Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor has begun her work into a controversial land sale made by the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
Appearing before the public accounts committee, Judy Ferguson called the investigation “a priority”.
Ferguson began her work following an order-in-council made by the premier and released to the media Monday:
“On the recommendation of the undersigned, the Lieutenant Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, orders that the Lieutenant Governor in Council hereby requests that the Provincial Auditor perform a special assignment that examines whether the Government of Saskatchewan followed appropriate procedures and received appropriate value with respect to the acquisition by The Global Transportation Hub of the NW 20-17-20 W2 Extension 1 totaling 116.86 acres (or 47.31 hectares) and the SW 20-17-20 W2 Extension 1 totaling 87.40 acres (or 35.38 hectares) including examination of any transaction leading up to and following the said acquisition.”
The NDP reconvened the public accounts committee Wednesday to further look at the scope of the investigation. The opposition doesn’t think the investigation scope is wide enough and wants to see some kind of report from the auditor before the election on April 4.
Committee member Trent Wotherspoon introduced a motion that read in part:
“If this investigation is too complex to complete before the election, the Public Accounts Committee requests that the provincial auditor provide an interim report about the progress of the investigation and any findings which are already clear, to provide as much relevant information to Saskatchewan people as possible before the current legislature is dissolved.”
Ferguson doesn’t know whether the law even allows for her to report once the writ has dropped for the election.
“We’ve made the request and we haven’t had a response back from our legal counsel on that matter.”
Wotherspoon’s motion did not pass. Instead, the motion from the public accounts committee, which was passed by the Saskatchewan Party MLAs, read as follows:
“That the Standing Committee on Public Accounts support the work plan outlined by the Provincial Auditor in her letter of Feb. 9, 2016, which was tabled with the committee on Feb. 10, 2016.”
Last year, the province had the GTH buy 204 acres of land west of Regina to be used for the hub and for the Regina bypass. The land changed hands three times until the GTH bought it for $103,000 per acre, which added up to about $21 million in total. The price was quite a bit more than the $9,000 to $23,000 nearby land was being sold for, and the $35,000 the NDP says the government had the land appraised for. The Ministry of Highways then bought the land from the Crown Corp, GTH, for as much as $65,000 per acre for one package, and $50,000 for another.