Tower Road secrecy disrespectful to taxpayers

Premier Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party government heads toward an election in April, it has clearly recognized the need to mind its P's and Q's.

So one can only wonder why it's not better at minding its P3s.

Its justifications for its public-private partnership approach - especially when applied to the now $1.8-billion-plus Regina bypass - are becoming more specious by the day.

In fact, the government is in full spin mode, providing the media and even the NDP Opposition with Highways Ministry technical briefings.

The problem, however, is the more information it releases in dribs and drabs, the more legitimate appear the questions it seems to be providing for the media, Opposition and the "Why Tower Road?" crowd, which is now running a TV blitz on the costs.

This week, the questions seemed a lot better than the answers.

It all started with Opposition critic Trent Wotherspoon, who questioned the logic of government-employed snowplow operators plowing the Trans-Canada Highway having to lift their blades as they approach the 20-kilometre stretch of bypass from Balgonie to Regina.

This is what will happen once the bypass opens in 2018, because all maintenance matters (plowing, grass cutting, pothole and structural repairs, etc.) for 30 years will be the responsibility of the successful bidder - a Paris-based conglomerate. It will hire Saskatchewan crews to do the work.

Highways Minister Nancy Heppner was especially indignant, scolding Wotherspoon for not asking enough questions at his technical briefing and thus again bringing information to the assembly "that is not always correct."

The problem, however, is Wotherspoon does appear to be correct. And the Highways Ministry explanation as to why this would be the case was something-lessthan gracious.

The maintenance costs are a portion of an extra $680 million (essentially, the difference between the previous bypass construction estimate of $1.2 billion and the current $1.8-billion-plus price tag) that is called "risk transfer."

But how much of that extra $680 million taxpayers will shell out during the next 30 years for maintenance of the measly 20-kilometre stretch of highway remains an unknown. What we do know is that the snowplowing budget for the whole province is only $29 million a year.

Under the rules of the P3 bidding process, such a detailed breakdown in the bypass contract can't be released for competitive reasons, said SaskBuilds president Rupen Pandya.


P3 secrecy disrespectful to taxpayers (external - login to view)


#2  Top Rated Post
They need a bypass on the east part of Regina badly. Glad to see its being built.
LMFAO...buddy is still mad they started cleaning up his mess without him? Bummer.
Public Private partnerships are not the way to go. At the end of the partnership
the company hands over a mess we have had them here too.
When you have one there is profit in it or the private company wouldn't do it.
Those profits could be used for public good never did favor them.
Most of us thought there was just one Global Transportation Hub land deal.

It turns out, most of us were wrong.

An elite, powerful few have known all along that the GTH actually tried to buy the much-discussed 204 acres of land twice.

This is the story of the first attempt — an attempt which failed.

Documents obtained through access to information reveal that Premier Brad Wall's cabinet and senior staff were alerted to that first GTH-land-deal-the-rest-of-us-didn't-know-about back in November 2012.

Since the provincial auditor released her report on the Global Transportation Hub land deal at the start of summer the CBC's iTeam has been investigating what she found and comparing it with documents obtained through access to information and extensive interviews.

This is the first feature in a two-part series detailing what we have learned.

In this story you'll discover that back in 2012 then GTH Minister Bill Boyd and Crown Investments Corporation Minister Donna Harpauer made the government's first attempt to buy the much-discussed 204 acres.

  • They agreed to buy the land for 450 per cent more than their own appraisal said it was worth.
  • They were relying on hurried and incomplete due diligence.
  • They made the agreement with a company owned by an Alberta land baron whose family has a business relationship with Bill Boyd.
  • The deal fell apart moments before it reached the cabinet table because the GTH said it didn't know who owned the company that it had negotiated this multi-million dollar deal with.
The proposed deal collapsed minutes before it was to be discussed on the floor of cabinet — falling apart under a cloud of incomplete due diligence, eyebrow-raising land prices and a concealed identity.

The aborted first deal was uncovered by Saskatchewan's Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson.

She came across it while conducting an audit of the well-known GTH land deal

What emerges is a picture of a GTH, headed by then- GTH Minister Bill Boyd, which was willing to pay an extraordinary price to acquire this 204 acres and an Alberta businessman who was trying to sell it while his identity remained unknown.

The story begins with a phone call Boyd refuses to discuss.

In the spring of 2012, Boyd was flying high, as arguably the most powerful minister in Brad Wall's cabinet.

That very spring, Wall made Boyd head of a new super-Ministry of the Economy and appointed him minister responsible for SaskPower. He was also minister responsible for the GTH and chair of its board. Boyd resigned from cabinet over the summer and now sits as a backbencher.

At the time, his increasing power made Regina Leader-Post columnist, Murray Mandryk quip Boyd "may be one fluffy Persian cat and a remote desert island away from being the political equivalent of a James Bond villain."

It was that spring, when Boyd received the mysterious phone call.


The GTH land deal you've never heard of — and Bill Boyd won't talk about - Saskatchewan - CBC News

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