When PotashCorp and Agrium mergered at the start of January, then Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he was cautiously optimistic about the fertilizer company’s presence in the province.
“I just think the province needs to make sure they are on top of this file going forward,” Wall said on Jan. 4.
Fast forward to November, and NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon raised questions in the legislature about Nutrien being on track to have only one member of the board of directors living in the province.
“How did the premier let this happen and what’s the premier going to do to fix this?” Wotherspoon asked Monday.
Premier Scott Moe said that he shares the Opposition’s concerns and will be meeting with the board chair of Nutrien in the “near future.” The goal of the meeting is to get an update on current operations and intended operations into the future.
“We expect the board of Nutrien will abide by the legislation here in the province of Saskatchewan,” Moe said.
1994 legislation governing PotashCorp, and any future amalgamations like Nutiren, says that head office functions must be carried out in Saskatchewan by the CEO, chief financial officer and all other senior executives.
WATCH BELOW: Two largest potash companies in Saskatchewan merge into Nutrien
Nutrien’s website does list the Saskatoon office as its registered head office. Other corporate offices are stationed in Calgary, Colorado and Illinois.
Moe said he expects Nurtien to abide by existing legislation, if not there are “a number of options” the government can look at.
With Nutrien being a major employer in the province and potash being a significant economic driver, Moe said he wants to ensure the province and company have a positive relationship.
“At this point in time we are going to work with the board chair. We’ve asked him to report to us exactly what their operations are and what the intent of those operations is to be,” Moe said.
“If we decide that we see there may be some contravention to the act we’ll discuss those opportunities at that point.”
When asked whether or not he thought Nutrien was violating existing legislation, Moe said that he is going to ask the board chair at their meeting.
A Nutrien spokesperson said that will be discussed at the upcoming meeting, but the company can’t speculate on what was discussed as PotashCorp before the merger.
The spokesperson added Nutrien CEO Chuck Magro and other senior leadership are still in the process of setting a meeting date with Moe. The spokesperson added they want this meeting to happen sooner rather than later, noting it is a priority for all parties.
“We want the premier to be very clear on what the requirements are and to be willing to communicate that. We haven’t seen him willing to do that,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.
“It only sounds like he’s asking nicely for Nutrien to clean up their act, which is all very fine but there are responsibilities and those responsibilities need to be followed.”
In response to Nutrien saying they won’t speculate on laws governing PotashCorp prior to the merger, Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison said the province continues to have regular contact with Nutrien management – as recently as Tuesday morning.
“We’re going to work with them on all of these matters. The reality is we’ve seen an increase in the number of head office jobs from Nutrien,” Harrison said.
“We have concerns around the senior leadership level, and work with the leadership in a collaborative way as we go forward.”
Harrison added they expect the law will be adhered to, and work with the company to ensure that it is.
Company commitments at merger
The location of Nutrien’s head office in Saskatchewan was one of five commitments made to the province in the merger.
Others commitments include about 4,500 of the company’s 20,000 employees be located in the province, Saskatchewan corporate offices increased by 15 per cent to around 300, the CEO and/or executive chair live and work in the province, and two business functions relocate to Saskatchewan.
According to Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison, staffing at the Saskatoon office has grown from 260 employees to 335 since the merger.
Nutrien operates six of 10 potash mines in the province.
The Nutrien spokesperson confirmed that Magro lives in Calgary.
Nutrien is eligible to receive a tax benefit for having their corporate office in Saskatoon. The corporate office allowance is part of the potash production tax, which allows companies up to $25,000 for existing leadership positions in the province.
New executive positions are eligible for an up to $100,000 deduction for the first five years of the job.
For privacy reasons, a provincial spokesperson said they cannot reveal how much Nutiren claims in tax exemptions. The spokesperson added the potash industry pays hundreds of millions to the province each year in royalties.
Harrison said that many other jurisdictions offer similar incentives to attract and retain head office jobs, adding that Saskatchewan needs to remain competitive.
When asked about the number of incentives being granted to Nutrien, Harrison said that he will consult with Energy and Resource Minister Bronwyn Eyre.
With files from Rebekah Lesko