No sooner did the government of Saskatchewan oh-so-discreetly announce it is about to close four branches of the provincial archives and consolidate it all in one location in Regina than more than 30 Canadian scholars had an open letter of protest circulating on the Internet.
When the branch of the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan at the University of Saskatchewan slams its doors shut in less than a month, it’ll be the first time since the 1940s official provincial historical records haven’t been kept on the Saskatoon campus of the province’s first university.
“Given the numerous restrictions that exist around existing catalogued material, the closure of the Saskatoon office will make it even more difficult for researchers to access necessary records,” the group of scholars from across Canada wrote in the open letter published on ArchiveHistory.ca.
“The reductions in staffing and now the closure of the Saskatoon branch of the archives will have dire consequences for people attempting to access records, which could mean even longer delays in cataloguing new material while also extending the wait times for researchers to access existing records,” said the letter.
“With the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, it will be increasingly difficult for researchers to travel to Regina to access essential records,” it added.
“We urge the PAS to reconsider this decision. The archives are essential for citizens to access necessary public information,” the letter concluded.
Alas, this is the age of the neoliberal project, and the argument that a place’s history might be of some value isn’t likely to get much traction with the great minds of the right-wing Saskatchewan Party Government of Premier Scott Moe. After all, the consolidation is supposedly going to save the province the whopping sum of $500,000 over three years in rent.
Well, I suppose that’s money that can be hosed away on Saskatchewan’s legal challenge of the federal government’s carbon tax, which, since it has zero chance of success because of the plain wording of the Canadian Constitution on the topic, can only be a purely political stunt.
If there’s any pocket change left over when the province’s legal bills are paid, I suppose it can be used to print a few flyers demanding a pipeline be built somewhere.
The consolidated archives in Regina are scheduled to open in August next year.
Meanwhile, in Alberta, Bitumen Bubble brouhaha’s a-bubblin’
Meanwhile, in Alberta this afternoon, Finance Minister Joe Ceci called a news conference to warn that despite an excellent first half in the current fiscal year that leaves Alberta’s NDP Government in a position to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2023, the historically large price differential between heavy crude squeezed from Alberta’s oilsands and West Texas Intermediate could prompt an economic crisis for Alberta and Canada.
One hates to be insufficiently alarmist in the face of an elite consensus in Alberta for immediate measures to make the price differential, which has topped $50 US a barrel at times recently, go away immediately. However, this seems unlikely.
As was explained this week in no less reliable a source than The Economist – the business publication for people who wish they were rich – the unusually large differential is not only being caused by the fact bitumen is more expensive to process than lighter WTI, but because Canadian extraction companies are increasing production at a time a number of large refineries in the U.S. have closed for maintenance.
In other words, The Economist said, “some of the price pressure will let up when the American refineries reopen and the Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton, the first new refinery in Canada for 30 years, reaches full production sometime next year.” In other words, the differential will remain, because of the poor quality of bitumen oil, but it will shrink. This is unhelpful from the perspective of the voices calling for supply management to be applied immediately to Alberta production to limit the supply and push prices up, but it is probably a more realistic assessment than the current local hysteria.
Supply management should work just as well for oil as it does for milk, poultry and chicken – although it’s mildly disorienting to see some of the usual suspects on the market fundamentalist right demanding this.
As Thomas Lukaszuk – who should know, seeing as he was Progressive Conservative deputy premier of Alberta under Alison Redford not so long ago – observed, this is “no different than what Premiers Ed Stelmach and Redford had to deal with during their differential (bitumen bubble) crisis.”
He asked in a Tweet: Can you imagine what the Wildrose Party in Edmonton and the Conservative Party of Canada government – which at the time included Jason Kenney, now leader of the United Conservative Party Opposition – would have done if either PC premier had “suggested limiting oil production”?
Their heads would have exploded, he said in answer to his own question.
Well, that was then and this is now. The difference – not the relative size of the Bitumen Bubble – is who is now in power in Ottawa and Edmonton, and Mr. Kenney’s political need to look like he is doing more about it than NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
This explains his party’s risible effort to pretend it’s already the government of Alberta and gin up some free publicity by hitching a ride on the coattails of Mr. Moe’s litigation budget.
According to the UCP’s rooting section at Postmedia, the Alberta Opposition party will argue a federal carbon tax would “fundamentally alter the balance of Canadian federalism.”
The problem with this strategy, of course, is that the opposite is true, since the Constitution unequivocally grants the right to Ottawa “the raising of Money by any Mode or System of Taxation.”
Thankfully, the UCP is not at the moment in a position to waste tax money tilting at this windmill.