tp-potash-cp-sask

Potash Corp's Cory potash mine in Saskatoon. Potash consumption has been growing over the past decade because of greater demand for fertilizer from developing nations.

If a foreign company buys Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, head office jobs are guaranteed by law to remain in Saskatchewan, the provincial government says.

Questions about the future of head office jobs in Saskatoon arose Tuesday after the Australia-based chemical company BHP Billiton launched a $36.8-billion US bid to buy Potash Corp.

Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd said it's too early to speculate whether the company will be sold, but if it happens, a substantial head office "function" will remain in the province.

The company has corporate head offices in Saskatoon and Northbrook, Ill. However, under the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Reorganization Repeal Act, if there's a takeover, Potash Corp. is required to maintain its head office in Saskatchewan.

"I think it really is important that the decision-making processes take place here in Saskatchewan, that there are a number of people associated with it," Boyd said. "PCS obviously has a very large presence in Saskatchewan. Something similar to that is what we would expect would happen here."

However, University of Regina economic professor Jason Childs said a loss of head office jobs is par for the course in such situations and likely inevitable.

"Purchasing by an international conglomeration like BHP is going to mean, potentially, movement of jobs away from Saskatchewan," said Childs,  adding it's a reality of the global marketplace.

"If we want to be part of a larger world and take advantage of that, then there's going to be some costs to us as well."

Employing thousands, Potash Corp. has long been an iconic presence in Saskatchewan, a symbol of a province trying to diversify beyond its agricultural roots.

As well, the development of the potash industry in Saskatchewan has long had a political element.

The New Democratic government nationalized the potash industry and created  Potash Corp. in 1975. The Progressive Conservatives privatized it in 1989.

After the Saskatchewan Party formed the government in 2007, one of the first pieces of legislation it passed was a symbolic one saying it wouldn't re-nationalize the potash industry.

NDP MLA Kevin Yates said the New Democrats wouldn't do that either, adding the main concern now is that Potash Corp. jobs stay in Saskatchewan, no matter what the future holds.

"We can't go back and change the world, but I do very strongly want to ensure out of this that the people of Saskatchewan, the jobs, the futures that have been built around the potash industry should remain here," Yates said.