The leader of the Saskatchewan Party, Brad Wall, says he would like the Global Transportation Hub to release the privately procured appraisal which prompted the government to pay Regina land developers $103,000 an acre for land on the west side of Regina.
"I hope the appraisal comes out. I think there's no reason that it can't," Wall said Thursday in Moose Jaw while out on the campaign trail.
In February, CBC's iTeam broke the story that in back in 2014 the government paid a company owned by Anthony Marquart and Harold Rotstien $103,000 an acre for their land even though the Ministry of Highways appraisal said the land was worth $30,000 to $35,000 an acre and the GTH's appraisal said the property was worth $51,000 to $65,000.
When CBC asked Bill Boyd, the minister responsible for the GTH and chair of its board, why the Crown corporation paid so much more than government appraisals indicated he said that's because Marquart and Rotstien had an appraisal of their own, which said the land was worth about $125,000 an acre.
"We felt this was an important piece of property," Boyd said. "We had appraisals at a lower amount, we had appraisals at a higher amount and we came in somewhere in between."
$125,000 appraisal has not been publicly released
The government released the GTH and ministry appraisals to CBC but it did not release Marquart and Rotstien's $125,000 appraisal.
When asked why, a government spokesperson wrote: "We didn't have formal approval from Marquart and Rotstien. And we did not have approval from the appraiser."
Just this week, the NDP revealed that it had been denied access to the report when it filed an access to information request to the GTH.
In a news release, the NDP's Cam Broten accused Wall of hiding the appraisal and said "if that document wasn't devastating to his case, he'd release it."
Wall told the media the GTH denied the request "for good reason, for legal reasons. They can't release it without the permission of the owner, the seller and the appraiser."
Despite that, Wall said "what we can do is encourage the GTH to have another look and to reach out the appraiser and reach out to the seller and get their permission to release it."
"I'd like this appraisal out there — their appraisal shows $129,000 an acre. GTH paid $103,000," Wall said.
Wall is now saying the appraisal says the land was worth $129,000 an acre, rather than the $125,000 an acre that Boyd told CBC. A government spokesperson confirmed the number is likely closer to $129,000 an acre and said Boyd may have been slightly off because he was going from memory.
Regina landowner sues government, alleging unfair treatment
Wall was also asked by reporters about a lawsuit that was recently launched against the government over the GTH land deal. He said he couldn't speak about it directly because it's before the courts.
A Regina landowner whose former property is at the centre of the controversy is alleging that when the Ministry of Highways bought some of her land under threat of expropriation, it lowballed the property's true value.
Ruth Eisworth of McNally Enterprises says the government paid between $9,000 and $11,000 an acre for her land even though she had an appraisal that said the property was worth $38,000.
In her statement of claim, Eisworth says the ministry threatened to report the appraiser for incompetence.
Yet she notes just a few years later the government-owned GTH paid Marquart and Rotstien $103,000 an acre for land from the same quarter section, in part because the businessmen had an appraisal that said the land was worth $125,000 an acre.
"It just seems like there's a double standard from what we were told and now what they are saying to the press to justify why [the GTH] paid $103,000 an acre," Eisworth said.
None of Eisworth's claims have been proven in court. The government hasn't filed its statement of defence yet.
Negotiating with landowners 'standard operating procedure': Wall
When asked, Wall said the sort of negotiating that the government did with Marquart and Rotstien's company is "standard operating procedure often when there's a land transaction involving government."
'If what they're saying now is that this is the proper way that people should be treated then we should have been treated the same.' - Ruth Eisworth, McNally Enterprises
"They provide their appraisal, the government does its own appraisal and somewhere in the middle, it won't necessarily be the median or the middle point but somewhere in that range, there's an agreement."
Eisworth said that was not her experience.
"The didn't consider ours [appraisal] and saw off between the two. All they did was discredit our appraiser."
Eisworth says she launched the lawsuit because she wants equal treatment.
"If what they're saying now is that this is the proper way that people should be treated then we should have been treated the same."