Sask. government denies 'secret meeting' with city over GTH sale

The minister responsible for the Global Transportation Hub has denied the government had a meeting with the City of Regina over a deal for the authority.

NDP critic calls Global Transportation Hub an 'albatross'

Minister responsible for the Global Transportation Hub Don Morgan says there have been no formal or informal discussions between the province and City of Regina on the GTH. (CBC)

The minister responsible for the Global Transportation Hub has denied the government had a meeting with the City of Regina over a deal for the authority.

For the past two days, the NDP has questioned whether the province held meetings over the weekend with city representatives.

On Wednesday, NDP MLA Cathy Sproule asked if the government met with the city at a hotel in Regina.

The government denied that. So Sproule asked again on Thursday.

"Has there been a meeting of some kind at some level, formal or informal, on a plane, in a train, in a box, with a fox?"

Don Morgan, the minister responsible for the GTH, did not quote Dr. Seuss but offered a categorical denial.

"There was no meeting. Nothing happened, there is no discussion with the City of Regina, full stop," Morgan said on Thursday in question period.

Prior to the exchange, Saskatchewan Party MLA Nancy Heppner read a member's statement which denied a "secret meeting" and asked Sproule to apologize for "her outrageous accusations."

GTH an 'albatross': NDP

The NDP also took aim at the financial woes of the GTH, which at last count was $37 million in debt and had not sold land in the last 24 months.

Morgan said 700 of 1,800 acres have been sold. He said there are currently 860 people working within the inland port west of Regina.

Sproule said if the province repeals the act that created the GTH, it would become Regina land.

"I think the people that are most concerned about that would be the citizens of the city of Regina, because you would hand them an albatross," said Sproule.

Morgan said 700 of 1,800 GTH acres have been sold. He said there are currently 860 people working within the inland port west of Regina. (CBC)

She said because of shared agreements between the city and the GTH, "it's safe to assume those discussions are ongoing."

On Dec. 13, 2017, the City of Regina approved an executive committee report regarding the servicing agreement between the city and the Global Transportation Hub Authority.

Agreements between the two sides cover a number of areas including, fire protection, drainage and taxation.

Government releases statement

Minister Morgan was not made available to reporters after question period but the government provided a statement.

"As Minister Morgan and Mayor Fougere both stated on Mar. 21, 2018, there have been no formal or informal meetings involving officials from either the province or the City of Regina with respect to the sale of the Global Transportation Hub," the statement said.

"As Minister Morgan has also stated previously, this topic has not been discussed at a caucus or cabinet level. Minister Morgan stated that again today in question period in response to the Opposition's insinuations that such a meeting has occurred."

On Wednesday, Morgan said he was new to the portfolio and is asking questions of former ministers who have had the file, of which there are two in cabinet.

Morgan said he also discussed the GTH with its chairperson of the board, Doug Moen, who previously worked as deputy to premier Brad Wall from 2009 to 2016. He said they did not discuss a sale.

4 ministers on GTH file in 2 years

In the assembly on Thursday, Sproule called the GTH a "multimillion-dollar pipe dream of Bill Boyd."

Boyd was the minister responsible for the GTH from 2010 until he asked out of cabinet in August 2016. He was replaced as by Jeremy Harrison, who held the file for a year.

Harrison announced a bid for leadership of the Saskatchewan Party in August 2017. At his first major platform announcement, he said he would sell the government's stake in the GTH if he were chosen as leader.

"As far as divesting the GTH, I believe that this is the right path forward," Harrison said on Aug. 24.

"We should have never been in this business in the first place. If this was a project that could have had economic merit on its own, then the private sector should have been involved in it."

Harrison pulled out of the race a week after his comments on selling the GTH and backed Scott Moe's candidacy.

Minister of Trade Jeremy Harrison was in favour of selling the GTH when he made a run for party leadership in August 2017. (CBC)

Between Aug. 30, 2017 and Feb. 1, 2018, Dustin Duncan was the minister responsible for the GTH. Morgan took over following the Feb. 2 cabinet shuffle.

During his leadership campaign, current Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff advocated for selling the GTH.

Cheveldayoff said the GTH would be "better run in the private sector" and should be sold to free up money for education and mental health care. 

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

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