Sask. Party to repeal Crown privatization law
Saying that he had heard from the people, Premier Brad Wall announced Tuesday afternoon in a Facebook video that his Saskatchewan Party government will repeal a law that allowed the sale of up to 49 per cent of a Crown corporation.
Known as Bill 40, the plan faced significant opposition from the time it was first pitched in August 2016 and as it worked its way to becoming law.
“Our government is repealing Bill 40 to be consistent with what you view in terms of the Crown corporations and their importance to this province. No portion of them will be privatized,” Wall said in the video.
While the news is not altogether surprising — the premier had hinted at it previously — it is a significant departure from the rhetoric earlier employed by Wall and Sask. Party MLAs who have defended the legislation for over a year.
As Bill 40 became law, there was speculation SaskTel and other Crown corporations would be put up for partial sale.
In May 2016, Wall’s government ordered a risk assessment be done on the future of SaskTel.
At the same time, he tempered concerns from the NDP opposition and union groups by saying a sale would not take place without a public referendum.
Months later he declared he had “the clearest sense from voters” there was no interest in a sale. By the end of the year, Wall told reporters he did not see a sale happening based on public response he had seen to the idea.
Bill 40 still went on to receive royal assent and became law at the end of April 2017, while members of Wall’s government were holding talks about it characterized as “high level” with private companies.
In August, Wall said, “If Saskatchewan people who own these Crown corporations feel that any change in ownership at all constitutes a privatization, we have to consider that.”
Wall had said that only sales beneficial to the people of Saskatchewan, capable of including things like assurances head offices would remain in the province, would be considered.
Wednesday is the first day of the 28th Legislature, marked by a Speech from the Throne that Wall had previously indicated would reference Bill 40.
With Tuesday’s announcement, the premier brings clarity to what that reference will look like.
Speaking directly to the people of Saskatchewan in his video, Wall said he wanted people to know that “we have heard you” and thanked them for their “very direct feedback.”
At times, such as when hundreds of union protesters took to the Legislative Building, that feedback was indeed extremely direct.
Opposition NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer said Tuesday the Sask. Party can’t be trusted with the Crowns.
“They’ve proved that time and time again. They’re continuing to prove it,” she said. “They wanted to sell off our Crowns earlier, and the premier floated SaskTel as an option, and it was shut down quite handily by Saskatchewan people. Same thing with Bill 40,” she said, adding “it’s just a matter of time” before they try another method of selling the Crowns.