Provincial Crowns, good business or monopoly
The topic of Crown Corporations in Saskatchewan is a touchy one. They have been hot button issues for both sides of the capitalist fence for a long time. Should they remain government controlled or should they be sold off to some private entity? There are also examples of the Crowns doing extremely well and extremely poor.
SaskTel, the telecommunications giant in this province (and dare I say one of the largest in North America) is a money making power house. The provincial telecommunications entity has proven its worth time and time again. In the late 90s, they faced their first union labour dispute that was cleared up quickly. This while SaskTel was making major moves to increase Internet access. At the same time, they were forced to comply with demands by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to become regulated federally (up until the late 1990′s SaskTel was the only long distance carrier not regulated by the federal body). And while even that was going on, the province opened itself up to open competition to carriers such as Sprint, AT&T, Telus and others. Even some fly by night organizations. People cried that SaskTel would die thanks to this deregulating of the monopoly. But people forgot one thing. SaskTel owned all the phone lines in the province. Anyone coming in would have to spend millions to lay their own lines, or rent existing lines from SaskTel. No matter what happened, SaskTel would never die. That has only grown in recent years, as the tele-com company has increased Internet access into rural areas, nearly tripled it’s mobility coverage since the late 90s, and added cable television access to it’s packages. The government of Saskatchewan would be extremely foolish to consider selling off a cash cow such as this.
At the other end of the spectrum sits lowly Saskatchewan Transportation Company. Hit by high fuel prices, crumbling highways and even recent events as the stabbing on a Grey Hound to shy people away. STC has been a perennial loser when it comes to making money. Many rural areas have seen service cut to them (much like here in Outlook). Local carriers have taken up the slack in many ways, and have made money doing it as they provide an essential service for the area. Just my own opinion; sell off STC to Grey Hound. Grey Hound has been in the business of transportation for years, they are a solid company, and could do well to add STC to their stable, maybe even so much as making the provincial bus company not only profitable, but viable for rural areas once again.
One other Crown that I do have problems with is the Liquor Board chain of stores controlled by the government. Does the provincial government need to control the sale of alcohol? I personally don’t think so. In Alberta and British Columbia, provincially run liquor stores were turned over to private contractors, and not only have proven profitable, but manage to bring in product in a much more timely and well stocked manner than their older provincial counter parts. The same could happen in Saskatchewan. Don’t get me wrong, if the government sold off it’s interest in liquor vending outlets, it wouldn’t mean it would turn a blind eye to it. The government still has laws in place that are the same for any business regarding the sale of alcohol. It wouldn’t change consumption, but just who sells it.
I personally think the only group that really wants such entities as transportation and liquor to remain as Crown Corporations are the unions. Don’t get me wrong, unions have their place, but it’s to ensure that employees don’t get screwed over. In today’s world, employers are a lot smarter and a lot more caring when it comes to employees than they were thirty or forty years ago.
All personal opinion aside, what’s your take? Do you think Crown Corporations should be sold off to the private sector, or should they remain in the hands of the government?
I would like to hear your take on it.