The minister responsible for Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel) has announced that the public telco is in talks with several communications companies to form a partnership.
“I would say that there has been discussions around a potential partnership that the government, certainly, and I feel warrant some further investigation and some further discussion,” said Minister Dustin Duncan.
He noted, however, that the partnerships being discussed would not invoke Bill 40, which passed in May 2017 and defined the term ‘privatization’ as allowing for the sale of 49 percent of Crown corporations like SaskTel.
“It’s not along the lines of Bill 40. It doesn’t require Bill 40, but certainly it’s something that needs to be further discussed within [SaskTel],” said Duncan.
Duncan said if the talks progressed further, to a point at which the partnership would produce results in terms of protecting the head office in Regina and helping SaskTel create jobs, then it would be disclosed to the public.
The NDP opposition immediately pushed back on the matter, with NDP’s SaskTel critic Warren McCall stating in a press release: “People have good reason to be concerned about what they’re hiding now. The Sask. Party changed the law to scrap important protections of our Crowns, laughed off suggestions that they were planning sell-offs, and then tried to hide meetings they were having with potential buyers.”
McCall further noted that SaskTel’s net income of $134.8 million in 2016-17 illustrated “literally millions of reasons why SaskTel should not be sold off.”
“The dividends SaskTel earns for its owners – all Saskatchewan people – help pay for our roads, schools, and hospitals. SaskTel also employs thousands of Saskatchewan people, provides world-class innovation and ensures great service and low rates.”
Previous to passing Bill 40, Duncan confirmed he spoke to a large Canadian communications company about the bill, though he suggested it wasn’t planned and occurred after an “introductory meeting” between Duncan’s chief of staff and the unnamed company.
“I wasn’t in the meeting,” stated Duncan, “But I arrived back at the office before they did leave, so I introduced myself as well and had a brief discussion about Bill 40.”