert says he will be the first to apologize to the Klassen family if the original malicious prosecution judgment stands up to an appeal.

Last month a judge found that a Saskatoon police officer, a therapist and crown prosecutors wrongly treated 12 people in a case involving false alllegations of child sex abuse. Some of the defendants in the lawsuit are appealing that decision with the help of a government lawyer and the support of the province's justice department.

Calvert said Friday that as long as the matter is before the courts, he can't apologize.

"Let me just say this," he said, "If at the end of the legal process, if the initial finding is held up, then I would want to be the first to make an this moment it is not an option that is available to me."

Calvert says he sympathizes with the Klassen family and agreed that nobody should have to go through what they did.