We could finish this election campaign without serious issues even being raised, which isn’t the way to practice democracy. One such issue is whether thousands of truckloads of highly radioactive nuclear wastes will be brought from Ontario’s nuclear plants to a nuclear dump in our north.
Premier Wall sidesteps the issue; there was no concern expressed when Pinehouse, Patuanak and Creighton were targeted as potential sites for a nuclear dump. On April 14th North Battleford groups delivered 5,000 signatures of people opposed to such a dump. Afterwards the Premier publicly acknowledged the “negative public opinion about a nuclear waste facility”, adding “I don’t think the mood of the province has changed, and frankly, what’s happening in Japan has got people thinking…” This left an impression that his government didn’t support a nuclear dump, but the industry-run Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) carried on with its monetary inducements in the north.
7,000 GENERATIONS WALK
The northern-based Committee for Future Generations then organized an 820 KM walk from Pinehouse to Regina to express its opposition to a radioactive dump. After 20 days on the road, the respectful thing would have been for Premier Wall to greet these hardy citizens. The walk got front page coverage in both big city dailies, but when the walkers got to the Legislature August 16th Premier Wall was nowhere to be seen. Not even the Deputy Premier or a Sask Party MLA turned out to welcome those who had just made Saskatchewan history with their marathon. Only a staffer came to receive the letter to the Premier.
By August end there was still no response. At the Legislature rally August 16th the NDP opposition took a position against a nuclear dump. And the northern Committee continued collecting petitions, now having an additional 10,000 signatures in addition to the 5,000 presented to the government in April. People across the province are apparently eager to say “no!” to a nuclear dump; private party polling will confirm the widespread opposition.
THE PREMIER’S LETTER
Wall’s advisors may have thought it ill-advised to continue ducking the issue, for on Sept. 6th Committee Chair, Max Morin, finally received a letter. Premier Wall “apologized for the delay in my response”; though he didn’t apologize for not greeting the walkers. He reiterated the industry position about the NWMO looking for “a suitable location for the storage of used nuclear fuel”, without mentioning that it would be far safer to keep the wastes close to where they are created. No mention that a main reason the industry wants central storage is to reprocess nuclear wastes to get plutonium in the future.
YEARS DOWN THE ROAD
What is Premier Wall actually up to? The clincher sentence in his letter is, “The Government will not make a decision on a particular proposal by a willing host community until a proposal has been developed and put forward…which could be years down the road.” If Premier Wall meant what he said in April, when he acknowledged the “negative public opinion” about a nuclear dump, then why is the industry-run NWMO continuing with its insidious process for “years down the road”? Does this explain why Wall’s government recently signed an agreement with GE and Hitachi, Cameco’s partners in uranium enrichment technology, to do research on nuclear waste fuel with the University of Saskatchewan?
Politically, Premier Wall can’t appear to be completely in the hands of industry. So his letter continues with the “on the other hand” answer to the northern Committee. His wording is deceptive. It is perhaps encouraging that he says “the decision on whether to host a site” will be decided “in relation to the level of support from the Saskatchewan people more generally”. However, he said that this is in addition to “the NWMO assessment and level of community support”. Premier Wall has already admitted what the polls show, that there is not any significant support for a nuclear dump here. So, again I ask, why is the industry being allowed to continue to animate, that is, try to buy “community support”?
Premier Wall’s letter includes the seemingly unambiguous statement that “The Government will not support a proposal unless there is clear support from the people of Saskatchewan.” If he sincerely means this, if this is the government’s position, he doesn’t need to wait for “years down the road” to make a decision. There should be a process underway right now to see if “there is clear support from the people of Saskatchewan” for a nuclear dump. If not, he should tell NWMO to cease their monetary inducements in the north. He can’t have it both ways.
The burning question is: which comes first for Premier Wall? Is it Saskatchewan democracy? Or is it nuclear industry expansion? If Premier Wall was true to his words he’d already have come out against a nuclear dump. He talks as though he respects “the level of community support”, meanwhile a petition in Pinehouse has already shown that community support for a nuclear dump doesn’t exist there. So why is the “NWMO assessment”, with only one goal, of creating a nuclear dump, being allowed to proceed?
Premier Wall’s appeal to “community support”, like his appeal to “clear support from the people of Saskatchewan”, is apparently political rhetoric to buy more time for industry to penetrate the north. That way, by the time Saskatchewan democracy comes into play “years down the road”, the industry might have signed contracts and its dump be underway. Their strategy has always been incremental so the public doesn’t know their end-game.
PUBLIC BE DAMNED
We know from Manitoba that the “feasibility research” was inextricably tied to the actual planning of a dump. When people caught on and government changed hands legislation banning waste storage was passed. Why isn’t Premier Wall following the example of Manitoba in 1987 or Quebec in 2008 when they said flat out, “we won’t take Ontario’s nuclear wastes”?
The Wall government isn’t being proactive or protective because it wants the nuclear industry-driven process to succeed. It considers a nuclear dump to be “adding value” to the uranium industry, as was advocated by its own Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) in 2009. Though over 90% of the thousands participating in the UDP’s public consultations opposed a nuclear dump, the public be damned.
If Premier Wall meant it when he says in his letter that a nuclear dump “is not a priority to the province” and it is already clear that there is not “the support of provincial residents” for this, why is he being so permissive with the industry? Why is Premier Wall so interested in remaining “informed and engaged” with the nuclear industry, when he is unwilling to do this with the Saskatchewan public?
Premier Wall’s letter to the northern Committee appeals to rhetoric about popular democracy, but unless his government is challenged, it’s clear it will let the industry get its way. We can’t allow such smoke and mirrors to operate with an issue so vital to our future. The Premier and other Sask Party candidates need to be called on their “double-speak” on nuclear wastes.
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