Sask. NDP recalls committee to look at $21M GTH land deal
Public accounts committee recalled for meeting on Wednesday morning
The Saskatchewan NDP have recalled a committee for a meeting to deal with a $21-million land purchase west of Regina in 2014.
The NDP recalled the Public Accounts Committee for a meeting Wednesday morning to give the provincial auditor a full mandate for the review into the Global Transportation Hub's 2014 purchase of 204 acres of land for a highway bypass just west of Regina.
"Saskatchewan people deserve accountability and answers on this bad deal that's wasted a whole bunch of tax payers' money," NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon said. "An important measure is to ensure that the auditor has the mandate and the support from us as an assembly. "
The GTH, which is a provincial Crown corporation, paid about $103,000 an acre for the land, even though internal government appraisals showed it was valued at a fraction of that, as was revealed in a series of stories from CBC Saskatchewan's iTeam.
- Regina land deal 'looks like it's not a normal transaction': auditor
- Timeline: History of puzzling Regina land transactions uncovered by iTeam
- Sask. politicians call for review of puzzling land transactions uncovered in iTeam investigation
- Businessmen made millions on Regina land that wound up in taxpayers' hands
Premier Brad Wall has defended the deal, and on Monday, he requested the provincial auditor review the purchase to confirm everything was above-board. Wall asked the auditor to examine whether the provincial government followed appropriate procedures and received the appropriate value for the land, including looking at any transaction leading up to and following the acquisition.
"The, at best, weak and half-hearted, call by the premier to have [provincial auditor Judy Ferguson] look at this file just isn't sufficient," Wotherspoon said.
"She needs a strong mandate and the support to make sure this is done in a timely way to ensure that Saskatchewan people have answers and have accountability before the provincial election."
The NDP's suggested mandate would include a request to provide a progress report before the April 4 provincial election if the full report cannot be finished in time.
A government spokesperson emailed CBC a statement which said they are waiting for a response from the auditor.
"We feel the mandate provided [by the premier] gives her the latitude to review any aspect of the transactions she wishes. The NDP is trying to place conditions and timelines on the auditor's review," the statement said.
"The provincial auditor is an independent officer and we believe she can best determine how to proceed without political interference."
Minister files lawsuit against CBC
On Tuesday, cabinet minister Bill Boyd filed a lawsuit against CBC. It claims the stories about the land deal damaged Boyd's reputation. Boyd is the minister of economy and ordered the land purchase in question.
The statement of claim says Boyd has suffered "significant loss" and is seeking unspecified damages.
CBC has not yet filed a statement of defence. But CBC spokesperson, Chuck Thompson, responded to the lawsuit in a written statement.
"While we stand behind the journalism of this story, as this matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further," Thompson said.