Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

GTH won't release land deal appraisal because it could 'harm the reputation' of preparer

The Global Transportation Hub is refusing to publicly release an appraisal at the heart of the controversial GTH land deal, saying that if public, the document could damage the reputation and finances of the company that produced it.

Province worried disclosure of appraisal could affect government negotiations

The Global Transportation Hub has denied CBC's request for access to an appraisal the GTH used to justify paying two Regina businessmen $103K an acre for 204 acres of land. (CBC)

The Global Transportation Hub is refusing to publicly release an appraisal at the heart of the controversial GTH land deal, saying that if public, the document could damage the reputation and finances of the company that produced it.

"Disclosure of this information could be expected to harm the reputation and cause financial loss to the preparer of the appraisal," wrote Bryan Richards, president and CEO of the GTH, in a letter to CBC's iTeam.

In addition, Richards argues releasing the document could harm the government of Saskatchewan too.

Private appraisal central to GTH land deal

Earlier this year, the iTeam reported that the government-owned GTH purchased land from a couple of Regina businessmen back in 2014 for two to three times more than government-procured appraisals said it was worth.

Those appraisals valued the land between $30,000 and $65,000 an acre. The GTH paid $103,000 an acre.
The Minister of Economy, Bill Boyd, defended the government's decision to ask the Global Transportation Hub to buy land for two to three times more than government appraisals said it was worth. (CBC)

In a December interview, the minister responsible for the GTH, Bill Boyd, said the GTH paid the higher price because the sellers had an appraisal that said the land was worth about $125,000 an acre.

"We had appraisals at a lower amount, we had appraisals at a higher amount and we came in somewhere in between," Boyd explained.

The government publicly released its two appraisals, belonging to the GTH and the Ministry of Highways, but that private one has never been disclosed.

CBC files access to information request

In early March, CBC's iTeam requested a copy of the $125,000 appraisal as part of a series of access to information requests. Initially the GTH lumped them all together and sent CBC a $111,845.50 fee estimate.

However, after CBC complained to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the GTH changed its mind and responded to a couple of requests individually, including this one.

Disclosure of this record could interfere with current negotiations of the Government of Saskatchewan.- Letter from Bryan Richards, president and CEO of the GTH

In a letter, the president and CEO of the GTH Bryan Richards explains that in addition to concerns about the appraiser's reputation and financial condition, there are other compelling reasons to withhold this document from public scrutiny.

Richards argues "disclosure of this record could interfere with current negotiations of the Government of Saskatchewan."

He also points out that it would be inappropriate to release the document because "this information was provided by a third party in confidence."

'I'd like this appraisal out there': premier

In the midst of the recent election campaign, Premier Brad Wall was asked about that private appraisal.

"I hope the appraisal comes out. I think there's no reason that it can't," Wall said. "I'd like this appraisal out there."

The provincial NDP asked the GTH for the document in a freedom of information request earlier this year, but that request was denied. 
The leader of the Saskatchewan Party, Brad Wall, says he would like the private appraisal which led the GTH to pay $103,000 an acre in the controversial GTH land deal, to be released publicly. (CBC News)

Wall said that was "for good reason, for legal reasons. They can't release it without the permission of the owner, the seller and the appraiser."

Despite that, Wall said, "What we can do is encourage the GTH to have another look and to reach out the appraiser and reach out to the seller and get their permission to release it."

While the GTH said it won't release the document publicly, an official in the premier's office told CBC the government does have permission to provide the appraisal to the provincial auditor, who is reviewing the transactions.

In Richard's letter he told CBC if it doesn't like his decision to withhold the appraisal it can file a complaint with Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner.

CBC has followed that advice.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story indicated the the GTH bought the land from two Regina businessmen in 2004. In fact, that purchase took place in 2014.
    May 09, 2016 4:16 PM CT

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