Cameco’s alleged tax avoidance, amounting to $800 million through use of a Swiss tax haven, highlights the folly of Saskatchewan’s economic dependence on a few large private corporations.
Even if Cameco had done the right thing and paid its taxes to support the communities on whose infrastructure it depends, it would still be an unreliable foundation for the provincial economy. That would be the case even if it were paying a reasonable royalty rate instead of the current 4.25 per cent.
An already shrinking worldwide nuclear industry is set to decline rapidly in response to escalating construction costs, the ongoing Fukushima disaster and the rapid growth of the international renewables sector. There is no long-term future in selling uranium.
Between the uranium industry’s inevitable economic decline and Cameco’s actions, Premier Brad Wall’s policy of transferring northern economic development increasingly into the hands of this corporation constitutes shortsighted, dangerous folly. For northerners locked into neo-colonial “collaboration agreements,” it also means loss of democratic choice, while accumulation of toxic and radioactive emissions poses an increasing threat to their health and their traditional means of supporting themselves from the land.
Saskatchewan – both north and south – should instead be looking urgently at economic diversification and a green economy fit for the 21st century.