Premier says he doesn't recall many details of meeting with former MLA Bill Boyd over irrigation project

The opposition NDP wants to know details about Premier Scott Moe’s meeting with former MLA Bill Boyd about Boyd’s illegal irrigation project.

NDP leader calls Premier Moe's lack of recollection 'really strange'

Premier Scott Moe says it's not uncommon to discuss matters informally with MLAs over personal projects. (CBC)

The opposition NDP wants to know details about Premier Scott Moe's meeting with former MLA Bill Boyd about Boyd's illegal irrigation project.

But Moe says he does not remember where the meeting happened, when it happened, who else was there and how it came about in the first place.

NDP leader Ryan Meili said Tuesday he had a problem with the lack of detail.

"It's really strange. That's something that to me would be the kind of meeting you would take extreme diligence to make sure that there was no hint or possibility of a hint of any influence or wrongdoing," Meili said.

"Especially when you're talking about a meeting with Bill Boyd and his history."

NDP leader Ryan Meili is looking for specifics regarding Premier Moe's 2017 meeting with retired MLA Bill Boyd. (CBC)

Last August, Premier Brad Wall booted Bill Boyd from caucus after the retiring MLA was found to be in conflict of interest through his involvement in an immigration-irrigation scheme.

The NDP spent the majority of question period Tuesday afternoon quizzing the premier on the topic.

Last month, Moe said that Boyd came to him and showed him plans for his irrigation project in 2017. At the time, Moe was the minister of environment and the minister responsible for the Water Security Agency.

"I had a look at his plans I advised him to get in touch with the Water Security Agency, agriculture, whoever he needed to for an irrigation project," Moe said to reporters following question period.

Moe was asked if the meeting was in his office at the legislature.

"I don't think so. I can't remember where it was. I don't think it was in there though," he said.

When asked who else was in the meeting, Moe said "I don't recall." He repeated the answer when asked if anyone else was present. When asked if there was a record of the meeting he said he didn't know.

"He had some questions on what permits he would get and I did say get in touch with the Water Security Agency."

Moe said he considered the meeting informal and not out of the ordinary in practice.

"I don't know if I had staff at the meeting or not. It's not uncommon to have meetings that are, I suppose, not officially set up."

Meili said typically, staff would attend meetings to take notes at the very least.

"He should be able to remember where did it happen, was he on his own or were others there or were notes taken," Meili said.

Meeting during 2017 spring session, Moe says

In August 2017 CBC News revealed that Boyd, a former cabinet minister, was the keynote speaker at a March 2017 seminar in Beijing, offering Chinese nationals a chance at immigration in exchange for investment in a firm in which Boyd was directly involved: Modern Hi-Efficiency Agriculture Corporation. Boyd told CBC he was the company's chairman.

Boyd told the crowd that in exchange for a $300,000 investment, Modern Hi-Efficiency would form a partnership with the investor and together they would purchase irrigation equipment.

The company claimed this partnership may qualify the Chinese investor for permanent residence in Canada under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, which Boyd oversaw as minister of the economy until he resigned last August.

The conflict of interest commissioner found that Boyd used his connection to the Saskatchewan government for his own personal benefit.

Moe was asked if his meeting with Boyd came before Boyd's trip to China. Moe said he learned about the trip in the media in August and that the meeting took place during the spring session.

Moe also said it came before a June 5 meeting between himself and deputy minister to the premier Alanna Koch and other senior officials, which was prompted when land adjacent to Boyd's was found to be in contravention of the Wildlife Protection Act.

In April, Boyd was fined a total of $35,000 in relation to two charges laid in 2017. One involved illegally cultivating about six acres of protected grasslands and the other involved building irrigation infrastructure into a river without obtaining the proper licensing permits.

Meili said details about when the meeting took place and what the Premier knew about Boyd's project are important.

"Did it happen before Boyd went off to China pitching this project as part of an immigration scheme? Did it happen after when he'd already done that?" Meili said.

"All of those details I think really matter to understand just what Moe's due diligence would have been at that time, what he should have been asking and whether or not this should cause us even more concern about how this project still managed to go forward despite all of the red flags along the way."

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

with files from Geoff Leo