Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Saskatchewan should review its Crown corporations

  • Print

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s political climate appears to be heating up when it comes the future of its commercial Crown corporations. In November 2012, the provincial government introduced legislation authorizing the sale of voting shares in Investment Services Corporation, a commercial Crown corporation that provides registry services, and announced that it is contemplating a 60 per cent partial privatization through a stock offering.

In a 2012 year-end CBC interview, Premier Brad Wall indicated that he would like to provide Saskatchewan voters with a clear policy on the privatization of the province’s commercial Crowns before the next election.

"It can’t be about ideology, he said. "It has to be what’s pragmatic."

He added that he would welcome a "rational" public discussion about Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations.

Saskatchewan’s first commercial Crown corporations were established for pragmatic public-policy purposes. According to Crown Investments Corporation, the holding company for Saskatchewan’s commercial Crowns, "Private sector companies either did not offer services, offered them only to major centres, or charged rural customers significantly higher rates than urban customers. Saskatchewan’s first commercial Crown corporations were established because essential services such as telephone, power, and hail insurance for crops were not available from private companies, or not available to all residents on a fair and equitable basis."

The commercial Crowns also provide head office jobs in Saskatchewan that otherwise might not exist.

As recently as the 2003 provincial election, accusations that the Saskatchewan Party had a hidden agenda to privatize Saskatchewan’s commercial Crown corporations became a major issue that helped to re-elect the incumbent NDP government.

In 2004, the Saskatchewan legislature, with support from all political parties, passed The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act, which specifies nearly all of Saskatchewan’s commercial Crown corporations, and creates a daunting barrier to their potential sale. However, Investment Services Corporation, a commercial Crown corporation that provides registry services, was not specified in the 2004 legislation.

Saskatchewan’s commercial Crown corporation sector represents a large investment of public money, with consolidated assets of about $12.8 billion as of Sept. 30, 2012. It is both pragmatic and prudent to review periodically how these assets have performed, their situation and outlook, the continuing public policy purpose of government ownership, and to involve the public in the review process.

In 2008, I developed a framework for conducting a non-ideological, pragmatic Crown review. It called on the provincial government to establish an independent public review of Saskatchewan’s commercial Crown corporations based on rigorous, objective and transparent analysis with open public input and debate.

A Crown Review would foster informed public debate, and would help the government and opposition parties to develop clear policies on the commercial Crowns. A Crown Review would provide a pragmatic alternative to ideology in assessing the benefits, costs, risks, and continuing public policy purpose of government ownership of the various commercial Crowns, and in deciding which, if any, should continue under government ownership and which, if any, should be privatized.

It thus makes good sense and the provincial government would show good faith not to proceed with any partial privatization of ISC until after the completion of a Crown Review and the release of a clear policy.

It has been more than 15 years since the last Crown Review. When I proposed the framework for a new kind of Crown Review five years ago, the government indicated that conducting such a review was not a priority. Wall’s 2012 year-end interview suggests a possible change in the government’s receptiveness to the idea.

 

Sheldon Schwartz is the former vice-president of finance and administration and chief financial officer of Crown Investments Corporation. He wrote this for the Frontier Centre.

—Troy Media

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY
  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 070619 LIGHTNING ILLUMINATES AN ABANDONED GRAIN ELEVATOR IN THE VILLAGE OF SANFORD ABOUT 10PM TUESDAY NIGHT AS A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS PASSED NEAR WINNIPEG JUST TO THE NORTH OF THIS  SITE.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the city grant mosquito buffer zones for medical reasons only?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google