Saskatchewan

Deputy Premier backs away from campaign call for GTH inquiry following RCMP probe

During Gord Wyant's recent bid to lead the Saskatchewan Party, he promised to call a public inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub land deal whether the RCMP investigation resulted in charges or not. Now he has a different opinion.

Gord Wyant says he supports government position to move on, despite what he promised during leadership bid

During his bid for the leadership of the Saskatchewan Party Gord Wyant (seen here with Don Morgan, right) said he would hold a public inquiry on the GTH land deal no matter what the RCMP investigation concluded. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

During Gord Wyant's bid to lead the Saskatchewan Party, he promised to hold a public inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub land deal whether the RCMP investigation resulted in charges or not, in order "to shine a very, very bright light on this."

When he was running for Sask. Party leader, Gord Wyant said he supported a GTH inquiry, regardless of the outcome of the police probe. 2:18

But when asked today, he would not repeat that strident call for a detailed public review of the controversial deals, instead saying he's satisfied with the RCMP investigation and "supports our government's position" to work toward divesting the government of the GTH.

In a Sept. 5 interview with CBC, Wyant said everywhere he went during his campaign, people were raising questions about this issue which left a "cloud of suspicion" over the government and the party. 

We need to shine a very very bright light on this- Gord Wyant during his Saskatchewan Party leadership bid

Wyant, who ended up losing his leadership bid but now serves as Deputy Premier, told CBC that if police decided not to lay charges, then the public's questions would go unanswered unless there was a public inquiry.

"If charges aren't preferred then there's going to be a report that's tendered to the director of public prosecutions which isn't going to be made public and that doesn't do anything to clear the air," Wyant explained. 

He said the inquiry should have a broad scope and sweeping powers. 

"We need to shine a very, very bright light on this and the only way to do that is to give the commissioner the power that he needs not only to compel witnesses and compel documents and testimony but to make some findings and so that we can put this whole thing behind us as a party." 

Wyant said he wasn't just motivated by the Saskatchewan public who were raising this issue. He said it was personal for him, too. 

"There are unanswered questions for me," Wyant told CBC. "I'm a citizen of this province whether I was a member of the government or not. There are some troubling things about this and at the end of the day we need to clear the air so that people are made comfortable with what happened."

'I support our government's position'

In an email, CBC asked Wyant if he still believed an inquiry was necessary in order to clear the air. 

Wyant's emailed statement, provided by the Premier's office, didn't directly answer that question. Instead it referenced the lengthy RCMP investigation which "concluded that there was no illegal activity related to the GTH." 

"I feel the matter has been properly investigated and I support our government's position, which is to move forward in a way which maximizes the value of the asset on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan." 
Saskatchewan's Justice Minister Don Morgan says all questions about the GTH land deal have been answered and it's time to move on. (CBC News)

On Wednesday, Minister of Justice Don Morgan said the matter has been fully explored by police, the provincial auditor and the Saskatchewan legislature.

"I don't think that there are other questions that would be put forward that have not already been answered by the work that was done by the provincial auditor and have been answered to the media as the matter has gone through question period," said Morgan. 

"There comes a time when you have to turn the page on it."

'There's a whole pile of wrong in this'

But critics say it would be wrong to conclude that the lack of criminal charges means it's case closed on the GTH land deal.
The NDP's Trent Wotherspoon says there are still lots of unanswered questions about the GTH land deal. (CBC News)

"Just because criminal charges aren't being laid here today doesn't make how this was handled right. There's a whole pile of wrong in this," said NDP MLA Trent Wotherspoon on Wednesday. "Millions of dollars have been wasted. We have a government that's obfuscated every step of the way."

That sentiment has been echoed by the PC Party of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"It's good to know the investigation was thorough. It's good to know criminality wasn't an issue," said CTF Prairie director Todd MacKay on Twitter. "But taxpayers still deserve answers about lost money and the plan to clean up the mess."

In a news release, PC Party leader Rick Swenson said "to determine what truly happened to taxpayer dollars requires an investigation which follows the money from beginning to end."

'We don't want to have a fire sale'

In his news conference, Morgan anticipated these criticisms. 

"I think that there's some people that we're never going to satisfy on it." 

He said the government never should have gotten into the GTH business in the first place, and now it's time to get out.

"We don't want to have a fire sale but we think it's appropriate for us to look for other options for the GTH," he said. 

Swenson worries this would likely see "the taxpayer taking another financial bath and burying too many unanswered questions forever because of third party confidentiality."

About the Author

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.