Saskatchewan

GTH debt climbs to $46M with no land sales for 2nd-straight year

The Global Transportation Hub is reporting a net debt of $46 million and a second-straight year without selling any land.

GTH annual report says COVID-19 'delayed potential investment'

The Global Transportation Hub's net debt rose by $1.3 million last year for a total of $46 million. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

The Global Transportation Hub is reporting a net debt of $46 million and a second-straight year without selling any land.

The GTH's 2019-20 annual report, released this week, prompted the Saskatchewan NDP to call for a government committee to examine the last two annual reports.

On Monday, NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said his party would commit to a judicial inquiry of the history of land sales at the GTH if elected.

He said the standing committee on the economy has typically reviewed annual reports of the GTH, but not for the last two fiscal years.

"The government failed to make that happen in this last year despite the fact our critic on this front has been requesting and calling for that committee to convene since September."

The latest report shows net debt increased by $1.3 million, which brought the inland port's net debt to $46 million.

"We need to really dig deep to figure out what the problem is out here and make sure we do all we can to get the value people deserve for their hard-earned dollars," Wotherspoon said.

He said the government is paying Colliers International to sell land at the GTH, but did not manage to make a single sale in 2019-20.

"We see the Sask. Party paying over a million dollars to a private company to manage that sales process. They targeted $3.8 million this year in sales they got nothing, zero."

Colliers International contract is $1.4 million for five years, in 2019-20 Colliers was paid $96,984.

The GTH has not had a land sale in two full years.

The projected deficit was $738,000, but that tripled to $2.18 million.

"Sadly we're stuck with a tumbleweed museum that's been really expensive for taxpayers. Now we owe it to Saskatchewan people to do all we can to maximize value out of this project out here at the GTH," Wotherspoon said.

Under new management

Colliers International took over management and operation of the GTH in December. It answers to a board of directors that oversees land sales and operation of the GTH.

The annual report said the change in management "reduced operating losses by $1.2 million compared the three-year average."

Among the changes were:

  • Reducing GTH staff from 10 people to one 25 per cent-time CEO and a 50 per cent-time admin support person.
  • Reducing the board from nine members to four.
  • Subleasing the GTH head office.
  • Reducing marketing, business and development costs, now handled by Colliers.

"The full benefit of these measures will be realized in 2020-21 and future land sales will improve profitability, positioning the GTH for long-term sustainability and success," the report said.

The annual report also said COVID-19 played a role in the lack of sales and investment. The fiscal year ended March 31. COVID-19 was first reported in Saskatchewan on March 12.

"Our fiscal year drew to a close with unexpected arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic uncertainty that followed. While this event frustrated efforts to move land sales and leases through to completion, and delayed potential investment, it underscored the importance of reliable supply chains, strong road and rail infrastructure and domestic manufacturing to meet local needs," the annual report said.

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon called the Global Transportation Hub a 'tumbleweed museum' that requires scrutiny of a government committee to ensure taxpayers can understand why it can't sell land for two years in a row. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Don Morgan, the minister responsible for the GTH, expressed confidence in the ability of Colliers to market the GTH.

"Colliers is the largest brokerage firm in Saskatchewan," Morgan said in an email Thursday. "With their world-class systems and access to national and international networks they will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to strengthen relationships with current and prospective clients, positioning the GTH for long-term sustainability and success."

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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