Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

Government defends 'fake map' of GTH to sell Chinese megamall as artist's rendering

CBC has discovered the premier's office is promoting the megamall being built at the Global Transportation Hub using a map of the facility which features a host of businesses that don't exist.

NDP says false advertising shows the government is desperate to make megamall successful

The government and other promoters of the Chinese megamall at the Global Transportation Hub are using a map full of made-up companies to sell the project to potential investors in China. (Brightenview)

CBC has discovered the premier's office is promoting the megamall being built at the Global Transportation Hub using a map of the facility which features a host of businesses that don't exist.

The real GTH houses about ten businesses and more than half of the land is empty.

However, the government's Chinese social media account shows a map of the GTH in which every space is full. The WeChat account is run by Saskatchewan's China office, which is under Executive Council, the premier's office.

It indicates the GTH is home to businesses such as Interlock, Precise, Conex, TNS and Brad.

The heading on the map says "International Companies Gathered." Immediately under the picture, the government's social media site says the GTH "has attracted the various major companies gathered here." 

But about half of the companies listed on the government's map aren't at the GTH. 

A drive around the inland port shows instead of those businesses, there are just vacant lots.

"It's misleading," said the NDP's Cathy Sproule. "And anyone looking at this is going to assume that that's a rendering of the GTH today."

"I think it's advertising at its worst."

Would-be immigrants 'being fed a bunch of baloney'

The developer of the megamall, Brightenview Developments International, is using the map in its brochure promoting the company's project to Chinese nationals, who are considering setting up shop at the GTH. The map is also featured on many Chinese web pages run by Brightenview's promotional partners.

Brightenview's project, the Global Trade and Exhibition Centre (GTEC) is sold as a wholesale mall offering Chinese entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their wares into the North American market.

It's almost stunning in its complete willingness to accept a fake map and market it.- Cathy Sproule, NDP critic

Brightenview is trying to persuade Chinese people to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a condo-style unit in the mall. It tells potential investors the purchase can be leveraged into permanent residence in Canada.

Sproule worries about those would-be immigrants who might be dazzled by this map.

"They are going to arrive at the GTH and see ... there's a lot more dirt there than there are buildings. I feel that they're being fed a bunch of baloney," said Sproule. 

Government defends map as artist rendering

The minister responsible for the GTH, Dustin Duncan, said the map was created by one of Brightenview's marketing agents but he said it was no problem to use this image.

"It essentially shows a conceptual plan of what the Global Transportation Hub was intended to look like," said Duncan. He said every developer creates images that depict what they intend their development to look like. 

In an email, the GTH explained this map was an artist rendering.

Duncan said every developer creates images like this for their project. He said he would have expected that maps that are intended as conceptual should say so clearly and he said he will encourage that to be done.

CBC pointed out to Duncan that underneath this map on government's social media site, the text says the GTH "has attracted the various major companies gathered here."

He questioned the translation but didn't offer his own.

CBC asked why Brightenview would need to create an image of the GTH, given it's just developing one small part of the facility. 

"I don't know, you'll have to ask them," said Duncan. Brightenview didn't respond to CBC's questions.

He acknowledged it was a bit unusual that the map listed the names of companies that don't exist. But he said "maybe that's how they do things in China. I don't know." 

In a written response to CBC's questions about the map, the GTH said it "has no concerns with this material... We welcome Brightenview's investment and the Global Transportation Hub will continue to help promote and support this project."

Sproule said she finds that response alarming. 

The Global Transportation Hub has no concerns with this material.- Kelly Brossart, GTH spokesperson

"It's almost stunning in its complete willingness to accept a fake map and market it." 

Sproule points out the map and the surrounding text doesn't indicate it is an artist's rendering.

In fact, the web page of one of Brightenview's Chinese agents tells potential investors  "about 20 well known enterprises have entered GTH." In reality, there are about half that many businesses with operations at the GTH.

In the past, Brightenview has taken heat for misrepresentations in its advertising of the company's megamall projects. 

According to a government briefing note obtained by CBC, Brightenview has been chastised by government officials on four previous occasions, as far back as 2013 and as recently as this spring.

Sproule said the fact the government is comfortable using this map to promote Brightenview shows how desperate it is to make the project successful. 

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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.