The NDP has called a Public Accounts Committee meeting for Wednesday to deal with the premier's controversial land purchase, and is repeating its demand that the premier call the legislature back to deal with the financial mess the Sask. Party is trying to hide.
The NDP has called the committee meeting to give the independent Provincial Auditor a full mandate to investigate the Sask. Party’s troubling land purchase for the Global Transportation Hub (GTH). Rather than Brad Wall’s weak request to simply check the purchase process, NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon said the auditor needs a robust mandate to look into whether Brad Wall and cabinet misused public funds, made appropriate decisions, and acted in the best interests of taxpayers. Importantly, a request to provide a progress report before the April 4 election must be part of the Auditor’s mandate, so voters have as much information as possible before heading to the polls.
For taxpayers asking where all the money went after a decade of resource wealth, the millions the Sask. Party wasted in the deeply troubling land deal is a hint at just how they took the province from booming to broke so quickly. The GTH scandal comes as Wall keeps his deficit total secret, as well as his budget plans.
“Brad Wall is desperately trying to keep so much information from Saskatchewan people, as we're just weeks away from the election – he won't tell us how deep the deficit is, he won't tell us what he plans to cut or privatize next, and now he's content to keep the details of his sketchy land deal under wraps until months after the election,” said Wotherspoon. “We're not accepting that, because Saskatchewan people deserve so much better.
“We saw in the fall session that it took day after day of tough questions to drag the truth out of Brad Wall and Bill Boyd about their carbon capture mess. That's why we need the legislature back in session this month, to get to the bottom of the financial mess the Sask. Party has created, and to dig into the premier's controversial land deal. And we need to give the auditor a strong mandate to investigate the land-purchase scandal and ensure Saskatchewan people have as much information as possible, as soon as possible.”
In the land deal, signed by Wall, the Sask. Party paid $103,000 per acre for a 204-acre stretch of land near Regina – which was three times the appraised value, and way higher than what all other land owners in the region received, which was between $9,000 and $23,000 per acre, under threat of expropriation. The Auditor has already said this “looks like it's not a normal transaction.”
When the Public Accounts Committee meets Wednesday morning, Wotherspoon will move the following motion to beef up the auditor’s mandate:
The Public Accounts Committee hereby requests that the Provincial Auditor perform a special assignment to fully examine the land purchase, including whether the premier, minister responsible for the Global Transportation Hub, or any other cabinet minister or government official misused public resources, violated appropriate policies and procedures or failed to negotiate in the best interests of taxpayers in regard to the land acquisition detailed in Order-in-Council 44/2014, which was signed by the premier on February 27, 2014; and, further, 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.
“We're hearing so much frustration from people all over Saskatchewan about this $21-million land deal and about Brad Wall's refusal to be upfront about the true state of our finances or his budget plans,” said Wotherspoon. “People keep saying that Brad Wall and the Sask. Party have changed. There was a time when they pretended they cared about transparency, but not anymore.
“Now, they're happy to spend three times the appraised value of land. No wonder Saskatchewan is broke! Brad Wall and the Sask. Party let us down in good times, and it's clear that we sure can’t trust them in tougher times.”