SaskTel minister confirms he’s spoken with a communications company about a minority SaskTel sale

Click to play video 'Bill 40 passes in Saskatchewan' Bill 40 passes in Saskatchewan
WATCH ABOVE: The controversial Bill 40 received royal assent yesterday and is now law. Provincial affairs reporter David Baxter looks into corporate interest surrounding the Crown – Apr 28, 2017

Dustin Duncan, the Minister responsible for SaskTel, confirmed that he has talked to a large Canadian communications company about Bill 40, which allows private investors to buy up to a 49 per cent stake in a Crown corporation.

This discussion came following an “introductory meeting” between Duncan’s chief of staff and the unnamed company.

“I wasn’t in the meeting, but I arrived back at the office before they did leave, so I introduced myself as well and had a brief discussion about Bill 40,” Duncan said.

“They did not raise Bill 40 in the meeting with him. I raised it with them.”

This announcement came after SaskTel critic Warren McCall raised concern over Duncan’s statement that SaskTel was not preparing for a potential minority sale at a committee meeting, but later corrected that statement in a letter.

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READ MORE: Sask. government passes Bill 40, allows for up to 49 per cent sale of Crown corporations

The Crown corporation is in the early phases of looking into the federal tax implications of a minority sale.

“One of those is that if you sell off more than 10 per cent, it opens up the different Crowns to as much as 15 per cent of federal income tax,” McCall said.

SaskTel CEO Ron Styles was also present at the committee meeting. Duncan said he should have sought clarification before speaking.

The minister said no offer has be made on a minority stake of SaskTel. He defended Bill 40, saying establishing partnerships will help keep SaskTel competitive.

“It wouldn’t really be about selling equity in SaskTel for SaskTel to remain the same size that they are. This is really about looking to grow the company,” Duncan said.

“They can do partnerships as it is. This isn’t about partnerships. This is about selling up to 49 per cent of SaskTel,” McCall argued.

Premier Brad Wall addressed Bill 40 following a Saskatchewan Party fundraiser in Saskatoon on Thursday night. He said it’s not about privatization but forging new partnerships.

“Absolutely, unsolicited inquiries have been made. There’s no offer. There’s no offer, nothing like that,” Wall said.

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“But companies have simply come forward to say ‘What does that mean? Is there a potential for partnership?’ Absolutely that’s happened. It’s just very, very generic and preliminary in nature and there’s been no offer.”

The Saskatchewan government voted in favour of Bill 40 on Wednesday. It received royal assent Thursday.