Saskatchewan

Sask. Crown profits up, utility rate guarantee dropped

The Saskatchewan Party government is no longer promising the lowest-cost bundle of utilities in Canada, as the NDP government did.

The Saskatchewan Party government is no longer promising the lowest-cost bundle of utilities in Canada, as the NDP government did.

"We feel that the lowest-cost utility bundle was political in purposes and somewhat gimmicky," Crown Corporations Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said Wednesday.

Cheveldayoff said Saskatchewan people did pay the lowest bundle of phone, power, home heating and car insurance rates in the country last year, but that could change in the future.

Former Premier Lorne Calvert made the bundle pledge in 2003 and campaigned on it twice. His government paid rebates through people's phone bills to make it happen.

The Saskatchewan Party won't go the rebate route to keep utility bills down, Cheveldayoff said.

"We will not govern by gimmicks and bundles but by the commitment to ensure that the Crowns are run properly," he said.

Despite their low rates, the utility Crowns still brought in a lot of money last year, according to the annual report of the Crown Investments Corp., which was released Wednesday.

CIC, the holding company for Crown corporations including SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower and Saskatchewan Government Insurance, had a net income of $696 million last year. That's up substantially from the year before, when CIC had a $441 million profit — mostly due to the sale of the NewGrade upgrader in Regina.

CIC paid a $200 million dividend to the treasury last year and is budgeted to contribute $550 million this year.

However, slimmer dividends could be paid out in the future as the Crowns move to use more of their own profits to reinvest in capital.

"There is an infrastructure need within the Crowns, specifically with SaskPower and to a lesser extent with SaskTel," Cheveldayoff said.