The 2012 Scene: A Clean Slate

January is the best month of the year. A clean slate stretches out before us, waiting to be covered with the stories of 2012. All the best things haven’t happened yet – weddings, births, reunions, even the long weekends. As we hang up new calendars, June, July and August sit untouched in the middle, every single glorious summer day still far enough away to be fully anticipated, without a morsel of anxiety over how quickly they will come and go.

Speaking of births, 2012 promises to be a year of political rebirths, both federally and provincially. The issue of leadership will remain front and centre for at least the first half of the year, as both the federal Liberal and NDP parties, and here at home the Saskatchewan NDP, set about selecting the individual who will define their much-needed new Opposition identities, and pave the road out of the lackluster pits they’ve all sunk into.

On the pop culture front, movies have yet to either blow away box offices or tank spectacularly. New scandals have yet to emerge – who will be the 2012’s Charlie Sheen?  Who will get married, and who will announce their inevitable splits? How many of those scenarios will co-exist within the same month? Okay, we all know the answer to that one is any or all of the Kardashians. But we can dream. And as macabre as this may be, the question of which celebrities have rang in 2012 but for whatever untimely reason, won’t ring it out, will be answered.

Mother Nature will ultimately show up in a big way – she always does. With flooding impacting, even destroying, the homes and livelihoods of many a Saskatchewan resident, it would be awfully nice if she’d ease up on that one. The terra in our fair province is not particularly firma anymore, compared regularly to a sponge that has soaked up every last drop of moisture it’s going to take. Intense spring runoff or torrential downpours will undoubtedly send weary homeowners swashbuckling once again, so take it easy on us, will you Mama N?

As for the rest of the world, there’s no doubt she’ll have some awe-inspiring, tragic surprises for them too, which are impossible to predict. Climate-change advocates will continue to wring their hands and point at their neighbor’s SUV, while global-warming naysayers shout about at historical patterns and corrupt scientists. Let’s face it, no one really has a clue. Both the heavens and the sky will shake at will, regardless of the theories of the unfortunate souls who lie in their wake.

In his book Future Babble, Ottawa Citizen journalist Dan Gardner says that one of the ways we deal with the future’s uncertainty is to turn to the predictions of experts. Responsible, tempered forecasting is one thing, but there will always be those who rely on drama, theatrics and their personal brand to spew grandiose prophecies that they have absolutely no way of knowing will happen. The future is inherently and absolutely uncertain, that’s why it’s the future.

As news agencies pumped out their obligatory “Newsmaker/News Story of the Year” at the end of 2011, it struck me just how much our small world packs into 365 days. As time marches relentlessly on, all we can do is peer into the blank expanse before us and vow that no matter what happens – that which we can predict, and which we can’t – let us live, love and learn. That’s all I know for sure.

 

Coffee Row – Why Saskatchewan’s Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris Should Not & Will Not Resign

On June 22, 2010 Minister of Advanced Education Rob Norris’ office received a joint proposal on the unprecedented (in Saskatchewan) merger of publicly funded Carlton Trail Regional College (CTRC) with a private school (St Peter’s College).

The Ministry enlisted Meyers Norris Penny to conduct public consultations and provide recommendations on the proposal.

Until last week, critics of the merger were solely concerned over the potential “privatization” of CTRC, and the subsequent loss or lowering of student programming and/or union jobs.

Fair enough.

The letter-writing brigade had been out for weeks – and in incredibly-researched detail:

February 11, 2011 – the Star Phoenix publishes One Arrow First Nation’s Chief Dwayne Paul’s editorial citing merger concerns over the potential lowering of quality of education.

February 17, 2011 – former CRTC employee Gayle McMartin’s letter appears in the Humboldt Journal, insisting Norris has already given the merger the greenlight.  She’s answered days later with an equally detailed response by the Journal’s editor, including an interview with Glenn Kobussen, CEO of both St Peter’s and CTRC, and transition manager of the proposed merger.

February 18, 2011Rob Norris responds in the Star Phoenix to Chief Paul’s editorial, saying no decision will be made on proposed merger until the MNP report comes back.

March 10, 2011another letter to the Humboldt Journal, this time detailing concerns over the merger’s impact on the firefighting programming – oh, and historical theft and fraud convictions leveled against Kobussan (for which he was eventually pardoned for).

On March 14th, the Saskatchewan NDP Opposition kicked off the Legislative session with a gallery full of concerned local and First Nation’s leaders, students and residents.  During Question Period, education critic Cam Broten bemoaned transparency issues and how Norris has “already made his decision” – but doesn’t utter a word about governance or financial irregularities.  In fact, he quotes the firefighting letter to the Humboldt Journal, but only on the firefighting program concerns – Broten doesn’t even mention Kobussan’s theft/fraud charges.

March 17th, 2011Rob Norris announces he has spiked the amalgamation, and goes a step further citing the report’s revelation of leadership and governance concerns, resulting in CEO Kobussan being put on administrative leave from both colleges.  Later that day Kobussan’s fired as CEO of CRTC.

So…Minister Norris has completed his due diligence, done the right thing, and everyone’s happy now, right?

Wrong.

March 18th, 2011Star Phoenix releases story saying it had just obtained a copy of a 6-page report that was presented to both colleges’ boards on May 10th, 2010 raising concerns over financial and accounting irregularities.  The day before, promptly after announcing his decision to spike the merger, Norris was ambushed with the report – detailing everything from a missing 52″ TV to ill-advised political donations.  An angry Norris declared he has never seen the report.

Hilarity and mayhem ensues.

The provincial auditor says he’ll look at it, but notes an audit of the college’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 raised “no significant issues”.

In Monday’s QP, Broten produces emails dated May 2010, copied to Norris by college staff raising concerns over what they allege were “ethical issues”.  Again Norris pleads ignorance, claiming he never saw the emails.  Typically the mountains of communications coming into every MLA’s office are sifted and filtered by staff, so I imagine a head is going to roll.  However as the Minister the buck stops with Norris – he needs to clamp down on his office.

Now, the NDP are calling on Minister Rob Norris to resign.

Norris will not, and should not resign.  Why?  Because he torpedoed the merger and Kobussen is gone – in other words, Norris did the right thing.

Meanwhile back at the ranch… everyone and their dog spent months regurgitating every scrap ever uttered on this issue; yet these emails and the damning little six-page report (that could have probably killed The Merger Nobody Wanted months ago) don’t mysteriously surface until moments after Norris does the right thing?

That doesn’t make sense.  If everyone was sooooo concerned over the merger, why hide the one piece that would have snuffed it?

Because had the burying of the irregularities report and emails succeeded in leading Norris to approve the merger, their appearance after the fact would have destroyed his political career.

Meaning whoever was gunning for Norris had the information all along (NDP sources tell me MLA Cam Broten isn’t that diabolical) and was happy to knowingly string along First Nation’s students and local residents on the doomed merger prior to Norris’ decision, just to maximize the potentially scandalous impact on the Minister and the Sask Party.

And that pisses me right off.

Rob Norris does have some ‘splaining to do: he’d best clarify what changes he’s made in his office to ensure he can be properly apprised of what he needs to do, and be damn sure he didn’t see any of what he says he didn’t.  He’s got a rogue board or two to deal with.

Beyond that, there’s no Ministerial coverup; no backpedaling on what would have been a terribly ill-advised merger.

In other words, there’s no scandal.

 

Daily Scene March 22nd

Today is Federal Budget Day in Ottawa – my money says it doesn’t trigger an election.

Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris will not and should not resign.

This definitely isn’t helping Norris’ case, but  it’s not exactly Ernest Morin material either.  Kettle meet black.

I just love that her name is Franny.

“..take a no and turn it into a yes and if you just believe, you can do anything you want.” – words of wisdom from Regina Grade 5 student Garrett Ostepchuk.  Great story.

How about you just shoulder a shovel – aka you’re responsibility?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Scene March 21st

Happy Spring!  Just roll with it, we’ll all be at the lake soon enough.

A leaked Ottawa report shines more insight into why the federal government allowed Saskatchewan to pull the plug on the ‘Cadillac’ of domed stadiums for Regina.  A $42 surcharge on Rider tickets?  They’d have better won a few Grey Cups between now and then.

This is not a scandal. This is an orchestrated attempt to set up Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris.  More on that later.

This is sad, but ever been charged by a bull moose?  Wonder if the animal rights crowd will howl.

Saskatchewan NDP’s potash royalty squawk-box Erin Weir continues to belch golden goose feathers; absolutely refuses to see the big picture on potash royalties.

Daryl Labach is a fair judge who interprets the law correctly, but it’s unfortunate when a good police officer is penalized for honed instincts.

Favorite John Gormley Live memory – our 2008 broadcast from Corner Gas sets in Regina.   This auction sounds like lots of fun, will try and make it.

 

Daily Scene for March 18th

Happy Friday!

If you can bring yourself to wade through this story to the end, my guess is you’ll still end up not caring.

Love these, something needs to be done to make sure they stay.

Gee, I wonder why the Saskatchewan NDP wouldn’t want voter identification?

Look, you can lead a horse to water…

Speaking of which, for the love of God put down your high horse and go to the beach already. Preferably somewhere else while you’re at it.

Wonder how many of these patients needed their back cracked?

As a hockey mom of a 6-year old devotee, I pray he opts for goaltending.

Despite the fact that he’s still probably a more effective leader, this is utterly ridiculous.

From Rod Pederson’s blog today: - “In speaking with Eskimos personnel this week, they informed me they are not impressed with (retired veteran Saskatchewan Roughrider) Scott Schultz’s constant mocking of new Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed. “We’ll do our talking on the field” one of them said to me. By the way, Schultz doesn’t care.”  A classic Saskatchewan boy, Schultz cracks me up.  Follow him on Twitter.