Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

​Timeline: History of puzzling Regina land transactions uncovered by iTeam

This week the iTeam highlighted a complex series of transactions involving 204 acres in the path of the West Regina Bypass right next to the Global Transportation Hub, a government owned industrial park

Premier supports government's decision to purchase land on west side of Regina

This is the land Robert Tappauf says caught his eye in 2012 when the Alberta businessman came to Regina looking for investment property. (CBC News)

Rick Swenson, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan, summarized CBC's stories to a group of reporters on Thursday and concluded, "I don't think anybody, looking at the sequence of events that I just outlined this morning, would come to any other reasonable conclusion. It just quite frankly doesn't add up."

This week the iTeam highlighted a complex series of transactions involving 204 acres in the path of the West Regina Bypass right next to the Global Transportation Hub, a government owned industrial park. 

It's land that Bill Boyd, the minister responsible for the GTH and chair of its board, said the Crown corporation has wanted for a long time. It's property that was owned by McNally Enterprises and the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, a Catholic order. 

Under questioning by the NDP's Trent Wotherspoon in the legislature in April 2015, Boyd said, "I think probably right at the very outset of our government taking over in 2007 would've been, that would've been a priority of the GTH, to acquire those lands." 

Boyd explained the land was needed for an interchange that would allow truck traffic to flow freely into the GTH without traffic lights. 

But the government didn't purchase that land at the time though it eventually started to develop plans involving the property.

While it was developing those plans, it was also buying up land for the planned West Regina Bypass.

In September 2010 it purchased some land in the area from the Sisters for $9,000 an acre. And in April 2011 it bought some land from McNally for $11,000 an acre. In both cases the sales were made under threat of expropriation. 

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)
Then, in March 2012 Alberta businessman Robert Tappauf, signed agreements to purchase the land which at the time was owned by McNally Enterprises and the Sisters of our Lady of the Missions. 

McNally and the Sisters believed the government was planning to take more of their land and it appears that belief was justified. The iTeam obtained a November 2011 sketch from the Ministry of Highways showing an interchange design that would have required a large piece of the property.

Tappauf agreed to buy 87 acres from McNally for $45,000 an acre and 117 acres from the Sisters for $55,000 an acre.

Those sales actually concluded on Feb. 26, 2013. On that day Tappauf resold the land to a Regina company co-owned by developer Anthony Marquart, who is also the firm's president.

Marquart's company paid Tappauf $71,000 an acre for McNally's land and $84,000 an acre for the Sisters land. In that one day Tappauf made $6 million. 

Then, one year later, in February 2014, Marquart's company sold that same land to the government-owned GTH for $103,000 an acre; a total of $21 million. 

Marquart's company made $5 million on the sale. 

The very next month the GTH sold 58 acres of that land to the Ministry of Highways for less than half the price it paid; $50,000 an acre. 

In just a few years the price of 204 acres of land on the west side of Regina soared, ending up in taxpayers hands. Then it was sold for half price.
Swenson said the GTH's actions are puzzling because the GTH and the Ministry of Highways had each commissioned appraisals, both delivered in October 2013, which indicated the land was worth two to three times less than the $103,000 an acre that the GTH paid. 

He wonders why the government didn't just expropriate the land as it has done with many other land owners in the path of the West Regina Bypass. 

"We have business transactions that I can't explain," Swenson said. "And I do believe that we need to open the books and someone with the power of subpoena needs to be appointed by the premier." 

On Wednesday, reporters asked Boyd why the government asked the GTH to buy the land instead of expropriating the property, as has often been done by the Ministry of Highways along the path of the bypass.

"The GTH is a commercial business development out there so we felt that because part of it was going to be used for a commercial business development it would be more appropriate for the GTH to make that acquisition," Boyd explained. 

I have no intention of resigning.- Bill Boyd

He said land values were rising quickly in the area so it was important for the GTH to buy the land before prices rose even higher. 

Swenson has called for Boyd's resignation as a result of these transactions. 

Boyd responded, "Well I think we're into the run up for an election so it's probably not all that surprising that there would be that kind of concern out there."

"I have no intention of resigning," he said. 

Premier Brad Wall said, in a written statement,"I fully support Minister Boyd and am confident his actions in this matter were appropriate at all times." 

Boyd has threatened legal action against CBC over the stories related to this property.