Posted in Letters

The recent parliamentary scrutiny of our Liberal government's secretive arrangements with SNC-Lavalin, has completely engrossed millions of Canadians along with other politically curious people around the world. The Liberal Party of Canada's clandestine interactions with SNC-Lavalin and their apparent efforts to permanently conceal and covered up those interactions appears to be another example of the "business of politics."
Private sector interests and their independent interests seem to infest all levels of our legislative administration. Our ‘’ team is somewhat encouraged to see that a few members of the Liberal cabinet and caucus have been willing to break party ranks and expose the unethical (and possibly illegal) preferential treatment their colleagues have apparently been offering their closest corporate supporters.

Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk has shown journalistic integrity by shedding light on a number of controversial issues. After we read Mr. Mandryk's mid-March Regina Leader-Post Opinion column, we were once again somewhat encouraged. Mr. Mandryk justifiably lambasted our current provincial government. Mr. Mandryk's column referenced the scandalous Global Transportation Hub (GTH) land buying and selling schemes. We were especially impressed with his commentary regarding the government's broken-record responses to probing questions similar to the 'no wrongdoing' mantra we heard from the Saskatchewan Party which was the government in place during the Global Transportation Hub fiasco.

It would appear that our government has a learning disability Having learned little from the GTH experience. One of their prominent members displayed what appears to be a “cut and run” strategy designed to be either ignored or skirted by those around Bill Boyd et al. It appears obvious to many that things were done that “simply shouldn’t have been done." So, since the Leader-Post's long-time scribe has reminded the Sask. Party of one of their most wasteful ventures, our members decided we should also revisit the mirky waters surrounding the entire GTH fiasco. The history of dealings surrounding this project are eerily similar to those of the east Regina Bypass.

Below is a reprint of a letter we composed last summer, shortly after we had been completely blindsided and staggered by the RCMP's announcement that after more than two years of intensive investigations they would not be criminally charging anyone involved with the public and private sector land acquisitions which had taken place amid so much controversy.

On the west outskirts of the city, in the vicinity of the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), Manitoba Justice attorneys and members of the Saskatchewan RCMP Federal Criminal Operations Division had been co-investigating a bewildering series of land purchases that occurred alongside the West Regina Bypass. In early 2016, Geoff Leo, an intrepid CBC Saskatchewan iTeam investigative journalist, originally broke the story of all the GTH’s outrageous land acquisition manipulations. Former Sask. Party MLA Bill Boyd (a member of former premier Grant Devine's administration) appeared to have been involved in a highly illegal land buy/sell/quick-flip/resell ploy that ultimately enriched a couple of his private enterprise associates with excessive sums of taxpayer funds.

We were supremely confident these public and private sector players would be charged, tried and convicted of a number of criminal offences. However, on the afternoon of July 25, 2018, the Saskatchewan RCMP Federal Criminal Operations Division declared they had finally completed their investigation into the land transactions that had taken place next to the GTH. An RCMP’s spokesperson announced that they would not be criminally charging any of the dealmakers who were thought to have been caught red-handed misappropriating Saskatchewan taxpayer funds. We predict this incredibly divisive “no-charges to be laid” decision is destined to some day be acknowledged in political science textbooks as a colossal miscarriage of justice.

The RCMP spokesperson stated that “approximately 7,500 person-hours were devoted to the file” and that “thousands of documents were examined.” ..We need to respectively ask: “Just exactly what were the sources of the evidence they had sorted through during their two-and-a-half years of devoted investigations?” Did they perhaps inadvertently overlook, or possibly misinterpret the most damning pieces of evidence?

Is there any chance they simply didn’t ask for (or stumble upon) the real “gotcha” documents. What would a closer look at the bank statements of the prime suspects reveal? Our research combined with targeted interviews confirmed to us that the deliberately confusing circumstances behind the West Regina Bypass-GTH land dealings were questionable if not actually criminal in nature. The entangled financial arrangements between certain provincial public servants (including former MLA Bill Boyd and former premier Brad Wall), along with GTH administrators who for some reason were temporarily deputized as land purchase agents, an Alberta land baron and a prominent Regina businessman all seemed to be so deeply connected to acts of fraud and collusion. These acts resulted in several examples of windfall profits made by a select few at the expense of the taxpaying public who ultimately financed these transactions.

At the close of the investigation, The RCMP spokesperson read these statements: “All of the documents the RCMP examined were freely provided to investigators by the holding parties”. These investigators allegedly “never got to the point where the ‘threshold’ to execute any search warrants had been established”.

It is understandable that those individuals who were potentially facing lengthy jail sentences would freely hand over the documents that would ensure their incarcerations. The Saskatchewan RCMP may have concluded their involvement in these vexing matters, but their no-search-warrants-executed report clearly underscores the need to go above and beyond their devoted efforts.

An in-depth judicial public inquiry and forensic audit are still very much needed. Too many concerned citizens feel there are buried truths that absolutely must be dredged to the surface and hauled before other investigative agencies that are mandated to guard the public purse from unlawful and unscrupulous deceivers.

The provincial government’s top spin doctors have recently reintroduced a couple of their leading ‘talking-heads’. Their comments appear to support the political strategies of diversion, deflection and distraction.

Following the RCMP’s polarizing announcement, Sask. Party MLA Steven Bonk and Attorney General/Minister of Justice Don Morgan stepped out from behind the government’s Wall-of-Silence-and-Secrets to perform their well-rehearsed acts in front of the local media. Predictably both agreed that the RCMP undoubtedly reached the right decision and that they were certain the investigations were handled ethically and efficiently. True to the classic diversion-deflection-distraction tactics, MLA Bonk and Attorney General Morgan only addressed the tip of their redacted iceberg. MLA Bonk conceded, “There were some operational issues with assembling land, but we have been very open and transparent and learned from our mistakes.”

Mr. Morgan further explained; “The provincial auditor made recommendations that were critical of the government as to how the land was acquired, when it wasn’t acquired, and when it should have been acquired. We accept those recommendations and we also accept that the government did not do a good job of assembling the land and acquiring it when they should have.”

After suffering through the incredulous statements which were so dutifully delivered by Messrs. Bonk and Morgan, our resolve was instantly restored by Geoff Leo’s Aug. 9, 2018 article titled: 20 Unanswered Questions About the GTH Land Deal. Mr. Leo’s scathing commentary unflinchingly re-examined the numerous facts and details that should have provided RCMP investigators with ample clues that point to numerous criminal activities.

Mr. Leo’s revealing work has helped to broaden and amplify the call for a judicial public inquiry and a forensic audit. There have now been rallying calls led by public servants to protect taxpayer funds from insatiable scammers and swindlers. Todd MacKay (prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) and NDP MLAs Cathy Sproule, Nicole Sarauer and Trent Wotherspoon have been especially vocal regarding the need to expand and intensify the investigative probes.

It’s important to note that Mr. Leo and his fellow CBC journalists report for a reputable and respected news agency. Therefore, they simply would not release any story unless they were virtually assured of the validity of their research and sources. They are sworn to write every commentary as impartial, unbiased and objective practitioners of their trade. The Office of the Ombudsman constantly reviews and judges the journalistic integrity of all public news reporters.

Besides Messrs. Bonk and Morgan, a few other Sask. Party officials have admitted that the public purse is a little lighter because of a couple operational issues and timing oversights their government had carelessly committed.

We think they should be addressing the agonizing likelihood that at least a billion dollars were wasted on the bloated, budget-busting Regina Bypass. We also think they should also be addressing the concern that millions of our (freely contributed) tax dollars were illicitly utilized to gratify the avarice of a few well placed entrepreneurs.

And to this very day, no one representing any level of government or any of their (alleged) corporate raider bosses have expressed any remorse or offered any apologies for the grievous harm their (alleged) callous actions inflicted upon so many good people who were living and working alongside the bypass’s “Paths of Destruction.” But hey, it took 5 years before the walls finally came tumbling down on 16 of former Premier Grant Devine’s political comrades—who were ultimately convicted of economic crimes that only siphoned off about a million dollars of public funds. So hey, our hope springs eternal.

Also, we really need to know: Who reeled in and reprogrammed MLA Gordon Wyant, the one-time straight talking legislator who confidently entered the Sask. Party leadership race late in the summer of 2017? We’re referring to the gent who routinely told his campaign rally attendees that he would, "… hold a public inquiry on the GTH land deals no matter what the RCMP investigation concluded,” because, “…there are unanswered questions for me.” And, during an early September, 2017 interview with CBC he emphatically stated: “I’m a citizen of this province whether I’m a member of government or not. There are some troubling things about this, and at the end of the day we need to clear the air so that people are made comfortable with what happened. If charges aren’t preferred then there’s going to be a report that’s tendered to the director of public prosecutions, which isn’t going to be made public, and that doesn’t do anything to clear the air. We need to shine a very, very bright light on this and the only way to do that is to give the commissioner the power that he needs not only to compel witnesses and to compel documents and testimony but to make some findings so that we can put this whole thing behind us as a party.”

Then, on November 17, 2017, Mr. Wyant reconfirmed to the crowd gathered in Regina’s Ramada Plaza Hotel that he would most definitely push for a comprehensive public inquiry because there was such “a cloud of suspicion over the government and the party.” And, near the end of that rally he quietly approached myself and one of my colleagues and promised he would schedule a private meeting to further discuss his plans for a future public inquiry. Two days later, on November 19, we received an email from “Gord Wyant” That email contained Mr. Wyant’s leadership campaign form letter; and it effectively introduced the candidate and his political platform, positions and perspectives. We were especially impressed by the below subheading and its three ambitious points:

Increased transparency:

• 1. A public inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub will be initiated once the RCMP investigation has concluded.

2. The powers within the Conflict of Interest Act will be strengthened to ensure the Conflict of Interest Commissioner can investigate potential issues more thoroughly and resolve them more quickly.

3. Independent officers of the Legislature will be asked for recommendations on ways to strengthen legislation, enhance disclosure mechanisms, and create a more open and accountable government.

However, our follow-up emails and letters to Mr. Wyant were never answered or acknowledged. His broken promise to us regarding a private meeting was disappointing, but we believed his own disappointment at not winning the leadership of the Sask. Party may have contributed to his silence. And then, on February 2, 2018, he was appointed Deputy Premier and Minister of Education; and we knew his increased workload meant the window of opportunity to reconnect with Mr. Wyant had been virtually closed. However, last summer he did reconnect with a national award-winning journalist. In his July 26, 2018 CBC Saskatchewan news story titled Deputy Premier Backs Away From Campaign Call for GTH Inquiry Following RCMP Probe, iTeam journalist Geoff Leo reported, “Gord Wyant says he supports the government’s position to move on, despite what he promised during the leadership bid. He would not repeat that strident call for a detailed public review of the controversial deals, instead saying he’s satisfied with the RCMP investigation.” Is there any chance our missing-in-action MLA was taken aside by the Sask. Party’s damage control specialists and sternly told that he needed to fall into line and to start marching to their protectionist orders because his propensity to freely speak his own mind and to freely express his own opinions could lead to a breach in their Wall-of-Silence-and-Secrets? And, is there any chance whatsoever that his recent Deputy Premier and Minister of Education appointments were granted in exchange for his promise to perform as just another muzzled and mind-controlled political drone?

In another paragraph within his above-mentioned July 26, 2018 article Mr. Leo wrote, “In an email CBC asked Wyant if he still believed an inquiry was necessary in order to clear the air. Wyant’s emailed statement, provided by the Premier’s Office, didn’t directly answer that question. Instead it referenced the lengthy RCMP investigation which ‘concluded that there was no illegal activity related to the GHT.’” Was that email channeled through the Premier’s Office because Mr. Wyant was too busy marching and falling into line, and therefore couldn’t find time to personally fire off that email from his Deputy Premier’s Office, or maybe from his Ministry of Education Office? And, before the Premier’s Office provided that email to CBC, was it perhaps subjected to a bit of proofreading, editing and censoring by the party’s damage control specialists? And just how long do the party’s overworked damage controllers feel they can hold up the Wall-of-Silence-and-Secrets that’s keeping their cowering employers hidden away from truly objective and proficient criminal inspectors?

We have carefully studied every section of the Code of Ethical Conduct For Members of the Legislative Assembly; and we’re certain the majority of our elected public servants faithfully adhere to the guidelines presented within that official government document. However, if even just a handful of rogue, self-serving provincial politicians have dishonoured their pledge of “commitment to the highest ethical standards” and have entered into secretive pacts with private business persons to willfully defraud the people of Saskatchewan, those unscrupulous individuals must be exposed, and then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Even the provincial government's most hard core boosters and supporters must realize that there is something most definitely rotten in the state of Saskatchewan. "If a politician's lips are moving, he or she is lying." This tired and well-worn old adage could (and should) be muttered every time a Sask. Party MLA arrogantly saunters over to a live media microphone.

So, here we are now. Once again, the Honourable Gordon Wyant is back on the public stage; and he is once again speaking into live media microphones in order to cool the heat of another public outcry. The Sask. Party's latest brush fire was ignited by their 2019-20 budget announcement that the funding for Regina's Cornwall Alternative School would be terminated. And because the heat and flames of that brush fire were intensified and spread by the admirable efforts of many stakeholders -- including opposition NDP MLAs, the school's board members, and current and former students, teachers and administrators -- the provincial government has now reversed their planned funding cut to that critically needed school.

Wearing his Minister of Education hat, Mr. Wyant has admitted that he "needs to ask more questions and have more conversations with both public and Catholic school divisions." He also stated, "I make decisions based on the information that I have that comes to me, and I think that's a bit of a failing on my part, that I didn't reach out, that I didn't ask enough questions when it came to the decision that we made in the budget." Well, on the evening of Nov.17, 2017, our colleagues reached out to Mr. Wyant. They were most willing to have him ask them questions, to provide him with extensive information and to engage with him in conversation regarding his government's $2 Billion Dollar Regina Trans-Canada Highway No.1 Bypass. Their 500% over-budget infrastructure project has impacted so many good citizens of this province (either directly or indirectly); and it is still a major factor as to why the government is continually cutting (or attempting to cut) so many essential services and programs. Judging by his prompt response to the Cornwall Alternative School dust-up, it seems the optimal way to remind Mr. Wyant of his forgotten promise to launch a public inquiry into the concerning aspects of the Bypass is to put his feet to a public fire (figuratively speaking, of course).

From a local perspective, we were also somewhat encouraged when Brandt Development's controversial construction operations in Regina's Wascana Park were temporarily halted. We wish to pass along our sincerest regards to the various concerned and courageous citizens who contributed to this stop-and-take-an-investigative-breath reprieve, including: a growing roster of City of Regina councillors; CBC Saskatchewan iTeam journalist Geoff Leo; and all the amazing members of the never-say-never No Business in the Park organization. One of our colleagues recently joined the No Business in the Park folks to support their sign-waving campaign in front of the now-demolished CNIB building. He reported back to us that he also joined them for a very inspiring two-hour coffee shop celebration.