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.
“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.
The Opposition NDP characterize this move as a continued Saskatchewan party push to sell-off public assets.
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 That aspect has since been repealed.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.
“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.