September 18, 2014 5:31 pm
Updated: September 18, 2014 7:26 pm

Government accidentally sold a bulldozer for $5,555 – then paid $65,000 to get it back

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WATCH: A puzzling story about bureaucratic bungling in Ottawa. A bulldozer was seized by court order and the federal government was supposed to destroy it. But it was sold, then bought back for 10-times the price and eventually ended up in the scrap yard. Jacques Bourbeau explains.

OTTAWA – It all started with a bulldozer.

In 2004, native protesters on the Kanesatake reserve in southwestern Quebec attacked a police station and set it on fire.

And they used a bulldozer in the attack – later seized by police.

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The courts ordered it destroyed. Except bureaucrats at the department of Public Works made a mistake.

They didn’t destroy it; they sold it privately – for $5,555.

“A management error was committed when (seized property officials) sold the bulldozer contrary to the court declaration to destroy it,” internal documents, obtained by the Liberals, reveal.

That’s when things got really complicated.

The two men who originally owned the bulldozer found out about the sale, and they sued the government, the RCMP, and the unnamed buyer – noting the bulldozer “has a special significance for a group of aboriginal people in Kanesatake.”

Bureaucrats panicked when they realized they no longer had it.

So they went back to the new owner to buy it back.

Except he’d made some significant upgrades to the yellow, “Timberjack”-style bulldozer – and he wanted ten times the price for it.

“The owner did not show too much enthusiasm about selling back the bulldozer, but he agreed and since he rebuilt the bulldozer, he offered to sell it for $67,000,” reads one internal document.

“There were no formal negotiations or attempts to lower this price at this time.”

The government took pains to make sure it was buying back the original product.

“Whoever takes possession of the bull will have to check the serial number to make sure that this is the right vehicle. He/she will also have to make sure that the blade is there, so that we are buying what we initially sold,” reads an email from Martin Harvey, acting manager of the seized property division of Public Works.

“This is very important.”

Bureaucrats eventually paid $65,000 to get it back – or $74,733 with tax.

“Can any of you advise Her Majesty that she is the proud owner of a refurbished bulldozer?” wrote two bureaucrats when the deal was done last summer.

Liberal MP John McCallum said the government made a “pretty bad deal for Canadian taxpayers” when they accidentally sold, then re-bought, the bulldozer.

“They paid ten times more than they sell it for, and they should not have sold it in the first place. So I think they have to clean up their act over at Public Works,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Public Works Minister Diane Finley said in 2012, the government initiated a review and instructed the department to “implement stronger processes” to prevent similar situations, and that it hasn’t happened since.

“The decision by public servants to sell these items was clearly made in error and was not in the interest of Canadian taxpayers,” spokeswoman Alyson Queen said in an email.

As for the bulldozer, the two men who wanted it back lost their court case last year.

And it appears headed for the junkyard – to be sold for scrap metal.

 

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