Meili: government needs to answer GTH questions

NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili speaks to supporters in Prince Albert on Nov. 19. (Peter Lozinski/Daily herald)

NDP leader Ryan Meili says conversations he’s having as he travels the province during the summer break from the legislature confirms what his party has been saying — that an independent, judicial review is needed to get answers into the events leading up to controversial GTH land deals.

The RCMP investigation closed in late July without any criminal charges being laid. The provincial government has admitted it made missteps, including in delaying purchases of the land, which led to the government paying more for the land than it was worth. But the Sask. Party also says that since the auditor, conflict of interest commissioner and RCMP have looked into the matter, it’s time to move on.

The NDP isn’t convinced.

“I haven’t heard from anyone who isn’t a (government) minister saying that absolves the government of all concerns on this. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said.

“There’s a lot of space between charges being laid and everything being just fine. It’s pretty clear from the experience of the landowners, the money that’s been spent and the way things are going that there were real problems with the way that was managed. We are demanding a judicial inquiry and a forensic audit of that program.”

The GTH is an inland port just west of Regina.

Several landowners, including a group of nuns, sold their land to Robert Tappauf, who flipped it at an increased price to Regina businessman Anthony Marquart.

Saskatchewan’s auditor found taxpayers ended up paying too much when the provincial government bought the land from Marquart. The report concluded not enough was done by the province to buy land in a financially responsible way and brought to light a series of communication failures between government departments, a lack of business cases for decisions made and not enough general documentation.

Bill Boyd, the minister responsible for the GTH at the time of the transactions, faced much criticism from the Opposition NDP over his role in the deals. Part of that criticism stemmed from Boyd’s and the governing Saskatchewan Party ties to Marquart and Tappauf.

The Tappauf family has rented land to Boyd and donated to his election campaigns as well as the party. Between 2009 and 2014, Marquart’s companies have given more than $20,000 to the Saskatchewan Party.

Justice Minister Don Morgan told reporters last week that it’s time to move on, not just from the investigations, but from the GTH. He said the government will be looking at options to divest from or sell off the asset.

Meili said it’s fine that Morgan admitted mistakes were made, “But there’s no transparency about what really went wrong, what really went on and who knew what, when. That’s why we’re continuing to ask for the full inquiry.”