Saskatchewan’s auditor, Judy Ferguson, will be looking into the deal between the Regina branch of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Brandt and the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) to build a 77,000 square-foot office building in Wascana Park.
Ferguson said this is not a special audit, but will be part of her 2019 report looking into a broad array of government functions.
The focus of her audit will be to ensure that all the processes in making the deal follow existing legislative practices, and will not be commenting on the subject matter of the decisions.
The auditor’s annual report is released in two volumes each year. Ferguson expects this section of her report will be part of the second volume, released in December.
This information comes amid calls for greater transparency into the future CNIB/Brandt building.
In Monday’s question period, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili called for increased transparency on the deal.
Much of Meili’s criticism stems from what he called a “sweetheart deal” between the province and Brandt, a Saskatchewan Party corporate donor.
The $1 per year lease on the old CNIB building will extend to this new property. CNIB will occupy approximately 4,000 square feet of the 77,000 square-foot building.
“They did this all in order to ultimately give this project, which will be a source of millions of dollars of revenue, to one of their biggest corporate donors. That to me just reeks and I think people of Saskatchewan know that’s not the way it should be,” Meili said.
On top of this, two motions are making their way through Regina city council relating to the deal.
First, Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins is calling for a public inquiry into the deal. Among issues Hawkins cited include the replacement of the Wascana Centre Authority board with the “provincial government dominated” PCC in 2017, “refreshment of” the Architectural Advisory Committee in 2018, and initially unpermitted demolition of the old CNIB building by Brandt.
The second motion is from Ward 1 Coun. Barbara Young, who is the city council representative on the PCC.
Her motion calls on the city to request the PCC request details on the process that sees land leased from the province to the CNIB and then leased to Brandt from the CNIB; that information on further Wascana Park developments be made available to the public on the park’s website; and regular updates on major PCC projects in Wascana Park be provided to the public on a regular basis as outlined in the parks 2016 master plan.
Central Services Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said he is in favour of transparency, but does not believe an inquiry is necessary.
“We’ll wait to see what motion comes forward, but we don’t feel an inquiry is necessary whatsoever. The provincial auditor can weigh in at any time if she wants, but we don’t feel that that’s necessary,” Cheveldayoff said.
Global News spoke with Cheveldayoff prior to the knowledge that the auditor planned to look into the deal. A spokesperson for Cheveldayoff said the above quote still stands.
The Regina city council motions were tabled at their February meeting, and are expected to be on their March 25 agenda.