The provincial government has confirmed that 11 private companies have expressed interest in buying a stake in Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI).
In committee, Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, confirmed “high-level discussions” have taken place.
But Premier Brad Wall said meetings Hargrave recently attended in Toronto were not related to the future of the Crown-owned insurer.
Wall says the meetings were in Hargrave’s role as Crown Investments Corporation minister and are held regularly.
Hargrave maintained in the legislature Thursday that those interested companies are only looking at SGI Canada, the commercial entity of the Crown.
That means the auto fund and vehicles insurance rates would remain unaffected by any potential sale.
“It is just about SGI Canada, the auto fund, its mandate is to not achieve a profit, so this is just about SGI Canada,” Hargrave told reporters.
Hargrave argued it is worth considering such opportunities because SGI Canada doesn’t currently offer all insurance policies and a partnership would increase the choices it can offer consumers.
The issue of Crown ownership has become a hot political topic during debates at the legislature.
In an exchange during question period Wednesday, Wall confirmed no official offer is on the table but he said he believes such partnerships may help strengthen Crowns.
“We will keep control of the Crowns but we ought to be open to strengthening them with partnerships the kinds of which Premier Romanow advocated in 2000,” Wall argued.
But the NDP’s Warren McCall questioned whether the government is even in a position to move forward with this issue.
“Point to where in the previous three elections, where the premier takes the mandate from to sell off SaskTel, SGI or pick your Crown,” McCall said.
The government recently passed legislation to allow for the sale of up to 49 per cent of a Crown.
Saskatoon residents split on privatization of crowns
In Saskatoon, we asked people whether they thought selling 49 per cent of Sasktel, Sask Power, or SGI is privatization, or not.
“They should sell all the crowns,” Pat Brosteaux said, “It’s less burden on the taxpayer to accommodate them because they won’t have wages or buildings to maintain and still get tax dollars.”
Evan Todd-McCoy said it’s certainly privatization.
“It’s 49 per cent now, but in five to 10 years the whole crown will be sold,” he said. “It’s no secret either because this has been the governments plan the whole time.”
Christine Todd said the government is letting everybody down by not putting it to a vote.
“I’m really upset they want to sell off our crowns because we will pay more in the long run,” she said.