REGINA – The provincial NDP and PC parties are both questioning what they call a “concerning” government land deal.
They claim the Saskatchewan Party paid much more than the government-appraised price for parcels of land west of Regina, and despite an official ruling of the contrary, question whether the minister in charge was in a position of conflict of interest.
The land in question stretches 204 acres along Regina’s west side, adjacent to the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
According to the NDP, the land lies in the path of the Regina Bypass and cost taxpayers $21 million. The NDP claims the price paid is nearly 200 per cent more than the land’s government-appraised value of roughly $35,000 per acre.
The opposition questions why the government waited to buy the land when they’ve known they needed it since at least 2007.
The Minister Responsible for the Global Transportation Hub told reporters Wednesday that land prices continue to climb in the area so the government needed to act.
“This was part of the infrastructure needs the GTH had,” Bill Boyd explained. “As a result of numbers going up very quickly, and they continue to go up, I think we’re selling lands for well over $300,000, so because of that escalation of price we felt we had to move very quickly.”
NDP Deputy Leader Trent Wotherspoon said something about the land deal “stinks.”
“At best we’re dealing with a circumstance of incompetence and mismanagement that’s wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, public money,” he said. “At worse it’s something much uglier than that and is something authorities would need to get to the bottom of.”
What the opposition wants to get to the bottom of is a CBC story alleging conflict of interest between Minister Boyd and a former owner of the land.
Boyd approached the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, who ruled the deal did not breach the province’s Conflict of Interest Act. He’s now threatening legal action against the CBC and the reporter who broke the story.
Premier Brad wall is standing firmly behind Boyd, saying in a statement, “I fully support Minister Boyd and am confident his actions in this matter were appropriate at all times. I also support any legal action he may decide to take against the CBC.”
The PC Party is also asking for an investigation into what the party and Premier knew about the agreement, and is calling on Minister Boyd to resign.
The government signed off on the land deal back in February 2014.