The province is officially getting out of the inland port business.
Friday, the provincial government announced the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) board of directors was in the process of hiring a third party consultant to lead the transition to divestment and define a new governance structure for the GTH.
“We believe the GTH plays a vital role in Saskatchewan’s export-oriented economy and will for many years to come,” Minister Responsible Don Morgan said.
“However, the GTH will be in a better position to reach its full potential operated by the private sector. This process will be handled professionally and responsibly to ensure the GTH can continue to help drive economic growth in Saskatchewan.”
While the transition from publicly-owned to private is underway, staff members working in operations, business development, marketing and investment attraction will remain in place to ensure there is no disruption in business operations.
GTH president and CEO Bryan Richards, however, will not be a part of the transition. The organization’s current vice president of finance, Matt Schroeder, will serve as acting CEO. Provincial legislation governing the GTH will remain in place.
“I want to thank Bryan for his work and vision over the past five and a half years,” GTH Board Chair Terry Baker said. “We wish Bryan all the best with his future endeavours and we will work closely with Matt and the remaining staff as the divestment proceeds.”
According to the Regina Leader-Post, Morgan admitted the province should not have been involved, and the goal is to sell the land. The government will maintain management, but operations and sales will be contracted out.
The facility has been subject to controversy ever since it was learned that two Sask. Party-connected businessmen made a total profit of about $11 million from sales of land to the port. Since then, the GTH has struggled to sell remaining land or meet its projected targets. Its total debt hovers around $40 million.
According to CBC News, the government will ask private realtors to sell off the land piece by piece. NDP GTH critic Cathy Sproule told the broadcaster said that by moving the sale of land from the public to the private sector, the government will make the secretive GTH more opaque.
“All that’s doing is throwing a tarp over accountability and transparency when it comes to freedom-of-information requests,” she said. She added that the GTH should be the ones running the divestiture, not private people hired to do that job.
Morgan is hopeful the endeavour will be profitable in the end, but Sproule is confident the province will have lost money by the time the GTH saga is over.