Privacy report shows SaskTel sale closer than previously thought: NDP | Regina Leader-Post
The NDP contends newly-released information by the province’s privacy commissioner hints that the Saskatchewan Party government was further along in plans to sell SaskTel than they had let on.
However, the province released a statement Friday reassuring residents of its commitment to keeping Crown corporations public.
“Premier Moe has been clear that our government has no intention of privatizing Saskatchewan’s crown corporations, including SaskTel,” said the statement.
The NDP’s allegations stem from a freedom of information request submitted to SaskTel for any documents referencing any offers or purchases of equity stakes in SaskTel from May 1, to Aug. 18, 2017.
“We’ve learned … that the plans … around the sell off of our crown jewel, SaskTel, were much further advanced and way further down the road than they ever, ever pretended,” NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon told reporters Friday. “They had actual proposals that were going back and forth with two potential buyers.”
The request was made by the NDP in August two years ago. On Jan. 16, 2018 SaskTel released two partially-redacted emails and withheld 12 records in their entirety, arguing that the records were either out of the scope of the request or contained commercial information.
The NDP appealed the decision and a review report was released this week by the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner recommending some but not all of the remaining records be released.
The records yet to be released include a mutual non-disclosure agreement and a joint defence privileged agreement between SaskTel and a third party, multiple slide decks by SaskTel and two third parties that include handwritten notes as well as additional information from the redacted emails.
According to the report, concerns over commercially sensitive documents related to third-party information, including the identity of the parties, as well as SaskTel information included on the slide decks were reasons given by all parties to deny the release of certain documents.
The content of some of the deck slides contain information related to the buying, selling or exchange of goods and services, said Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski, who recommended SaskTel continue to withhold certain records in part or in their entirety.
Wotherspoon blasted the Sask. Party during a news conference for allegedly sharing SaskTel’s commercial information with “competitors” that could expose SaskTel to potential harm.
“When it comes to the actual release of private, commercially sensitive information to a competitor, this government needs to be held to account,” he said.
Don Healy /
According to the report, SaskTel indicated that there were active negotiations going on between the Crown corporation and the two third parties.
In the body of one of the emails, which was released to the NDP, it was indicated that a proposal was being sent to SaskTel. Other information like the name of the sender, a portion of the subject field, and the name of the recipient was redacted.
SaskTel also indicated that a cabinet committee on crown structure was set up to oversee the potential sale of up to 50 per cent of crown corporations by the premier on March 1, 2017.
But in November 2017, the Saskatchewan government announced they were repealing Bill 40, legislation previously introduced that would allow for the sale of a partial equity positions of a Crown corporation.
“While there was a period in 2017 where a minority equity sale of SaskTel was considered, which was publicly communicated at the time, our government made the decision to maintain full public ownership of the crown corporation,” said a written statement from the Government of Saskatchewan issued Friday. “Premier Moe has been clear that our government has no intention of privatizing Saskatchewan’s crown corporations.”
In contrast, according to the privacy commissioner’s report, SaskTel’s submission indicated the sale of the crown corporation has been a topic for several decades and it is possible it could be considered again in the future.
It argued that the disclosure of the records could “easily impact future negotiations.”
“While it remains a possibility that a Crown corporation like SaskTel could be considered for sale again, the possibility of a sale is not enough to suggest that negotiations of SaskTel is foreseeable,” said the report.
It was an argument that didn’t sit well with the NDP.
“They were justifying withholding this information because it might compromise future sell-off conversations, which just blows my mind again,” said Wotherspoon.
Recommendations from the information and privacy commissioner are not binding, but the NDP plans to put pressure on the Saskatchewan Party to fall in line, hopefully revealing more details about the proposals in question and what third parties were involved.
“I think Saskatchewan people are owed that information,” said Wotherspoon. “These are their crown corporations.”
In the meantime, the Saskatchewan government says they will continue working together to strengthen Saskatchewan, which includes the services that the province’s Crown corporations provide.
“It is disappointing that the NDP would resort to the same old misinformation and fear tactics that were squarely rejected by the people of Saskatchewan when the NDP made similar allegations in the 2007, 2011, and 2016 provincial elections,” said the province’s written statement.
This content was originally published here.