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article imageOp-Ed: Saskatchewan government to partially privatize crown corporation

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By Ken Hanly     Nov 20, 2012 in Politics
Regina - The Saskatchewan government plans to privatize 60% of a Crown corporation, the Information Services Corporation (ISC). The government would retain the other 40%.
The ISC registers land, corporations, births, deaths, etc. and even distributes maps and provides other information. The minister responsible for ISC, Don McMorris claimed that the government wanted to strike a balance between owning too much and too little of the corporation. He said:"Having the government in a position to benefit from the potential growth, which we think is there, but not hindering the possibility of sales because it is too much owned by government — it's a balance there."
Of the 60% of shares that will be privatized, 45% will be made available to Saskatchewan citizens, and another 5% will be available for employees. The remaining shares will be available to outsiders as well. No one investor will be allowed to own more than 15% of the firm. The Royal Bank of Canada calculates that the 60% of the company will be worth from $90 to $120 million.
The New Democratic Party opposition was critical of the government for not declaring that they would privatize part of the company before the election. The NDP constantly warns voters in elections that the opposition will privatize crown corporations if elected.
New Democrat Cathy Sproule said that there is no evidence that ISC could not expand equally well as a Crown corporation. She said:"That's something they keep saying, but we haven't seen any evidence of that. Certainly we have seen currently that they are dealing with other governments and that is perfectly normal for government Crowns to deal with other governments." McMorris on the other hand claims that other jurisdictions would use ISC's services if it were not government-owned. Surely other jurisdictions would use the services if they provided better services at competitive prices.
Saskatchewan has a history of government ownership as well as being the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a single-payer health care system. The province still has a provincially owned bus service, power corporation, and public auto insurance but many of the public owned utilities have been sold off by conservative administrations including a huge and highly profitable potash corporation and an oil company. The results of Sask. Oil privatization are detailed here:: This sale immediately became a political issue: in its last three years as a CROWN CORPORATION, Sask Oil made profits of $31 million, $44 million and $41 million respectively; these earnings resulted in substantial dividends for the provincial treasury. Privatization ended that flow of revenue to the provincial treasury and transferred it to the new private shareholders, 75% of whom were non-residents of Saskatchewan. Within 6 months of being privatized, Sask Oil laid off one-quarter of its workforce, and the company was transferring its exploration focus to Alberta. Sask.Oil had been founded as a Crown Corporation by former NDP premier Allan Blakeney in 1973. A photo of Blakeney is included in this article.
In 1991 the Conservative government was defeated and most of the privatization ceased but it was not reversed by the relatively conservative government of Roy Romanow. In fact, the NDP under Romanow introduced policies that many conservatives would have applauded: The Romanow government was more fiscally conservative than previous CCF/NDP governments, and instituted a program of hospital closures, program cuts, and privatization to eliminate the budget deficit and reduce debt inherited from previous governments.
Eventually the conservatives were able to regroup after deciding the the Conservative brand was too tarnished to refurbish. The Saskatchewan Party would be their new reincarnation. The NDP gradually lost contact with its roots and eventually under Brad Wall the Saskatchewan Party won a majority. On November 7, 2011, under the leadership of Brad Wall, the Saskatchewan Party won 49 of 58 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature. The Saskatchewan Party is now again gradually moving back towards privatization. As you can see from the appended videos, Saskatchewan unions campaign against privatization.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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