Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the province is no longer considering the privatization of crown corporation SaskTel.
“I just have the clearest sense from voters, similar to in the middle of election campaigns in the past, that they’re not interested,” Wall stated when the legislature returned for the spring sitting.
“They’re not interested in a referendum. They’re not interested in the potential sale of SaskTel.”
Last year, Wall spoke about holding a referendum on the possibility of selling SaskTel, with critics — primarily the NDP opposition — inferring that the government wanted to cover its deficit through the sale.
SaskTel is also in a vulnerable position due to Bell’s acquisition of Manitoba regional carrier MTS. A risk assessment commissioned by the carrier in June 2016 cautions that Bell’s establishment of a western headquarters in Winnipeg could lead to an erosion of SaskTel’s share of the Saskatchewan business market, among other concerns.
Wall did not, however, walk back on the idea of selling SaskTel shares, in fact noting that his provincial government would be open to “[building] a partnership with others.”
“I think people were worried about losing control. If you lose total control of a company to another company, even if you have golden share legislation, do we lose the chance to have the head office? What about the jobs that are in rural Saskatchewan? What about the coverage issue?” said Wall.
The government of Saskatchewan introduced a new law in fall 2016 to define the word “privatize,” which would clarify that it could sell up to 49 percent of a crown company without officially “privatizing” it.
This is seen by the NDP opposition as a way to avoid a public referendum on selling a large portion of SaskTel.