Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor will be investigating a land deal made by the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
Premier Brad Wall made the order-in-council on Monday, providing the specific details to the media:
“On the recommendation of the undersigned, the Lieutenant Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, orders that the Lieutenant Governor in Council hereby requests that the Provincial Auditor perform a special assignment that examines whether the Government of Saskatchewan followed appropriate procedures and received appropriate value with respect to the acquisition by The Global Transportation Hub of the NW 20-17-20 W2 Extension 1 totaling 116.86 acres (or 47.31 hectares) and the SW 20-17-20 W2 Extension 1totaling 87.40 acres (or 35.38 hectares) including examination of any transaction leading up to and following the said acquisition.”
Wall has repeatedly stated he welcomed any review by the auditor, Judy Ferguson, but up until now, that would have been a part of her usual reporting timetable this fall. Now a report will be released long before that.
“I am confident that all the appropriate processes were followed. However, in order to ensure public confidence that everything was done correctly, I am asking the Provincial Auditor to review this transaction. Our government will cooperate fully with this review and I look forward to the Provincial Auditor’s findings,” said Wall in a written statement.
There is currently no timeline for the report to be finished. NDP leader Cam Broten is accusing the premier of trying to keep the investigation secret until after the election in April.
In a news release, the NDP said Wall made the request to pre-empt a more detailed order from the Public Accounts Committee.
“Mr. Wall told us he intends to keep his budget plans a secret until after the April election, and now he wants to keep the investigation into his sketchy land deal a secret until then, too,” wrote Broten in the release.
Broten is still calling for the Public Accounts Committee to convene. The NDP wants to table a motion so as much of the auditor’s investigation as possible is released to the public before voters go to the polls.
“Mr. Wall’s cabinet reviewed this deal and approved it, and Mr. Wall personally signed the order to hand over $21 million for land worth just a fraction of that,” said Broten earlier in the day. “He has to answer for wasting millions like that – especially at a time when he’s spent the province into deficit and is making cuts to health care and in schools.”
Last year, the province had the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) buy 204 acres of land west of Regina to be used for the hub and for the Regina bypass. The land changed hands three times until the GTH bought it for $103,000 per acre, which added up to about $21 million in total. The price was quite a bit more than the $9,000 to $23,000 nearby land was being sold for, and the $35,000 the NDP says the government had the land appraised for.