Minister reviewing use of 660 Sask. government-owned buildings

The Minister of Central Services says he's reviewing 660 government-owned buildings in 150 communities to see if they are being used and whether they could be sold.

Province sold a Prince Albert building to the U of S for $8.125M last week

The Forest Centre in the heart of Prince Albert was sold by the province to the University of Saskatchewan on Thursday for $8.125 million. (Google Street View)

Saskatchewan's Minister of Central Services says he's reviewing 660 government-owned buildings in 150 communities to see if they are being used and whether they could be sold.

"We're not ideologically bent on selling everything but just to take a look at it and make sure we're using taxpayers dollars in the most judicious way," said Ken Cheveldayoff.

The buildings do not include schools and hospitals. 

Cheveldayoff told SARM delegates last week that 660 was "too many".

The total vacancy rate of those 660 buildings is roughly 3.64 per cent, but some individual examples are much higher. The government said the provincial office building in Melville will be 70 per cent vacant as of Mar. 31.

Cheveldayoff called the Melville building an anomaly and said "those are the ones we want to take a look at and see if they can be better used by the private sector."

Taxpayers lose $4.5M in recent building sale

One example Cheveldayoff cited is the sale Thursday of The Forest Centre in Prince Albert to the University of Saskatchewan. The school plans to renovate the two-story, 110,000–square foot building, expecting it to be fully operational in 2020. Existing tenants will remain in the building.

The centre opened in 2005 at a cost of $12.7 million — $11.7 million from the province and another $1 million from the federal government — and had been up for sale as recently as 2015. The province sold it to the University of Saskatchewan for $8.125 million on Thursday. 

"I look forward to seeing the opening of this revamped facility and the opportunities it will provide to future students, not only in Prince Albert but for all students in the north," said Joe Hargrave, the Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation, which controlled the building until its sale.

NDP defended forest centre project in 2003

The Forest Centre project caused some controversy when it was proposed 15 years ago. A government consultant raised concerns before construction began in 2003, stating:

  • The focus of the project is too narrow;
  • The purpose for the new building is unclear;
  • The project is premature, and;
  • There is no participation from the Aboriginal community.

At the time the NDP Industry Minister Eric Cline said he was "proud of this project". 

"This is a good news story and only the doomers and gloomers over there would oppose it," Cline said in May 2003.

The Saskatchewan Party critic on the file Daryl Wiberg initially spoke out in opposition of the project in May 2003 but party leader Elwin Hermanson said those comments were not consistent with the party position. 

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca