Sask. government introduces law to define 'privatize'

The government of Saskatchewan has introduced a new law to define the word "privatize" to clarify the meaning of the term when it comes to the province's Crown corporations.

Government says definition provides clarity on Crown ownership

Minister of Justice Gord Wyant says the new law will make clear what it means to privatize a crown corporation. (Neil Cochrane)

The government of Saskatchewan has introduced a new law to define the word "privatize".

It says the changes will clarify the meaning of the term when it comes to the province's Crown corporations.

The government has agreed not to sell a Crown — such as SaskTel — without a vote of support from the people of the province.

It says the new law would clarify that it could sell up to 49 per cent of a company without "privatizing" it.

Justice Minister Gord Wyant said the change will allow pension plans and other investors to buy shares in a Crown corporation.

"But it's important to know that ... the control of the corporation has to stay with the people of Saskatchewan," Wyant said.

"So typically that would be 51% of the shares of any one particular corporation; but it allows investment."

The Opposition says it sounds as though the government is looking for ways to sell off crown businesses without holding a public vote.

The Opposition justice critic, Nicole Sarauer, says voters should decide whether the government can sell up to 49 per cent of a crown corporation. (Craig Edwards, CBC)

Nicole Sarauer is the NDP's justice critic. She says selling 49 per cent of a company sounds like privatization to her.

"That would be a form of privatization in our mind," Sarauer told reporters. "And we would have to make sure that the people of Saskatchewan have provided a mandate for that.

"Time and time again this government has pushed forward privatization when they didn't receive a mandate for it," she said.

The government says it is clarifying the definition of "privatize" in light of talks about the future of the government-owned phone company, SaskTel.

However it stresses that no offers for that company have been made or are being considered.

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