Crowns put $219M back into province's pocket, partial sale talks continue

The release of Crown corporations' annual reports has reignited conversation about partial privatization.

No sale 'if it doesn't benefit the people of the province for the long term,' says minister

In April, the Saskatchewan government passed Bill 40, which allows it to sell up to 49 per cent of the province's Crowns without public approval. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

The release of Crown corporations' annual reports has reignited conversations about partial privatization. 

Potential partial sales of SaskTel and SGI were brought up this week. On Friday, Crown Investments Minister Joe Hargrave said there hasn't been any real discussion regarding partial sales of other Crowns.

However, they are all technically on the table. 

Hargrave said a Crown would remain the same, even if up to 49 per cent of it is sold.

"This doesn't mean anything will change at our Crowns," he said, adding a partnership would have to "strengthen the Crown's bottom line" and the head office would remain in province.

The Saskatchewan government passed Bill 40 in April, allowing the government to sell up to 49 per cent of its Crowns to private shareholders without public approval.

"If it doesn't benefit the people of the province for the long term, there's not a deal that's going to happen," Hargrave said. ​

'Short-sighted for a one-time payout': NDP

NDP Crown Investments critic Carla Beck isn't certain about long-term gain, though.

"It does seem very short-sighted for a one-time payout," Beck said of the potential partial sales. The $219 million paid in dividends indicates the value of Crowns in the province, she said.

"Remember, not only the dividends, not only the jobs but also providing service, an equitable level of service, around the province," she added. "All of those things are in jeopardy if we look at sale of up to 49 per cent of any of them."

Beck said she wants more clarity from the government on why Bill 40 was passed and added that partnerships with Crowns were permitted prior to the bill's passage. 

Financial success in struggling economy

The $219 million the Crown sector paid into the provincial general revenue fund surpassed the budgeted goal of $204 million.

Crowns saw $399 million in net earnings for the 2016-17 fiscal year, an increase of $225 million from the previous year.

For the 2016-17 period, Crowns also put $1.4 billion towards capital projects in the province. The press release said that capital spending is expected to average $1.9 billion per year "to meet the needs of infrastructure renewal and the demands for growth in the province."