Concerns raised (again) over Saskatchewan's ability to hold referendum

With Premier Brad Wall stating on Wednesday a provincial referendum on the sale of SaskTel could happen, questions have again been raised over the current referendum laws in the province.

Premier Brad Wall musing once more about potential SaskTel sale referendum

Ken Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Regina, thinks if the Sask. Party government presses ahead with the sale of Sasktel, it indicates desperation. (CBC News)

With Premier Brad Wall stating on Wednesday a provincial referendum on the sale of SaskTel could happen, questions have again been raised over the current referendum laws in the province.

In September of last year, Michael Boda, the province's chief electoral officer, sent a letter to politicians detailing his concerns over the current legal framework to hold a referendum or plebiscite.

Boda suggested that to hold a referendum via a mail-in ballot system would require five months to properly set up.

We're going to fight him every step of the way on this.- Trent Wotherspoon, interim leader, NDP

Within the letter, he also noted that the current regulations around holding a referendum have not been updated since 1991, when they were first put in place.

Ken Rasmussen, a professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, said none of Boda's recommendations have been implemented. 

"The regulations aren't up to date," said Rasmussen. "The legitimacy of the referendum might be questioned and, also, some of the procedures used in developing things like voter lists and all the rest for the referendum need to be addressed."

He added that it is difficult to imagine a way that the government could hold a referendum in the appropriate time-frame while making it fair and effective. 

Cost of a referendum 

Rasmussen thinks that if a referendum was held it would be unlikely that it would go in the Saskatchewan Party's favour.

"If they do something like that and sell off this to a single buyer or even sell it on the market to raise some small amount of money relative to the financial hole they're in, it'll be an indicator that the government is very desperate," said Rasmussen.

Interim NDP leader Trent Wotherspoon and his party vehemently oppose the sale of SaskTel or any other Crown corporation.

Trent Wotherspoon says the sell-off of SaskTel or other Crown corporations would be desperate and concerning. (CBC)

Wotherspoon said people in the province think SaskTel and other Crowns benefit them and that proposing to sell them is breaking a promise made to the province during the 2016 provincial election.

Wotherspoon added that the one-time, "desperate" sell-off of the Crown would not replace the jobs provided and income generated by the corporation. 

"We're going to fight him every step of the way on this," said Wotherspoon. 

With files from ICI Saskatchewan