The Saskatchewan Party government has stayed relatively scandal-free during its near seven-year run in government.
Yes, there have been slip-ups, blunders, errors and times in which they needed a mulligan, but they've always been able to quickly recover.
And Premier Brad Wall has been able to steer the party through controversies with his strong communication skills and his ability to engage the public.
These are reasons why the Sask. Party has had a runaway lead in public opinion polls almost from the moment they were elected in 2007. And it's a big reason why Wall is always the most popular premier in Canada by a very wide margin.
But even Wall hasn't been able to put a positive spin on the smart meter fiasco currently dogging SaskPower.
The smart meters have proven to be the Sask. Party's answer to Spudco – the ill-fated venture by the NDP into the potato farming industry in the late 1990s. Spudco cost taxpayers millions of dollars, negatively impacted Saskatchewan potato farmers, gave the opposing parties years of ammunition, and became a perpetual provincial punch line.
Regardless of whether these new SaskPower meters are "smart" or not, the decision to switch to them wasn't very wise.
Governments should always be held accountable when they waste taxpayer dollars, and, as of right now, the provincial government has wasted more than $40 million of our money on these contraptions.
Initially, it appeared the biggest complaint with these meters would be inaccurate readings – an inconvenience that could be solved. But now it's been revealed that 10 meters have caught fire, causing damage to some homes, and creating anxiety for anyone that has the devices at their homes.
Due to the fires, all of these brand new smart meters are going to be removed, and replaced with more traditional meters.
The smart meter installation was also contracted out to a U.S. firm, with allegedly unqualified workers, when SaskPower workers could have installed them. It might have sped up the installation process, but it's proven to be another mistake in a bad comedy of errors.
Other jurisdictions have had problems with smart meters, too, particularly Oregon, where fires and explosions are well-documented.
Hopefully SaskPower and the provincial government did their due diligence, and have recourse to be reimbursed. If they did, it will take away some of the financial sting from this boondoggle.
Taxpayers should not be on the hook for this boondoggle. If they are, then smart meters could be a foolish and costly mistake for SaskPower and the provincial government.