Meeting unearths GTH's major financial woes

Saskatchewan’s Global Transportation Hub is losing money each year as land sales slow and interest on a multi-million dollar bank loan racks up.

Province's Global Transportation Hub hasn't made bank loan payment in over 2 years

Current Minister responsible for the GTH Dustin Duncan was at Tuesday’s Standing Committee on the Economy to answer questions on the authority. (CBC News)

Saskatchewan's Global Transportation Hub is losing money each year as land sales slow and interest on a multi-million dollar bank loan racks up.

The authority's Annual Report was assessed during a Standing Committee on the Economy on Tuesday.

There have been many questions surrounding land purchases by the GTH, launching an ongoing RCMP investigation. At the meeting, it was instead the viability of the GTH that was in the spotlight.

That's almost a million dollars in interest a year.- NDP's Cathy Sproule

The GTH currently carries a $24 million debt with the Royal Bank but the authority's president and CEO Bryan Richards confirmed it hasn't been able to make a payment on that debt since the 2014-15 fiscal year.

NDP MLA Cathy Sproule questioned the lack of income from the GTH and how quickly the authority is collecting debt.

"That's almost a million dollars in interest a year," Sproule said, referring to the report.
The NDP's Cathy Sproule questioned the GTH on its low income and high debt. (CBC News)

Richards said the organization has just two sources of income.

The GTH collects property taxes on the businesses located within its boundaries but Richards said there isn't enough of a tax base yet to cover the organization's ongoing costs. During the 2016-17 fiscal year, property taxes brought in $1.89 million.

Richards confirmed to Sproule that the ability for the GTH to pay down the loan is entirely dependant on land sales, the GTH's other source of income. The land sales totaled only $2.5 million in the last fiscal year, with about a dozen companies purchasing since the project's conception.

Over the past seven years, the GTH has repeatedly missed its land sale targets, in some cases dramatically so.

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the GTH budgeted $11 million dollars in sales but in fact did not make any. The next year, it budgeted $11.2 million but made only $1.69 million. That pattern continued and in the 2016-17 fiscal year the GTH budgeted for $12.5 million in sales but made $2.5 million. There were only two years when the GTH made more than was planned. In every other case, it made less than half.

"In the last five years we've seen significant fluctuations," Richards said. "It's a very difficult thing to assess."

Government avoids questions with Pushor not in attendance

Current Minister responsible for the GTH Dustin Duncan was at Tuesday's meeting, but was assigned to it just two weeks ago and when questioned said he was still getting up to speed on it.

Former deputy minister of the file and current Deputy Minister of the Economy Laurie Pushor is known for his heavy involvement in the development of GTH but he was not in attendance.
Laurie Pushor is known for negotiating much of the GTH land deal. (Government of Saskatchewan)

"There is no current link between Mr. Pushor as Deputy [Minister] of Economy and the Global Transportation Hub," Duncan said.

Sproule voiced her disappointment.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Pushor was the deputy minister responsible for the fiscal period that we are talking about here today so I think I'll just have to move on here because clearly we're not going to have the opportunity to access his knowledge on the file."

On Sept. 6 Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the government might launch an independent investigation if it seems necessary.

"Which may include, at some point, Mr. Pushor's participation," Duncan said. "At this point, it's the government's view, the premier's view, that that would be decided once the ongoing RCMP investigation is concluded."


  • A previous version of this story referred to Laurie Pushor as minister responsible for the GTH during the fiscal period before the committee. He was in fact the deputy minister.
    Sep 13, 2017 7:41 AM CT