On October 1, an unprecedented journalistic collaboration among the National Observer, The Toronto Star, Global News, the Michener Awards Foundation, the Corporate Mapping Project and four journalism schools exposed a tragic failure of oversight in Saskatchewan’s oil and gas industry that has resulted in widespread risks due to leaks of sour gas (hydrogen sulfide). This investigative series described one man’s tragic death and many cases of illness from exposure to the gas. They also revealed that the Government of Saskatchewan was aware of these incidents and the overall elevated level of risk throughout southeastern Saskatchewan and that this risk was communicated with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Neither the Sask Party Government nor CAPP made any of this information available to the public despite the health risks. No fines have been levied against the industry for over a decade, and the industry remains dangerously unregulated.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and its members have donated over $200,000 to the Sask Party in the last decade. For Sask NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili, this new report underscores the importance of banning corporate and union contributions from Saskatchewan politics.
"This is exactly the kind of corrupting influence of donations that requires us to reject corporate and union donations in this leadership race," said Meili. "Industry money would be better spent protecting the public and ensuring safe conditions for workers than trying to influence elections.”
“It’s those living and working in the oil patch, including nearby ranchers, who pay the price," Meili added, repeating his call for candidates in both leadership races to join him in refusing any such influence in the contests for premier and leader of the opposition.
Meili called for greater transparency and arms-length regulation in light of the recent revelations. "As premier," Meili said "I would return oversight of these wells to the Ministry of the Environment, as clearly the Ministry of the Economy is not the right place for them. I would also strengthen the regulation of wells and pipelines and mandate the collection and publication of data on sour gas hotspots as well as training for emergency personnel in treating exposure. These measures would enhance public health and safety, and would create jobs in key industries such as steel and within oil and gas through the replacement and upgrading of existing infrastructure and cleanup of inactive sites."
Meili also repeated the NDP’s call for a full inquiry into Bill Boyd’s term as a minister, given the rapidly accumulating scandals connected with his tenure.
Saskatchewan’s dramatic under-regulation
Number of operating wells per regulatory agency employee:
B.C. 2014: 53
Alberta 2014: 181
Saskatchewan 2014: 443
Saskatchewan 2017: 6,250
Total value of fines levelled against the oil and gas industry in Saskatchewan, 2007-2017: $0.
Source: “Inside Saskatchewan’s Failure to Stop a Silent Killer,” National Observer, Oct 1, 2017.