I trust that those of you that had the time enjoyed Canada Day celebrations in your community. Unfortunately the weather across Saskatchewan wasn't terribly cooperative but I know many events went off without a hitch. As I said last week, we have much to celebrate in this country and should never take our freedom and privileges as a society for granted. To those of you who have family and friends south of the border, happy July 4th!
Unfortunately taking things for granted has become a hallmark of our Sask Party government. A prime example of this is the release of the Provincial Auditor's special report on the land purchases around the Global Transportation Hub. This report was released last Thursday on the last sitting day of the spring session of the Legislature. It was also the last news day before a long weekend. Coincidence? I think not.
This report should have been the subject matter for Question Period, for Minister's Estimates and for Committee questioning for the entire length of the sitting of the Legislative Assembly. At question is the spending of over $20 million of taxpayer's money and the relationships between a senior Cabinet Minister in the Wall government and various individuals from the private sector with personal and political connections to that Minister and that government.
That is what our Legislative Assembly is for - to ask all of the appropriate questions about taxpayer's money being spent and whether those expenditures are appropriate and in the best interest of the province. In my view, that has not occurred and will not occur.
After reviewing the 64 page report from the Auditor, I find no fault with the Auditor because she could only deal with the material in a manner consistent with her mandate and that is the problem. Nowhere in this report is there the mention of interviews with the various private sector third parties and certainly no mention of these interviews being done under oath. There is no mention of the examination of financial records of these private sector third parties. That is because all of this was outside the realm of the Provincial Auditor's mandate. That is why from the very first public revelations - revelations that were spearheaded by the PC Party of Saskatchewan - we asked for a judicial inquiry.
The much-touted private sector appraisal of the property which the Premier boasted would exonerate the Minister was not published in the report and to my knowledge, never has been revealed. The Auditor does point out that the Minister took these decisions to the Board of Directors of the GTH the morning of a board meeting which means basically these things were already a done deal before the board had a chance to look at them.
The Auditor does point out that there was no coordination between the Department of Highways and the GTH even though Highways could have acquired this land at a third of the cost through expropriation. The report also points out that the Department of Highways has not treated citizens fairly and with respect when acquiring land for the South Regina Bypass.
What most people seem to forget in all of this which I did point out to the media during the scrums last Thursday is that this land mess at the GTH is all part of the ill-conceived $2 billion South Regina Bypass which a broke Sask Party government has committed us taxpayers to paying for, for the next 30 years. This is a project which we will not own and which we will be paying lease payments on for 30 years to a foreign company.
The Premier had the audacity to stand up in the Legislature and claim that this piece of land was going to be of great commercial value to the people of Saskatchewan. The reality is a third of it will be covered up in dirt and asphalt for an inter-change and a good portion of the rest will be a borrow pit to supply dirt for the bypass. The Premier insists that this land has the same value as fully developed and services commercial property around the City of Regina. I wonder who has been blowing smoke up his backside?
As I said in my opening statement, this Premier and this government takes the rest of us for granted and that our tax dollars have become the Sask Party government's piggy bank.
The sad reality is that many of us predicted the outcome of this report before it even began.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”