Broten demands expedited investigation into troubling land deal

Broten asks chair to recall Public Accounts Committee, launch Provincial Auditor’s investigation 

NDP Leader Cam Broten has asked for a recall of the Public Accounts Committee of the legislature in order to launch an immediate, comprehensive Provincial Auditor’s special investigation into a highly concerning Sask. Party land deal.

On Monday. Broten asked Public Accounts Committee chair, Danielle Chartier, to recall the committee’s members as soon as possible. 

In the land deal, signed by Brad Wall, the Sask. Party paid $103,000 per acre for a 204-acre stretch of land for its Global Transportation Hub near Regina, which was three times the appraised value. For other parcels of land in the area, the Sask. Party paid between $9,000 and $23,000 per acre, using threat of expropriation.

Saskatchewan's independent auditor said Friday this “looks like it's not a normal transaction.”

“The actions of Mr. Wall and his cabinet in this $21-million land deal definitely require immediate investigation, because something really stinks here,” said Broten. “This is millions of dollars – Saskatchewan families’ money – wasted. All taxpayers and voters need to know what led Minister Bill Boyd, Premier Brad Wall and the cabinet to pay that massive purchase price.”

According to section 16 of The Provincial Auditor Act, giving the Provincial Auditor direction to investigate immediately, and thoroughly – and providing the resources her office needs to do that – can be mandated by the premier and cabinet, or by the Public Accounts Committee.

In the past, when conservative MLAs in Saskatchewan – Boyd’s colleagues and Wall’s bosses – were convicted of fraud, the auditor played a critical role in uncovering problems through audits. Broten said if Wall believes there are no irregularities or concerns with this deal, he should welcome an expedited forensic audit.

“Mr. Wall’s cabinet reviewed this deal and approved it, and Mr. Wall personally signed the order to hand over $21 million for land worth just a fraction of that,” said Broten. “He has to answer for wasting millions like that – especially at a time when he’s spent the province into deficit and is making cuts to health care and in schools.

“That’s why I’ve asked Public Accounts chair Danielle Chartier to convene a meeting at the earliest opportunity, and I’ve asked NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, to bring forward a motion that mandates an immediate, comprehensive investigation by the Provincial Auditor. Mr. Wall and his cabinet ministers have a lot to answer for.”

Without a mandate for a special investigation, the auditor cannot access the resources needed to fully investigate, and her audit wouldn’t be finished and released until it’s included in the auditor’s standard report in December 2016.

Media reports have raised concerning questions about the relationship between the Sask. Party and the businessmen who made tens of millions off this land deal, including a land-rental arrangement between Boyd and one of the businessmen, and thousands in political donations to Boyd and the Sask. Party. The NDP says these elements should be looked into by the proper authorities.