Saskatchewan's Potash: Who Really Benefits? Report

January 27, 2011

Regina — The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Saskatchewan Office today released Exploiting Saskatchewan’s Potash: Who Benefits? by John W. Warnock. The new report considers the history of potash exploitation in the province with an eye to answering the question of whether the people of Saskatchewan are receiving the full benefit from the exploitation of this strategic natural resource.

With the recent controversy over the proposed BHP Billiton takeover bid of PotashCorp, the question of ownership of Saskatchewan’s vital natural resources are again front and centre. Warnock argues that to ensure that Saskatchewan receives the full benefit of its natural endowment, we must move to a more democratic form of resource ownership and management.

Some of the key questions and insights contained in this history of potash in Saskatchewan include:

  • Public ownership of potash was largely a success, despite current accounts that argue that privatization “rescued” PCS. Between 1978 and 1981, the return on investment ranged between 21 and 34 percent. PCS “added large sums to the provincial revenues well beyond what the mines PCS purchased would have generated through provincial taxes if they had remained in the private sector.”
  • The Devine government sabotaged the profitability of PCS, preventing the Crown from expanding its capacity and undertaking its own marketing operations.
  • The people of Saskatchewan did not get full value for their money during the initial privatization of PCS in the 1980s, with the costs of privatization exceeding the benefits by between $18 and $36 billion.
  • The Saskatchewan public believes PotashCorp to be a Canadian owned and controlled company. However, the Conference Board report commissioned by the Wall government concludes that PotashCorp is “substantially a U.S-based company.” They also describe it as “a North American corporation with Saskatchewan operations” (Conference Board, pp. 23-25).
  • PotashCorp’s gross profit margin for potash in 2009 was an astonishing 60 percent. Why should the private owners be granted a return on investment that is far higher than can be found in any other industry?
  • The average rate for royalties and taxation on potash is 10.8 percent, substantially less than the 25 percent imposed during the Blakeney era.

With potash set to become an ever-more valuable resource due to growing world population and lack of arable land, it is time for the people of Saskatchewan to have a frank and open discussion on how best to manage this resource in the future so that it benefits all the people of our province.

To speak with the author, John W. Warnock, phone: (306) 352-5282.

For more information on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Saskatchewan Office, contact Simon Enoch:

Phone: (306) 924-3372
Email: [email protected]