Coffee row has been lit up over the last couple days after Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall mused about the sale of vital crown corporation, SaskTel to make a one-time payment that would (temporarily?) eliminate our provincial operating debt.
There are numerous reasons this is a seriously bad idea:
- As the graphic above shows, SaskTel helps to keep prices incredibly low for cell phone users compared to those in other provinces (even for those who aren’t SaskTel customers since Rogers and Telus must compete with SaskTel in Saskatchewan)
- SaskTel returns over $100 million in profits to government coffers each year
- SaskTel is a major sponsor of numerous cultural, sporting and charitable events across the province each year.
- SaskTel helps ensure good coverage for rural areas compared to private corporations who focus their coverage on the most lucrative areas (eg. cities)
But the single best framing of the argument against the sale of SaskTel was provided by a Reddit user who points out that selling SaskTel would be like Brad Wall imposing a new tax on the people of Saskatchewan (and who hates taxes more than Sask Party supporters?)
The argument goes like this – right now, if you pay $65/month for a cell plan and SaskTel is sold to a private corporation like Bell or Telus, your cell phone would likely soon be quite a bit higher (like it is everywhere else in the country where there are only private companies.)
The national average for a cell plan is $107 so that’s ~$40 more than you’re paying now under SaskTel. If you have a spouse and possibly one or two kids with cell plans as well, you could be looking at $80 to $160+/month in additional utility costs every single month.
And why is this a tax when it’s something you pay to a utility company? Ultimately, this would be the government forcing you to pay more money to help pay for their deficits and fiscal mismanagement, no different than if they raised the PST to cover government debts.
And the worst part? Selling SaskTel is a one-time cash infusion but leaves Saskatchewan without an ongoing, profit-generated asset which is vital, especially as there is no guarantee that we will return to the boom times of recent years anytime soon.
We live in an incredibly politically polarized time where people tend to think in terms of “my team” and “their team” and right now, there’s no doubt that the majority of people in the province are on Team Sask Party. But I’ve got lots of conservative friends who surprise me when they share memes about Bernie Sanders or in support of the gay people in their lives or when they express doubts about some of the numerous recent Sask Party scandals.
Hopefully, should this ever become more than musing, those people will all realise what an amazing deal SaskTel is for the province, paying hundreds of dollars more a month for cell service so CEO’s in Toronto and Calgary can get richer is a bad idea, and they should tell Brad Wall to keep SaskTel as a Crown Corporation.