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Deputy economy minister will not be questioned by committee looking into Global Transportation Hub land deals

Click to play video: 'Opposition NDP question provincial auditor about GTH land deal'
Opposition NDP question provincial auditor about GTH land deal
WATCH ABOVE: The Opposition NDP have continually questioned the government over the Global Transportation Hub land deals. Today they had the opportunity to ask the provincial auditor about her investigation and soon more witnesses will be called. David Baxter has more. – Nov 8, 2016

Questions surrounding the government’s purchase of land near the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), just west of Regina, have dogged the governing Saskatchewan Party all session.

Before the GTH bought the land in late 2013 for $21 million, it was bought and sold numerous times at escalating prices in a short period of time.

“Our office has concluded that they did not buy this land in a fiscally responsible manner,” provincial auditor Judy Ferguson said during an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.

During her appearance, Ferguson went over the audit process with her team and was questioned by committee members.

Opposition member Cathy Sproule brought forward a motion to have deputy economy minister Laurie Pushor and the current and former GTH CEOs appear in a similar capacity.

Her motion was defeated.

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This set off another heated exchange in question period between the government and opposition.

“Why block the [deputy minister] from the Ministry of the Economy from talking to a committee that’s looking into a deal that he’s at the heart of?” Opposition Leader Trent Wotherspoon asked.

“All of the four individuals that they’ve said they’d like to appear in front of the public accounts committee to be questioned, were questioned as part of the provincial auditor’s report,” Premier Brad Wall responded.

When asked about the GTH by in his regular post-question period scrum, Wall referred to his statements made in the House and walked away.

The auditor’s report outlines Pushor’s involvement in negotiations with the third party the government bought the one of the parcels of land from at above the appraised price.

The highest appraisal outlined in the auditor’s report is $12 million. It was eventually bought for $21 million, at average price of $103,000 per acre.

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The land was originally purchased for the Regina Bypass, but it’s no longer needed for that project. It will be the future home to a new SaskPower facility instead.

The opposition have been asking for a forensic audit — in addition to the already completed process audit — since the start of session.

Ferguson stood by her findings and said they did not find anything in their investigation that points to the need for a deeper dig.

She said a forensic auditor was part of her team, and he would have said something if he felt the need for that type of audit.

“Frankly, if we did a forensic audit [at the start] there would be a lot of matters we included in our report that would not have been provided to the committee,” Ferguson said.

Current GTH CEO Bryan Richards and the deputy minister of highways will appear before the Public Accounts Committee before the end of session on Nov. 30.

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