Saskatchewan

GTH should not have had $129K appraisal says Sask. information and privacy commissioner

The public may never be allowed to see the secret appraisal that Brad Wall and Bill Boyd said justified the GTH paying a Regina developer $103,000 per acre for 204 acres of land.

Government should destroy or return all copies of GTH land deal appraisal, says Ron Kruzeniski

Premier Brad Wall talks about appraisal

6 years ago
Duration 1:51
Premier Brad Wall speaks to the media about the appraisal.

The public may never be allowed to see the secret appraisal that Brad Wall and Bill Boyd said justified the Global Transportation Hub paying a Regina developer $103,000 per acre for 204 acres of land.

In fact, Saskatchewan's information and privacy commissioner has recommended the GTH and all government institutions destroy or return all copies of the appraisal report, because they never had the right to have it in the first place.
Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski says the GTH should not have had the $129,000 appraisal and should destroy or return it to the appraiser. (CBC)

"I find that the GTH was inappropriately provided a copy of the appraisal," wrote Ron Kruzeniski in his 12-page ruling on the matter. "I recommend provincial government institutions with a copy of the appraisal without the written authorization destroys those copies or return them to [the appraisal firm]."

The appraisal was originally commissioned by Anthony Marquart, the Regina businessman who sold the 204 acres of land to the GTH. It was provided to him by an unnamed appraisal firm in February 2013; one year before he sold the land to the GTH.

Eventually, the Ministry of Economy received a copy and on Dec. 20, 2013 it passed on the report to the GTH. 

Premier Wall and Bill Boyd touted appraisal

Premier Brad Wall said that appraisal proved the GTH paid a reasonable price.

"It shows their appraisal was, the land was worth $129,000 an acre and we paid $103,000 an acre," Wall told the media.

CBC's iTeam asked the GTH for a copy of the appraisal because then-minister responsible for the GTH, Bill Boyd, said that appraisal was the reason the GTH paid so much for the land.
Bill Boyd, former Minister Responsible for the GTH, defended the government's decision to tell the GTH to buy land for two to three times more than government appraisals said it was worth. (CBC)

Government procured appraisals said the land was worth $30,000 to $65,000 per acre which is less than the $103,000 the GTH paid. 

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

Despite the crucial role the appraisal allegedly played in deciding the value of the land, the GTH refused to release it to CBC, arguing if it were made public that could harm the appraiser and hurt future GTH negotiations. 

CBC launched an appeal with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner

During the recent election campaign, Premier Brad Wall said, "I hope the appraisal comes out. I think there's no reason that it can't."

GTH should not have had confidential report

But it turns out, the information and privacy commissioner found a reason.

Kruzeniski points out that the appraisal itself explicitly states that it should not be shared.

"The appraisal clearly states that 'it is not reasonable for any person other than the client, the lender of the client's choice and [the appraisal firm] to rely upon this appraisal without first obtaining written authorization from all parties," the commissioner's report said.

It shall not be disclosed, quoted from or referred to, in whole or in part, or published in any manner without the expressed written consent of the client and [the appraisal firm].- Information and privacy commissioner's report

The commissioner further quotes the appraisal report as saying "it shall not be disclosed, quoted from or referred to, in whole or in part, or published in any manner without the expressed written consent of the client and [the appraisal firm]."

According to Kruzenizki, the unnamed firm argued that "the GTH does not have the right to possess the appraisal and therefore, would have no authority to regulate its use or disposition."

The commissioner agreed and told the GTH and any other government agency that has the report without the consent of the appraiser to "destroy all copies of the appraisal or return them to [the appraisal firm]."

Contrary to premier, appraisal was 'irrelevant' to negotiations

While both Wall and Boyd insisted that the $129,000 appraisal was crucial to establishing the $103,000 per acre price, Saskatchewan's provincial auditor came to a different conclusion.

Judy Ferguson was asked to review the GTH land deal by the premier.
Saskatchewan's Provincial Auditor, Judy Ferguson, found that the senior advisor who negotiated the GTH land deal considered the $129,000 appraisal 'irrelevant' to the negotiations. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

Her June report said that Boyd's senior advisor, who negotiated the deal deemed this appraisal "as irrelevant to the negotiations. As a result, he did not formally review it."

Ferguson found the GTH bought the land at a "significantly higher price and not in a financially responsible manner."

She said the outcome may have been different if the GTH had actually reviewed the report.

If it had, it would have found that the appraisal was prepared "for a purpose other than selling the land."

"The appraisal used a different appraisal methodology that used numerous assumptions. Changes to any one of those assumptions would impact the appraiser's opinion of land value." 

Clarifications

  • In a previous version of the story we said the Information and Privacy Commissioner recommended all government agencies destroy all copies of the appraisal report. The story now says government agencies without the proper authorization must destroy or return the report.
    Sep 30, 2016 4:22 PM CT

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that government procured appraisals said the land was worth two-to-three times less that the $103,000 price the GTH paid. The story has been corrected to state that government procured appraisals said the land was worth $30,000 to $65,000 per acre which is less than the $103,000 the GTH paid.
    Sep 30, 2016 10:30 PM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo is a Michener Award nominated investigative journalist and a Canadian Screen Award winning documentary producer and director. He has been covering Saskatchewan stories since 2001.

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