Sask. NDP wants legislature recalled to discuss GTH land deal
Government calls request "a desperate pre-election ploy"
The leader of Saskatchewan's NDP has asked the premier and the Speaker to recall the legislature to discuss what Cam Broten calls a "highly questionable $21 million land deal" involving the government-owned Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
But the Saskatchewan Party government has characterized the request as "obviously a desperate pre-election ploy by a party that trails badly in the polls."
Two weeks ago, CBC's iTeam broke the story that the GTH had purchased the 204 acres of land, located near the GTH and in the path of the West Regina Bypass, from a Regina businessman for $103,000 an acre. However, government appraisals indicate that is two to three times more than the property was worth.
The government said it needed the land in order to host an interchange on the West Regina Bypass, which would allow trucks to drive into the GTH without traffic lights.
Broten said it's "a land deal that's raised a lot of questions, doesn't smell right and has a lot of people in the province talking and a lot of people demanding answers. Answers from Mr. Wall are needed to explain why he is comfortable in signing the land deal that he signed."
Broten said one key question is why did the government pay so much for this land when others along the bypass received so little.
"Why is it that many land owners were forced to settle for $11,000 per acre or $20,000 per acre? They were faced with the threat of expropriation and forced to settle where for some reason this one parcel of land got what looks like a very sweetheart deal for 103 thousand dollars per acre," Broten said.
He argued the appropriate place for these sorts of questions is the legislature, which he suggested could sit as early as next week.
"This needs attention," Broten told a group of reporters. "If there's ever been anything in the public's interest that demands scrutiny. that demands the eyes of the legislature and demands the premier coming forward and talking it's this."
Government defends purchase
In an email, the government says "Premier Wall has already stated that he believes the land acquisition at the Global Transportation Hub was done appropriately."
The statement went on to point out that the premier asked the provincial auditor to investigate in order "to ensure public confidence," and the government said it will fully cooperate with that review.
The government's email also maintains that the GTH did not overpay for the land.
"It is important to note that at the time the value of land in the area was rising rapidly and continues to appreciate today. In the past year, the GTH has sold land for approximately $200,000 per acre and there is a pending transaction valued at more than $300,000 per acre."