Politics-casino privatization scrum_small

Photo by Darrol Hofmeister, sharpshooter photography

As reported on CBC, in the Leader-Post and CJME, and mentioned earlier on Dog Blog, a plan by the provincial government to sell Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw fell apart today.

Fell apart? More like fell off a motorcycle, landed on a banana peel, bounced over a hedge and face-planted in a pile of yellow snow.

It was an epic wipe-out, and it left everybody mad at everyone else.

The drama started this morning after the Opposition NDP sent out a media alert saying that the Saskatchewan Party government had negotiated a memorandum of understanding to sell the casinos to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations — and that the NDP had been in the loop on this development for a couple of weeks.

NDP leader Cam Broten said that because the M.O.U. between the government and the FSIN was only brought to the Opposition’s attention two weeks ago; and because details of the sale are not yet determined; and becauuuse the whole affair gave him an icky feeling in his tummy (that’s just a guess); the NDP would NOT give the government the pass it wanted on following privatization rules laid out by the Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act.

“We were given a very clear ultimatum,” said Broten at a 1 p.m. press scrum. “We needed to support this legislation being fast-tracked in the spring sitting in order for this M.O.U. to go ahead. And that’s a position in violation of the Crown Ownership Act, which has been supported by Mr. Wall — when he voted for it, and in two elections.”

“Selling Crowns is an important matter, because the benefits are for everyone in the province,” added Broten. “And to fast-track, to be pressured to urgently pass legislation in violation of the Crown Ownership Act — that game is not on. I will not agree to do that.”

In a second scrum just over an hour later, Premier Brad Wall painted a different picture of the NDP’s role in l’affair casino incroyable.

“I’ve listened to Mr. Broten’s scrum; it is full of things that frankly aren’t true,” said the premier. “And you don’t have to take my word for it, because Chief [Perry] Bellegarde was dealing with him and his party as well.”

Well, nyah nyah nyah!

All righty then. We have one political party feeling pressured, uneasy and suspicious, and another feeling rejected and exasperated. It’s a lot of resentment for a Monday.

Is there any way to bridge this gap? Because to me, selling the casinos to FSIN doesn’t sound like an inherently terrible idea. They’re not SaskTel, after all.

“I hoped that Mr. Broten would see the merits of it,” said Wall. “I heard his scrum… I also heard him say he’s open to it, but it’s rushed, and it’s this, and he needs a chance to [have his questions answered].

“Why wouldn’t he pick up the phone on Sunday and call me?” said Wall, a slight quaver in his voice.

“Mr. Wall voted in support of the Crown Ownership Act, saying that he supported this process that Saskatchewan people would be a part of, if, in fact, government decided to sell a Crown,” said Broten. “He agreed with that when the legislation was in the house, and then he ran on it in two elections, very clearly. So in no way — in no way — am I going to provide a carte blanche for this government to do whatever it wants in this spring sitting.”

“I don’t know what else I can do,” said Wall. “As far as I’m concerned we’re going to have to move on, and we’re prepared to do that.”

As for FSIN Chief Bellegarde? “I’m extremely disappointed and disheartened by the way the leader of the NDP  has approached this. There was no secret back-door deal. Everything was transparent and open.”

Yeah, except to an entire public that first heard about this idea today, and will now have to try and figure out for themselves if the complicated and risk-fraught sale of two publicly owned casinos would’ve been a good idea.

Hopefully they’ll have a bottle of aspirin handy.