Conflict of Interest Commissioner investigating GTH lease involving minister’s son

A truck leaving the Global Transportation Hub. File / Global News

Saskatchewan’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner, Ronald Barclay, is looking into a money-losing lease agreement for office space at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) involving a cabinet minister’s son.

Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell asked Barclay to look into a sublease sMedia has at the GTH, according to a statement issued by Premier Scott Moe’s press secretary, Jim Billington. Tell’s son, Regan Hinchcliffe, is a co-founder and owner of sMedia.

According the the statement, sMedia entered a lease agreement for unoccupied office space previously used by the GTH administrative team. This agreement will result in a $278,000 loss over 10 years, according to Billington.

However, Billington’s statement adds the GTH would lose $1.7 million if the space was left vacant.

This led the opposition NDP to also request a conflict of interest investigation. GTH critic Cathy Sproule wrote Barclay Monday, requesting he look into the timing of the lease.

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The sublease was signed in October, 2019. Sproule wrote this is the same month that Colliers International took over management of the GTH from the province. The letter says it is reasonable to expect some discussion of sMedia’s lease took place while the government was managing the GTH.

“I’ve just advised [Sproule] that she has under the legislation shown reasonable and probable grounds, so I’m going to go ahead and do a full-scale investigation in respect to the allegations that she made in her letter to me,” Barclay said in a phone interview.

Barclay spoke with Tell on Monday. He said she told him that she knew nothing about the lease until after it was signed. This is repeated in Billington’s statement, which says Tell first heard about sMedia’s GTH lease when Hinchcliffe “mentioned it to her in passing” after it had been signed.

As part of the investigation, Barclay said he plans on speaking with Hinchcliffe, the GTH board, Colliers International, and compare and contrast leases for similar office property. The goal of this comparison is to help establish what fair market value would have been for commercial office space in Regina when the lease was signed.

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“When I’ve acquired all the facts, I will prepare an opinion that will become public,” Barclay said.

According to Billington, the sMedia sublease was negotiated by that company’s broker, the acting GTH CEO and Colliers. He adds that cabinet did not review or approve the sublease, and there was no contact throughout the negotiation process between any parties relating to Tell.

The GTH has struggled to sell land and has fallen under intense opposition scrutiny in recent years.

“Every decision the Sask. Party makes at the GTH loses us money,” said Sproule in a statement.

“This latest deal needs to be properly investigated now that Colliers has assumed responsibility. We need to know how this company was identified as a possibility to lease the space, and who approved cutting the cost for the space by thirty per cent.”

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