Keep the Crowns in public hands

Even though the government has backed down from the outright sale of Sasktel, the threat of privatization (49% or 51%, it doesn't matter) is real. And what we've learned from the recent budget is that public enterprises that serve an important service but yield no financial returns, like STC, will simply be scrapped. That's why we need to take a stand against the threat of privatization. In Regina, where the largest Crowns are headquartered, this is important.

That's why I have submitted the following motion to Regina City Council for consideration and debate at our April 24th meeting (see the motion below). Please consider encouraging other members of City Council to support the motion and to show up on April 24th as a delegate to voice your thoughts. You need to notify the Clerk's Office by April 19th if you wish to attend and speak (clerks@regina.ca). 

I look forward to hearing from you (306-570-1402 or astevens@regina.ca).

Why is this important?

Communities across Saskatchewan continue to struggle with the implications of the 2017 provincial budget. To that point, our province’s current fiscal crisis is, in many ways, a manufactured crisis caused by an unsustainable dependence on resource royalties that helped to fund spending and tax cuts. And, as we’ve seen, the crisis has been used as a reason to wind down the cherished STC, cut funding to libraries, schools, and other public services. The revoking of certain municipal grants-in-lieu has even put our towns and cities in a position to (unwillingly) embrace the provincial government’s version of “trickle down” austerity. This is by design. But we must not ignore the government’s intent to allow for the partial privatization of Crown corporations, which have for generations functioned as important social and economic institutions in our province. Nowhere is the value of these enterprises felt more than in Regina. Over 6,000 local residents are employed by these publicly-owned companies, and since 2011 Crowns have contributed tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the City. Furthermore, community events across the province are made possible by corporate social responsibility initiatives these companies finance. That’s why I’m bringing a motion to City Council on April 24 that would affirm the value of our Crowns and opposes attempts to privatize assets that are owned by the people of Saskatchewan. 

More information:

1. Check out the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives review of privatization in Saskatchewan under both the NDP and Saskatchewan Party governments.

2. The Mark H. Goldberg & Associates, Inc. study, "Impact of BCE/MTS Transaction on Sasktel". There is a misconception that this risk assessment advocated for the privatization of Sasktel. It didn't. Instead, it reviews the regulatory and market-based challenges and opportunities associated with the erosion of telecommunications competition in Western Canada. The report also highlights Sasktel's incredible customer service track record, provincial market share, dividend returns, investment in infrastructure, how the Crown can maintain its competitive edge, revenues, coverage, among other issues.

3. Here is Sasktel's response to the Goldberg & Associates, Inc. study. It recognizes the challenges ahead for the publicly owned telecommunications company, but also the fact that Sasktel has managed to weather these storms with tremendous success. Consider that the Crown went from telegraph to telephone, cable, fibre optics, internet, wireless, and cable telephone over the course of a century and in the face of competition from massive telecomm giants. The following quote from the response is illustrative of the Crown's importance for Saskatchewan. What other (private) telecommunications company has a mandate to service the needs of customers and public policy objectives? This is why a publicly-owned telecom is so important.

"SaskTel is constantly balancing the need for long-term profits and dividends with our public policy mandate to provide Saskatchewan businesses and consumers with the types of quality services and coverage that they are demanding and that the economy requires."

4. Website of the Crown Investments Corporation.

5. The CCPA's "MTS - Privatization 10 years on".

6. Dr. Simon Enoch's assessment of Sasktel v. MTS in "A Tale of Two Telecomms".

7. CIC's 2015-2016 Annual Report.

8. SaskPower and renewable energy targets. With this Crown corporation, renewable energy targets can be a matter of public policy, not just market demand.

My motion:

WHEREAS large Crown Corporations like SaskTel, SaskPower, SGI, and SaskEnergy are headquartered in Regina; and

WHEREAS these and other Crown Corporations directly employ over 10,000 people in the province; and

WHEREAS over half of all Crown Corporation employees, or approximately 6,600 workers, are employed in Regina; and

WHEREAS Crown Corporations, like SaskTel, are important financial contributors to community events and organizations throughout the province; and

WHEREAS Crown Corporations offers high quality and affordable telecommunications services and infrastructure, automobile insurance, power, and energy services for public and private sector employers in Regina; and

WHEREAS SaskTel alone returned, on average, $82.99 million in dividends per year to the public treasury between 2001 and 2015; and

WHEREAS the Crown Corporations returned approximately $102 million in revenue to the City of Regina as grants in-lieu of property taxes between 2011 and 2015;

WHEREAS the complete or partial privatization of Crown Corporations could jeopardize these benefits for the residents of Regina and the province.

THEREFORE be it resolved that:

1. City Council rejects calls by the provincial government to privatize any portion of Saskatchewan’s Crown Corporations.

2. City Council affirms the economic benefit of wholly-publicly owned Crown Corporations for the City of Regina.

3. The outcome of this motion be communicated to the Ministers responsible for the respective Crown Corporations by letter from Mayor Fougere on behalf of City Council.

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Stevens

Councillor Ward 3