On Campus

Student unions fret over potash deal

BHP takeover could cost the Sask treasury as much as $6 billion

I wouldn’t think that the pending takeover of Potash Corporation by BHP Billiton would peak the interest of student union representatives, but apparently when they’re riled up everything becomes a post-secondary education funding issue

Student leaders at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina  are asking students to support Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s vehement opposition of the takeover. Wall is currently lobbying the federal government to stop the $36.8 billion deal that would see Potash Corp handed over to BHP.

The student’s concerns stem from the hit the Saskatchewan treasury stands to take, at at estimated $2 – 6 billion over the next decade, if the deal goes through. According to a report from the Conference Board of Canada, the deal could mean a near $200 million loss in revenue per year over 10 years, considering BHP will likely take advantage of their more favorable tax benefits as a US company.

The students are nervous about the affects that less revenue for the province could have on the generous amount of funding Saskatchewan universities have received over the past few years from the provincial government.

Both unions have sent letters to federal industry minister Tony Clement, asking him to support Wall’s efforts.

Although Potash Corp. has also been very generous in their donations to the U of S, university administrators are not taking sides on the issue of the potential takeover, despite the awkwardly timed pep rally organized by the university held on Friday at the U of S to recognize the substantial donations from Potash Corp that exceeded the $10 million mark in 2005, according to the Star Phoenix:

“I would hope that it does not look like we’re taking a stance on that,” said Heather Magotiaux, vice-president of university advancement.

“We’re certainly not in a position to make any kind of comment on what’s happening in terms of the business of potash.”

While Potash Corp is indirectly a very important contributor to the financial well being of universities in Saskatchewan, and employs hundreds if not thousands of students after graduation, I find it funny that student union leaders would take such a strong stance against the hostile U.S. takeover of the company because it may mean a potential hit to provincial funding for post secondary education.

These students should be more concerned by the fact that their universities’ financial stability has to indirectly rely on the well being of a private company by relying so heavily on the well being of the province’s budget. I would think that after universities everywhere were hit hard this year by slashes in government spending due to the economic recession, student unions would loosen their loyalty to the idea that public funding is alway the answer to all of higher education’s problems. Apparently not.