PotashCorp employs about 1,600 people at five mines in Saskatchewan, and has about 200 employees at its Saskatoon headquarters. ((Canadian Press))

Saskatchewan politicians say they want more head office potash jobs, whether a bid to take over Potash Corporation goes ahead or not.

In August, Australian mining giant BHP Billiton launched a $38.5 billion US bid for PotashCorp, which operates five mines in Saskatchewan that employ about 1,600 workers.

The Saskatchewan government, worried about losing billions in royalties and taxes — and about the future of head office jobs — is now deciding whether it should oppose such a deal.

Also expressing concern is New Democrat Opposition leader Dwain Lingenfelter, who says potash companies are looking for the best deal for their shareholders and the government of Saskatchewan should respond in kind.

"I think this is a huge opportunity, I think we should all look at how we maximize our returns," Lingenfelter said.  

PotashCorp was once a Saskatchewan Crown corporation, but the Progressive Conservative government moved to privatize it in the late 1980s.

The expectation at the time was that the head office jobs would remain in Saskatchewan, Lingenfelter said.

PotashCorp now has two headquarters: a head office in Saskatoon and another office in Chicago, each employing about 200 people, according to the company.

"The CEO and most of the executive are now in Chicago," Lingenfelter said. "We're making a strong point that the Potash Corporation needs to move back the head office as was expected."

Meanwhile, Billiton's CEO has made a public commitment to locate Billiton's global potash headquarters in Saskatoon and repatriate the Chicago office jobs, a report this week from the Conference Board of Canada noted.

With BHP Billiton promising a stronger head office if its bid goes ahead, this is a perfect time to insist that whoever owns Potash Corporation do the same, Lingenfelter said.

Industry Minister Bill Boyd agrees, saying PotashCorp has room to beef up its head office in Saskatoon.

"We have some concerns, no doubt about it," Boyd said. "We have seen the erosion, I believe, of jobs in that area and we're certainly of the belief that they could improve as well."

The federal government is expected to announce in early November whether or not it will allow the Billiton proposal to go forward.