Saskatchewan

Nun calls for forensic audit on Global Transportation Hub land dealings

The decision not to lay criminal charges or have an inquiry into the government’s dealings into the Global Transportation Hub has raised the eyebrows of a nun whose order formerly owned some of the land in question.

Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions sold land that was flipped and sold for millions more

The Saskatchewan RCMP has completed an investigation into the Global Transportation Hub land deal and announced no criminal charges would be laid, but calls for a further inquiry continue. (CBC)

The decision not to lay criminal charges or have an inquiry into the government's dealings into the Global Transportation Hub has raised the eyebrows of a nun whose order formerly owned some of the land in question.

"I was very surprised, and I wondered what would support the laying of the criminal charges," said Sister Veronica Dunne, formerly the head of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.

"I think it's horrible, when governments do these kind of things, and the taxpayers wind up paying the price."

The RCMP announced on Wednesday it had concluded its investigation, in consultation with Manitoba Prosecution Services, into the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) land deals and determined there was not enough evidence to support criminal charges.

Despite that decision, Dunne said she believed the government should launch a forensic audit, to answer questions people had about the government's dealings surrounding the GTH.

"I think the people of Saskatchewan have a right to call for something like that."

Apparently what happened wasn't illegal, but doesn't mean it was right — whether it was unethical, or immoral, or just plain wrong.- Ruth Eisworth , president of McNally Enterprises

Dunne's religious order, which is based in Winnipeg, had been approached in 2012 by an Albertan businessman who wanted to purchase 117 acres of its land.

Sister Veronica Dunne is calling for a forensic audit into the government's handling of the Global Transportation Hub file and dealings that saw two well-connected businessmen make millions from the sale of land to the GTH. (Submitted by Veronica Dunne)

She said the Ministry of Highways had already been dealing with the order, buying up land through expropriation and under threat of expropriation, for the GTH, the industrial park owned by the province. That fact didn't seem to dissuade the potential buyer, she said.

"I felt at the time there was something strange going on. ... Just based on what I knew the Department of Highways had been dealing with us in terms of land. We knew they were going to expropriate more," said Dunne.

That buyer would end up purchasing the land from the nuns at $55,000 an acre, or more than $6 million, as well as another 87 acres next to the GTH, owned by McNally Enterprises. The property was then sold to a Regina developer, who in turn sold it to the GTH for two to three times what government appraisals said it was worth. 

Ruth Eisworth, president of McNally Enterprises, said she accepted the results of the police investigation, but she still wanted answers as to why the government refused to buy her company's land at the appraised value, but then bought the land for millions from a developer. 

"Apparently what happened wasn't illegal, but doesn't mean it was right — whether it was unethical, or immoral, or just plain wrong," she said. "It can't be right what happened."

"It's the people of Saskatchewan I feel sorry for," Dunne said. "They ended up really overpaying for that land. Some individuals wound up profiting a great deal from the sale of that land. And it didn't have to be that way."

Government not planning inquiry

Justice Minister Don Morgan has said that he is confident in the RCMP's investigation and he doesn't see a need for a further inquiry into the matter, even while acknowledging, "there were certainly mistakes made in our government's handling of this matter."

The Opposition NDP echoed Eisworth and Dunne's calls for further investigation, with Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon saying a judicial inquiry was needed.  

"There's a whole pile of wrong in this," he said, charging that millions had been lost while the government had yet to own up to its role in mismanagement on the file.

"It's past time that Saskatchewan people who have lost their hard-earned dollars on this government's management of this project, it's past time they get the answers they deserve."

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