Jeremy Harrison says gov't should sell stake in Global Transportation Hub, once defended it
Meadow Lake MLA announced Sask. Party leadership bid on Saturday
Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison says that under his leadership, the Saskatchewan Party would get rid of its share in the Global Transportation Hub.
"As far as divesting the GTH, I believe that this is the right path forward," Harrison said.
"We should have never been in this business in the first place. If this was a project that could have had economic merit on its own then the private sector should have been involved in it."
Harrison, who announced his leadership bid on Saturday, said the province should have no role in land development.
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"Land development is not a core competency of government," he said. "Inevitably, it leads to questions of conflict of interest."
It's pretty rich for him to throw Mr. [Bill] Boyd under the bus in his attempts to further himself in his leadership bid.- Nicole Sarauer, NDP interim leader
As Minister of the Economy and the GTH, Harrison regularly took to his feet in the legislature and defended both the project and the process the government followed when acquiring the land.
Now he said he was only doing his job.
"I defended the position of the government and what I'm saying here today is what that position is going to change to, if I'm premier."
'Very serious mistakes'
A CBC investigation found that two politically well-connected businesspeople made millions on a series of transactions that saw 200 acres of land wind up in the hands of the GTH for much more than the property was worth.
Former minister of the economy Bill Boyd was involved in directing some of those transactions.
- Full coverage of Global Transportation Hub story
- Government paid too much for GTH land: Sask. provincial auditor
When asked about Boyd's role in the GTH affair, Harrison said he would fire a minister that was found to be under similar circumstances.
"There were very serious mistakes made," Harrison told reporters. "As far as the policy focus of what the GTH would be, and what should be developed at the very front end at the inception component to the development to the land acquisition, which obviously has drawn a lot of attention, there were very, very serious mistakes made that should never have happened."
Meanwhile, NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer accused Harrison of betraying Boyd.
"It's pretty rich for him to throw Mr. Boyd under the bus in his attempts to further himself in his leadership bid," she said. "But he's been involved in this process the whole time."
In a news release, Saskatchewan Auditor General Judy Ferguson found no wrongdoing in the GTH deal, but said the province paid too much money, and didn't act in "a financially responsible manner."
On Thursday, Harrison also launched a 10-point plan to modernize the Conflict of Interest Act, the Lobbyist Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Among the proposed changes:
- Prohibition of officials conducting personal business development while on government-funded travel, or otherwise using a government position to advance their private business.
- Giving the conflict of interest commissioner the power to levy significant monetary penalties against anyone failing to play by the rules.
- MLAs and senior officials to disclose the details of any private trusts and private holding companies to the commissioner, and publish a report on them so the public can be confident there are no conflicts.
- Reversing the onus in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to require disclosure on the recommendation of the information and privacy commissioner.
Harrison added that his plan to revamp ethics and transparency rules, and to sell the GTH, "would not be a surprise to my colleagues."
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