By Raquel Fletcher Anchor/Reporter
REGINA - The Saskatchewan government has backed away from a deal it negotiated with the FSIN to to sell Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw to the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.
On January 21, FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde went to the Premier with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that SIGA buy the two casinos. In the past, the answer has been clear from the government: the casinos are not for sale. However, Premier Brad wall started looking at this proposal – and he started to change his mind. He said he recognized the benefit of greater economic opportunities for First Nations after increased provincial money to Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies produced results:
“The potential to improve graduation rates. We’ve seen greater involvement in the economy by First Nations; we’ve even seen employment numbers, I think now for 12 months in a row, unemployment numbers for First Nations come down I think at least in part because we’re finally getting it right,” said Premier Wall Monday afternoon in a media scrum at the Saskatchewan legislature.
Profits from Casinos Moose Jaw and Regina could potentially mean even more success for First Nations people in the province, but the deal includes a sale within the year and that breaks a Sask Party campaign promise to not go against the Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act.
“I believed that I needed the dispensation of the New Democrats to say, ‘In this instance, in this narrow instance in respect to casinos, we’re going to approve it in principal,’” said Wall.
The Crown ownership act sets out conditions before a Crown corporation can be sold, including public consultations and a 90-day window after the next provincial election before a sale. The legislation was voted in unanimously on both sides of the house. The NDP said they’re not opposed to looking at selling the casinos to First Nations, but they will not support amending the act to allow this particular deal to be exempt. However, without the NDP on board, the Premier said he won’t go ahead.
“This has been just one of the sketchiest things I’ve seen transpire,” said NDP Opposition leader Cam Broten. ”With stories changing from the government and then this ultimatum coming to us that we have to support the fast-tracking of this legislation in the spring sitting in violation of the Crown ownership act – I don’t trust this government.”
The FSIN is blaming the lost sale on the NDP.
“Basically, I’m extremely disappointed and disheartened in the way that the leader of the NDP has approached this. There was no secret, backdoor deal. Everything was transparent and open,” said Chief Perry Bellegarde.