Saskatoon

GTH land deal appraisal based on 'factually wrong' information: privacy commissioner report

A new report from Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner says the Global Transportation Hub land sale was based on appraisal information that was "factually wrong."

Canadian Taxpayers Federation asking for independent audit on GTH land deal

Last year, the Global Transportation Hub denied CBC's request for access to a GTH appraisal. (CBC)

A new report from Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner says the Global Transportation Hub land sale was based on appraisal information that was "factually wrong."

As a result, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is renewing its call for a full and independent audit of the Global Transportation Hub land deal.

In 2013, the GTH board recommended that it buy 204 acres of land in the Regina area at a cost of $21 million, or $103,000 an acre. Its own appraisal valued the land at about $60,000 an acre for a total of $12 million.

"Everyone knows the GTH paid too much for the 204 acres, but it's never been clear why," said the federation's Prairie director Todd MacKay in a news release.

"It's now clear that the decision was based on 'factually wrong' information."

The privacy commissioner's report, issued Aug. 25, concerns a second appraisal procured by the land's seller, Anthony Marquart, which valued the GTH land at $129,000 per acre.

Appraiser to remain secret

When the federation received the appraisal, the document was severely redacted, and the name of the appraiser had been blacked out.

The document says "a cash flow-subdivision development analysis, done in February 2013 by [redacted] placed the value of the land at $129,556 per acre. Total estimated value $26,463,100."

The federation asked Information and Privacy Commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski to review the redactions, and make a ruling on whether they were legal. While Kruzeniski recommended that some of the information be released, he ruled the name of the second appraiser should be kept confidential.

"The third party asserted that what has been released would be clearly attributed to the third party and it is factually wrong," wrote Kruzeniski in the reply.

"I find that the name of the third party when combined with the information already released in the paragraph could cause the harms alleged by the third party."

The commissioner said that's because "having the third party associated with the appraisal which contains highly subjective conclusions based on fact specific assumptions provided to the public without the proper context makes the third party appear to be uninformed and incompetent. This is a likely and [probable] outcome, which will cause significant harm to the company." 

Call for audit

As a result of that ruling, the federation is asking for an audit of the land deal, to find out more information.

"This 'factually wrong' information may have influenced the government's decision to overpay for GTH land," wrote MacKay.

"We need a full and independent audit to get taxpayers the answers they deserve for the millions wasted on the GTH deal."

Last year, the Global Transportation Hub refused to publicly release the appraisal. It said that if the document were made public, it could damage the reputation and finances of the company that produced it.

now