Sask. government looking to sell-off certain properties to save money

Premier Scott Moe addresses delegates at the annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention. Derek Putz/Global News

While helping answer a question on what it would take to increase funding for areas like health and education at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention, Central Services Minister Ken Cheveldayoff suggested a different way of getting more money into human services: sell off government buildings.

Cheveldayoff said there are 660 government owned buildings across the province and in his opinion that is too many. He encouraged the rural government officials in attendance to inform the government if there are buildings in their community they feel may be better used by the private sector.

This was prefaced with the past government sell-off of aircraft and vehicles, attributed to millions in savings.

The minister was not available for comment after the SARM bear pit session, but Premier Scott Moe responded to questions of potentially selling off government buildings.

“[Cheveldayoff’s] alluding to some of the buildings across the province that may have low rental rates in them, they’re not being filled, they’re not being utilized to the capability that they could be,” Moe said.
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“It isn’t good for the bottom line of the building owner, which is the people of the province. So he’s looking at those buildings that are underutilized, and if they’re not in the core services of the operations of the provincial government, or the services that people expect of the provincial government, we won’t hesitate to either have a look at selling those or leasing them out to someone else.”

The premier said this practice is already underway through the sale of former government owned liquor stores and the Forestry Centre in Prince Albert being sold to the University of Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Sask. government opens discussion on rural trespass laws and regional policing

The Opposition NDP characterize this move as a continued Saskatchewan party push to sell-off public assets.

“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 [the Saskatchewan Transportation Company] (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,” NDP deputy leader Carla Beck said.
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Bill 40 is legislation that originally would have allowed the government to sell up to 49 per cent of a Crown corporation, like SaskTel, to private partners. That aspect has since been repealed. The bill still allows the government to “wind down” Crowns, as was the case with STC.

READ MORE: Province introduces legislation to repeal provisions of Bill 40

“For a government minister to stand in front of community leaders and media from across the province and invite bids on every public building is incredibly reckless and deeply concerning. It’s clear that they have no plan except to sell whatever they can to cover up for their own bad management,” Beck said.

Beside shrinking government, both Moe and Cheveldayoff said that money put into government buildings that see little use, could be better invested into services like health and education.

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