Future of Crowns should be debated

Residents of Saskatchewan have always been proud of the Crown corporations that this province owns, supplying many of our utilities and public services including phone and Internet service, electricity and natural gas, just to name three.
The future of these Crowns is fiercely protected by many groups and individuals, in particular Labour groups and unions (but not exclusively), so it is not really a surprise they held a town hall in Weyburn in support of keeping public ownership of the Crowns, preparing for a provincial rally on March 8 at the Legislature.
There are real benefits to having these Crown corporations, and these were spelled out at the rally, including the Crowns’ contributions to the province’s revenue stream, and the jobs which help the local economy in many small and large communities.
Not everyone is a fan of public ownership of these Crowns, of course, as the issue of privatizing some of the liquor stores in the province is showing. Many people would question whether the government should even be in the business of selling alcohol, but again this needs to be weighed against the jobs that are provided. What about the fact that in the smallest of communities, the liquor board does not have stores but locally-owned stores or hotels are licensed to sell the liquor? How is this any different than having some of the stores taken over by private owners?
What should occur is an independent and in-depth look at each of the Crowns to objectively consider all of the pros and cons: the actual monetary benefits to the government and people of Saskatchewan, the quality of the service or product provided, the jobs involved, and whether any of these can be provided by the private sector.
There are certainly examples of privatizing that shouldn’t have occurred, such as the privatizing of laundry services for all health care facilities in Saskatchewan. This service was being done in an efficient way by trained professionals, and they knew the high quality of cleaning that was needed to supply the hospitals and long-term care centres around the province. But really, this is different from selling alcoholic beverages. The government has a role in regulating them and ensuring they are sold in a legal and responsible way, but they shouldn’t have to be selling the products too.
Utilities such as electricity and natural gas properly belong to the Crowns, while other services are questionable. In the telecommunications world, there are many private carriers who provide this service, so does SaskTel need to sell it too? These are questions that need to be examined in the public arena, with everyone to have a voice in the matter. — Greg Nikkel

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