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Saskatchewan Government

Defends millions it has spent to spread its lies across the country

Editorial November, 2003

Calvert says he didn't know Crowns financed ad campaign

As Manitoba justice breaks wide open, Saskatchewan is still fighting to keep the lid on

Our attention has been turned to Manitoba for the past ten days or so, as the whole country has watched the uncovering of the misdeeds of public officials there. The Driskell case is a living illustration of how effective public pressure can be. Gordon Mackintosh, who had been digging in his heels to make James Driiskell crawl over broken glass for every iota of justice he received finally caved in under public pressure and changed his tune.

Excuse the mixture of metaphors and consider the picture. And consider Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewataski, like a rat in the corner, hiding under his unlisted number and secret email address, realizing that now everybody knows that he had the within his hands the information which could have freed Jim Driskell ten years ago and he chose instead to hide it away. Consider it. It is happening. And if it can happen in Manitoba, it can happen here.

What these dishonest officials haven't learned yet is that the Internet never forgets.

It almost goes without saying that you can tell a Saskatchewan government official is lying if his/her lips are moving. While we were protesting on the legislature lawn this summer, Premier Lorne Calvert and then Justice Minister Eric Cline were busy promoting their "Wide Open Saskatchewan" campaign. It was all very political, but the $5.5M budget came from the provincial coffers. The campaign was/is quite sickening even if it wasn't so false. An upbeat song, healthy working and playing citizens -- it was flogged on television right across the country. At prime time. The whole country got to gag or snicker. I suppose some models, actors and technicians got paid. The campaign was successful, too, if we view it for what it was: electioneering.

Calvert and Cline were re-elected with a resounding majority. But as far as luring investors and tourists and opportunity-seekers to Saskatchewan, well, I don't see them. Now the government is being asked to defend its gross over-spending on this advertising boondoggle and Calvert was visibly irritated when questioned on CTV tonight.

Premier Lorne Calvert He didn't look at all like the jovial guy as seen on the NDP caucus website. This ad campaign promotes Saskatchewan as something it is not.

Most of us, when we invite people over for a party, say, generally clean the place up and make sure that it is safe. We don't expect our guests to do that after they arrive. Those of us who live on the west side of Saskatoon always warn our visitors about the neighbourhood -- to come in groups, not to leave valuables in the car, etc. And we certainly don't want our guests having their pockets picked or their coats stolen while they are socializing with us in our home. If such a thing happened, most of us, reasonable, prudent people, would be mortified. Or, if while visiting in our house, one guest made an accusation against another -- called him a child molester, for instance, we would try to arbitrate this in a civilized manner. And we would expect the false accuser to apologize.

I was raised in an older, more honest Saskatchewan, where a person's word meant something. Some of us remember those days. Twenty years ago, Alberta ran TV commercials in Saskatchewan, promising opportunities there. In fact, they didn't have to advertise. People who moved to Alberta knew more or less what they were getting and most of them stayed. Cruise ship holidays are advertised on TV. Sometimes the cruises are not quite what they are advertised and when that happens, claims are made against the company. And sometimes the company wins because they can show that they weren't really misrepresenting the advertised vacation, that it is not against the law to add a bit more colour and exaggerate the size.

Lorne Calvert deliberately hired a bunch of hotshot ad makers to make commercials which misrepresented the reality of Saskatchewan. These are the kind of videos we used to see on Muchmusic. Fictional stories set to catchy songs. A lot of tomorrow? Many Saskatchewan citizens do not know how they are going to get through today.

Lorne Calvert, the man of the cloth, is just another good old boy at heart, it would seem. He managed, during the election campaign to completely sidestep any justice issues. Both the Stonechild Inquiry and the Klassen/Kvello civil trial were going on, with daily reports in the Saskatoon papers which were picked up across the province. Calvert spent the last days of the campaign getting right into "Roughrider fever," a fairly mindless preoccupation which doesn't easily lend itself to politicization. Upon re-election, he chose a whole new cabinet. He moved Cline to focus on industry and resources: having done such a great job of doing nothing meaningful in justice except to strike some more toothless inquiries, he appeared today to be just the right man for the job. Asked why the crown corporation kitty was dipped into to the tune of $2.6M, he respnded as though this was a really silly question. Industry and resources, Crown corporations -- what's the diff? When ordinary citizens juggle money back and forth among bank accounts, it is called "kiting" and if they are caught they go to jail.

The lawsuits which have arisen out of the Spudco mismanagement should now be within Eric Cline's new portfolio.We'll watch to see if he is as callous with the hapless investors who were promised a decent return on their investment as he has been with the falsely indicted people wo were promised justice.

Calvert and Cline are living in a delusional world if they seriously think they can talk about tomorrow without dealing with yesterday. Calvert has appointed a rookie MLA, Frank Quennell, to the important positions of Justice minister and Attorney General. We wonder if he will be receiving the same kinds of briefings the PR spinners have been giving out for the past decade? Will he bite the bullet and begin the awesome task of restoring the reputation of the administration of justice? We hope that he will take his oath of office seriously and rather than continue the policy of cover-up and damage control, he will investigate for himself the harsh criticisms which have been levelled at his office and answer them with some forthrightness. Quennell represents a constituency in Saskatoon's decaying west side so he must surely be aware of how desperate we are.

We hope that as he looks to implementing any measures regarding Aboriginal justice that he consults with people at street level. The Aboriginal leaders are as out of touch with the reality of the people they are supposed to represent as elected government representatives in the community at large are out of touch with theirs.

He must surely be aware that taking the Klassen/Kvello lawsuit to trial was a costly mistake. He must know that any judicial finding of malice and conspiracy is serious. He would be well advised to take a good look at whole department of Crown prosecutors and make sure they understand their jobs. It would be a real relief if Calvert's tomorrow included a justice department which sought impartial and truthful dispositions. We do not need any more jails.

Calvert and Cline should cut their losses on the "Wide Open Saskatchewan" campaign. Clean up the house before you invite people over. Go to some kind or rehabilitation center where you learn the difference between manipulating statistics to present a false picture (that is, lying) and telling the truth. The province is in trouble. We've been in trouble before and we got out of it. We'll get out of it again. And we'll get out of it a lot sooner if we acknowledge the nature and depth of the trouble and then fix the causes. Part of the trouble in Saskatchewan is that social assistance rates have not risen in over ten years while the cost of everything has increased. Rents, some of which have remained at welfare levels, have been collected by landlords who refuse to maintain their dwellings properly and then blame damage on tenants. A lot of people in situations such as I have just described form the "criminal" element in the poor neighbourhoods because they turn to crime in order to live. Clean and reasonable housing is cheaper than prisons and the social fall-out that occurs when a family member goes to jail. The poor have been squeezed just about as much as it is possible to squeeze anything. And people who have been wronged deserve an acounting.

It is time Saskatchewan's Auditor General did a thorough audit of this government and let us, the people whose money is being so mismanaged, know exactly what is going on. Transparent. Public. Not secret. Not covered up. Wide Open.