The provincial NDP believes the Saskatchewan Party is again floating the idea of more public sell-offs based on comments from the minister of central services.
At the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) spring convention in Regina on Friday, Ken Cheveldayoff said when he first became minister he found out how there are 660 government buildings across Saskatchewan. He said he thinks that’s too many.
“I’m asking you if you see a government building in your community that you think can be better run by the private sector, let us know and we’re certainly open to doing that,” he said to hundreds of SARM delegates.
Cheveldayoff said they are looking for ways to be more efficient, asking how they can use technology and reduce the footprint of government in order to save money for things like healthcare, education and social services.
The opposition thinks this indicates the province’s plans to sell are far from over.
“Whether it’s refusing to scrap all of Bill 40 – their proposed law to let them sell off our Crowns without asking the owners, the people of Saskatchewan, – selling off STC and our grain cars, or having meetings to sell SGI and SaskTel, it’s clear that the Sask. Party has an itch to put everything that isn’t bolted to the ground on auction block,” said NDP Deputy Leader Carla Beck in a news release. “They already called in the auctioneers for the STC and now want to go for more. Next thing you know, the Minister will be posting public buildings on Kijiji.”
Premier Scott Moe defended Cheveldayoff, saying the central services minister was alluding to some buildings that they own that have low rental rates and aren’t being utilized to the capability they could be. Moe said in those cases, it’s not good for the community or the bottom line of the building’s owner, which is the provincial government or ultimately the people of the province.
“He is looking at those buildings that are under-utilized and if they’re not in the core services of the operations of the provincial government or the services that people expect of their provincial government, we won’t hesitate to have a look at either selling those or leasing them out to someone else,” said Moe.
The premier used Prince Albert as an example. He said the forestry centre there had the University of Saskatchewan move some of its classes there, which he said will help revitalize the downtown of that city and give students a new and better learning environment.
The NDP called it “incredibly reckless and deeply concerning” for a government minister to have stood in front of community leaders from across the province inviting bids on every public building.
“It’s clear that they have no plan except to sell whatever they can to cover up for their own bad management,” Beck said. “They either don’t understand or don’t care about the impact that these sell-offs will have on the communities they’re in, the people who work there, and on our whole province’s economy.”