HIGHWAY ROBBERY THE REGINA BYPASS LAND SCANDAL HEADLINES
In June 2013, we attended a Public Open Forum on the new Regina Bypass. We discovered that the approved plan had been replaced with a new preferred plan to move the Regina Bypass 400 meters east of Tower Road. This news came to us after we started our business expansion plans in 2010 when we got approval to build on our property off Tower Road.
This new plan effectively destroyed our business expansion plans. We started the Regina Committee for an Alternative Bypass Solution/ Why Tower Road to lobby the government. We started researching, writing letters, advertising, and trying to inform the public. We wanted to discover what the science was behind the government’s decision to build an outdated, dysfunctional, seriously flawed, unsafe, $2 billion dollar, developer influenced, dead end Regina Bypass partially within City limits that cannot go north around the city to the commercial industrial business district.
When we started our efforts we had no idea that we were about to embark on the biggest fight of our life. We were never consulted or invited to the closed door meetings that determined our fate. The way we saw it, we had two options, we could have said, "You can’t fight City Hall" and just shut down our business and admit that we had wasted the last 30 years of our lives. Or, we could make up our minds then and there that we were going to dig in and fight to stay alive. When we started digging into the strange circumstances we discovered that we were not the only ones, thousands of people have been impacted. People have lost their land, homes, businesses, ball park, access, health, history, and future. People along Tower Road, who were never properly consulted, were literally bulldozed through by the government’s relentless expropriators. At least half a dozen people in the vicinity of Tower Road are now battling terminal illnesses. The extreme stresses they’ve been subjected to have certainly contributed to their problems. It didn’t take us long to realize that we hadn’t taken up the fight for our own personal benefit but we did it to stand up for all of those people who no longer had the strength the fight.
We did everything we could think of. We tried to engage the Sask Party, the Opposition Party, the media, volunteers, other organizations. The only response we got from the Sask. Party was that it was the engineers who decided where the Bypass should go. In documented and recorded conversations with Senior Engineers with the Department of Highways, they told us that they did not agree with the location of the eastern leg of the Regina Bypass. They even confirmed our suspicious by speculating that it was the developers who influenced the decision to move the location.
We have tried to engage the NDP Opposition Party over the last several years. We first approached them in 2014 and asked them to present our petition for the Sask. Party to put a hold on the Regina Bypass and to reevaluate the location. We were promised that our petition would be read into the legislature on budget day. There we were, on budget day in the stands of the legislature waiting for the petition to be read. We sat there the entire time hopeful that the NDP would follow through on their promise. We were surprised that when the session was our there had been no mention of our petition.
More recently, in the 2019 spring session the NDP brought up our petition for a Judicial Public Inquiry and a Forensic Audit into the Regina Bypass Land Scandal several times. We kept pressing them to hold a press conference afterwards but they refused. We have written several letters to our MLA's Nicole Sarauer, Yens Pederson and NDP Leader Ryan Meili requesting to meet with them to discuss how they can help in our efforts. Almost all letters have gone unanswered. Why wont the NDP do their job and represent their constituents who voted for them to speak on their behalf?
We have spoken to almost every media outlet we can think of to no avail. We have written hundreds of letters to the Editor with only a handful ever being published. Fortunate, three journalists have been brave enough to write articles exposing the Regina Bypass Land Scandal namely, Geoff Leo CBC, Leader Post Columnist Murray Mandryk, and Leader Post reporter Wyant Mantyka has been kind enough to offer us a few interviews. We have done several rounds of radio advertising, we have done paid advertisements in local newspapers and magazines and for just over the last year we have been publishing almost weekly articles in the Compass Magazine. Some of the most important headlines are as follows:
REGINA BYPASS LAND SCANDAL COVER UP
The RCMP closed their West Regina Bypass/GTH land dealings case file and announced they won’t be disclosing the science behind their investigations. But we have no doubt that far greater economic wrongdoings were committed on the eastern edges of our City where two major private enterprise developers purchased 640 acres of land along
Tower Road after the Regina Highway No.1 Regina Bypass routing was already approved to go North and South around the City at Tower Road. The RCMP disclosed that they never reached the threshold to subpoena evidence or execute any search warrants. They also mentioned that the documents deemed necessary for the investigation were freely provided to them by the parties being investigated and that as such no charges will be laid.
We all calling on all people who live, work and pay taxes in Saskatchewan to rally together and help rein in what appear to be significant expense decisions made without disclosure or accountability. It is the taxpayers of Saskatchewan who must carry the financial burden for these decisions made without any disclosure of the details in advance. The optics of these transactions are so poor that we wonder why any elected official would not be concerned when they realized how the facts would reflect upon them as this became known to the general public. When exposed to the light of day, it is hard to avoid thinking of these expenditures as anything other than conniving politicians and their insatiably greedy corporate sector friends appearing to help themselves to vast sums of our public funds.
IT SNOWED ON OUR PARADE
On a mild and calm mid November morning, our HighwayRobbery.org team got together to decorate our P3 Cruiser in preparation for its ride in Regina’s 33rd Annual Santa Claus Parade. Our entry was approved for the event; and the P3’s registered theme was a take on Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas story. We drove our decked-out vehicle to the parade’s staging side street and we were politely directed to our assigned parking spot. The parade was scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m., so during the wait we met and spoke with other parade participants.
Apparently though, not everyone was excited with our vehicle’s decorative themes. We knew our esteemed provincial political leaders had also registered a vehicle for the parade. Their vehicle, displaying a prominent Sask. Party MLA’s name and his constituency, stopped alongside our vehicle for over a minute. It then it moved off to its assigned parking spot. About 15 minutes later, just 5 minutes before the parade’s start, we were suddenly approached by two of the event’s officials who abruptly told us we had to leave the scene. They said us our entry “wasn’t ‘Christmas-ey’ enough.” It should be noted that the Sask. Party’s high horsepower sedan was decked-out with exactly ZERO “Christmas-ey” decorations. However, out of respect for the parade’s sponsors, we did pull out of the festivities. The 33rd Annual Santa Claus Parade was not the first time our P3 Cruiser ran directly into this problem.
We entered into the Regina Cathedral Village Arts Festival street fair in 2018. All was going well until one of our colleagues reported that a Sask. Party MLA had been scowling at our colorful displays; and about 20 minutes after that walk-by-scowling a few event officials descended upon us to demand that we pack up and immediately leave the (PUBLIC) street. They were soon joined by an angry Regina Police Service. But then, a well known human rights lawyer stepped into the fray and calmly relayed to the event officials -- and to the angry RPS constable as well -- all the reasons why we had the right to continue on with our campaign. Thanks to the timely intervention of that man-on-the-street lawyer, we were allowed to stay in the fair for the rest of that day.
Then, in mid August we drove our P3 Cruiser up to Saskatoon to park it at the Rock 102 Show & Shine auto event. As we flipped through the Show & Shine booklet we noticed that one of the event’s major sponsors was a Saskatoon- based auto sales dealership owned by the brother of an influential Sask. Party minister; so we predicted our time at this rally would most likely be brief. And sure enough, an event official soon arrived to steer us to the closest exit. And since there wasn’t a human rights lawyer in sight, we once again rolled our P3 Cruiser out of yet another Sask. Party affiliated affair.
SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCES BE FORGOT
Our No.1 unanswered question of 2018 is: Who reeled in and reprogrammed Gordon Wyant – Saskatchewan’s current Deputy Premier and Minister of Education – during the early weeks of 2018? Mr. Wyant, the one-time straight talking legislator who confidently entered the Sask. Party leadership race in late summer 2017, routinely told his campaign rally audiences 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 Saskatchewan, 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 of 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 that he would schedule a private meeting early in the New Year 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:
- A public inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub will be initiated once the RCMP investigation has concluded.
- 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.
- 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.
Regrettably, our follow-up emails and letters to Mr. Wyant were never answered or acknowledged.
Last summer Mr. Wyant reconnected 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, 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 Mr. Wyant 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 Deputy Premier and Minister of Education appointments were granted in exchange for his promise to perform as just another line-fed and well-rehearsed political player?
HIGHWAY ROBBERY THE REGINA BYPASS LAND SCANDAL
For several years, the plan for the new Regina Bypass had been in place and was available for public inspection before it was actually begun. Traditionally, any proposed changes were subject to a process which required full disclosure along with the opportunity for any affected to express their concerns or ask questions. Any proposed changes were assumed to be subject to this process. Such proposals, we were told, would be subject to study and review by the planning departments of both the city and the Department of Highways. It was indicated to us that accepted practice regarding the approval of any changes would likely take several months -if not years, to implement due to the various factors involved. As a result, we and others formulated our future plans for development based on the Regina Bypass plan that had been put in place at that time. We had no indication that this process could, or would be interfered with. We had been assured that major changes were not anticipated or likely to be endorsed.
Our company, Super Seamless of Canada, made commitments to contractors and suppliers with the intention of establishing a new manufacturing facility. We had planned to contribute new employment and much-needed diversification for our local economy. Regina would have been home to a source of manufactured products which would be shipped throughout North America.. While our particular circumstances were unique, we were not the only land owners with vested interests in the original bypass plan. We had accepted in good faith that what had been laid out under the aforementioned process would not be subjected to any further major alterations. Sadly, we would be in for an unpleasant surprise.
As a Principal owner of Regina’s Super Seamless of Canada, I feel compelled to explain why we are so determined to draw attention to the contentious circumstances that ultimately led to the drastically revised version of the Regina Trans-Canada Highway No. 1 Regina Bypass. We want the public to know who we are; what we had intended to achieve; and why we believe certain civic and provincial political authorities have unfairly prevented us from achieving our primary business expansion goals.
Our family has strived for 40 years to operate a dependable, state of the art, industry leading business here in Regina. We have had to overcome many pitfalls and obstacles throughout the years so that our unique lines of exterior cladding products could continually be improved and modernized. Our products address both environmental and durability concerns, and they are aesthetically superior to any other products designed for similar applications. Our four decades of successes, failures, and challenges have greatly sharpened our business survival instincts and our problem-solving skills. Our ability to adapt to constantly evolving industry trends and economic fluctuations drive our willingness to pursue new and emerging opportunities within our chosen profession.
We have taken on tremendous levels of risk over our 40-year run, as evidenced by the many upgrades we completed at our Exterior Finish Manufacturing Plant to ensure that Super Seamless of Canada would remain a service leader to the Residential, Commercial, Architectural and Agricultural building markets in Saskatchewan and Western Canada.
Ten years ago we identified viable markets for our products within a large number of regions throughout the United States and Canada. So, we began to make extensive plans to take advantage of this potentially very lucrative opportunity. Our goal was to establish Regina as the manufacturing home base for insulated metal siding products that would ship all over the continent. We projected our expansion ambitions would eventually employ over 200 full-time employees.
We were able to utilize an 11-acre tract of land we purchased alongside the Highway No.1 South Service Road (just a short distance east of Tower Road) in 2005 and began our expansion in 2010. We were well aware that someday the Regina Bypass would be built on Tower Road. The plans for that reality had already been in place for some time following countless government-commissioned studies and consultations. We selected our new site based on this information.
However, shortly after our expansion efforts had begun we were served with a Notice of Land Expropriation that stated portions of our front and back property would be taken, leaving us with 9 acres of the original 11- acre tract. Despite our protests, four days after the Notice of Land Expropriation was served bulldozers arrived to plow through portions of what had been our property, destroying our building products and pallets – which were hastily hauled away to the City of Regina Landfill.
IS OUR GOVERNMENT A PUPPET TO OMNIPOTENT DEVELOPERS
The decision that no charges will be laid in the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) and Scandal investigations marks an all-time low point in the history of democracy and human rights in Saskatchewan. From our well-researched perspective, it appears the RCMP are attempting to whitewash the (alleged) criminal actions at the blackened core of the GTH land transactions, which seemed to have been driven by a fraudulent series of land buying and selling (and overnight flipping) schemes that ultimately filled the pockets of private sector friends of the provincial government with $11 Million Dollars of taxpayer monies. And based on the RCMP’s no charges-will-be-laid decision, apparently there is nothing at all wrong with any of those proceedings.
We absolutely believe that at least a handful of our provincial government leaders have shamefully violated their own Code of Ethical Conduct For Members of the Legislative Assembly
Here are the facts: Bill Boyd was the minister responsible for the GTH in early 2012 when Robert Tappauf (an Alberta land baron who rents farmland to Boyd at Kindersley, Saskatchewan) made an offer to purchase a total of 204 acres of land from two property owners, who were situated between the GTH and the West Regina Bypass. The day after his purchase was finalized in early 2013 Mr. Tappauf earned himself a rather excessive net profit of $6 million dollars when he sold (aka flipped) that plot of land to Anthony Marquart (another Sask. Party-friendly developer/speculator).
So, where are we now? For more than a decade our ‘transparent and fair-to-all’ democratic government has spun and spewed out numerous redacted tall tales. The following bullet points briefly overview just some of the unjust situations that have been created by the woefully bloated Regina Bypass project:
- The bypass’s original projected cost of $400 million has now exploded to over $2 billion, and many analysts believe the final bill could easily exceed $3 billion dollars!
- Vinci, a scandal-ridden company from France, was awarded the bypass’s general construction contract as well as its 30-year maintenance contract. That decision has shipped off at least a billion dollars of public funds overseas.
- Many capable and deserving Sask-based road and bridge building companies received little or no work from this unprecedented public works fiasco. A number of those deserving and capable companies have now laid off workers, and some have even gone out of business.
- On the flip-side of this tarnished coin, certain government-friendly developers and land speculators have been paid up to 80 times more for their land holdings than was offered to long-time land, home and business owners in the same areas.
- Our 40-year-old family-owned business (Super Seamless of Canada) was bulldozed through by the Ministry of Highways’ land expropriators. Those callous actions significantly harmed our local business operations and completely destroyed our international business expansion plans.
- The wasteful spending on the Regina Bypass has severely depleted the monies the Ministry of Highways critically needed to maintain and repair hundreds of existing highways throughout Saskatchewan which have been designated as “roadways of concern.”
- The wasteful spending on the Regina Bypass has also greatly contributed to the successive slash-and-burn deficit budgets that cut public sector jobs, services and wages; that shuttered STC and sold off other Crown Corporations. Adding to the pain is the additional 6% provincial tax imposed on the construction and service industries. `
PETITION CALLING FOR A JUDICIAL PUBLIC INQUIRY AND FORENSIC AUDIT INTO THE REGINA BYPASS LAND SCANDAL
WHEN, WHERE, AND WHY DID THEY BURY THEIR MORAL COMPASS
On Thursday, April 4th 2019, a vote was conducted within the Saskatchewan Legislature regarding whether or not a Public Inquiry would be launched into the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) venture. A venture that is to date, is more than $40 Million Dollars in debt. Predictably, all 13 members of the NDP caucus voted for a Public Inquiry; and, eventually, all 48 members of the Sask. Party caucus voted against a Public Inquiry.
Initially, Sask. Party MLA Tina Beaudry-Mellor blurted out “Yes” when it was her turn to verbally register her vote. Her affirmative response instantly shocked and surprised every attending MLA. Mere seconds later, once Ms. Beaudry-Mellor stated she had meant to say “No” and had apologized for her gaff, the collective gasps of disbelief were replaced with light-hearted teasing from both sides of the aisle.
Obviously, during that particular session, Ms. Beaudry-Mellor wasn’t 100% focused on her solemn responsibility to continue to keep the provincial government’s many secretive, and some might even say deceitful “special” arrangements with their close private enterprise ‘supporters’, from being unearthed and exposed to the citizens of Saskatchewan. Did a split-second pang of guilt lead to a Freudian slip of her tongue? Perhaps she experienced a flashback to her days on the campaign trail, when in an attempt to win the party’s leadership race after the unexpected resignation of Premier Brad Wall.
When Mr. Wall announced he would be “retiring” early from public service, a veteran CTV News Regina reporter later reminded viewers that some of the leadership candidates -- including Ms. Beaudry-Mellor, had mentioned repeatedly that the GTH’s baffling circumstances and proceedings needed to be thoroughly investigated.
Nevertheless, in early February of 2018 Scott Moe was handed the Sask. Party’s tarnished crown and dictatorial scepter as the newly anointed political ruler of our vast and diverse province. Shortly after his coronation, a few of his former leadership opponents were invited into the provincial cabinet, including Mr. Gordon Wyant and Ms. Tina Beaudry-Mellor.
The fact that these two (now highly placed) individuals have refused to re-address their concerns over the GTH controversy that were once their solemn campaign promises, merely confirms the suspicions of many and the continuing need for a Public Inquiry.
FINALLY OTTAWA MAY NOW BE LISTENING
Enough legitimate questions have been raised regarding the unusual processes and transactions which took place prior to and during construction of this yet to be completed project. It would appear to have gotten the attention of our Federal legislators. The House of Commons now is on record as agreeing to look into this matter further. We can only hope that this is not merely lip service, but can be taken at face value that the federal minister responsible will undertake a thorough investigation into the details surrounding this project from concept to implementation.
It will be interesting to see if pressure will be applied by Ottawa as it would certainly serve to enhance their status in the west. Should they succeed in exposing corruption and collusion that many suspect is present with our provincial administrators and their private sector ‘partners’, it might open the eyes of those who continue to discount our questions. The following is a copy of the minutes of routine proceedings in the House of Commons
WHICH HAS THE HIGHEST ROAD BUILDING COSTS? BC VS SK — AN EMBARRASSING COMPARISON
EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE…. ALMOST
We waited in anticipation to participate in our second Exhibition Day Parade, well really our first. We followed the parade last year after the last car, the Regina City Police. We had a tremendous response, many thumbs up, people hollering, “Yes, you are absolutely right, it is Highway Robbery!”
After our group had been banned and kicked out of various parades and festivals, we were hopeful that this event would not end in a similar fashion as the others. Unfortunately, in a repeat of events we were told minutes before the parade began that we couldn’t be in the Exhibition Parade. The Regina Exhibition Association Parade Board said we were a protest and it was a family parade. We tried to negotiate with the Parade Director as we were promoting our book. She said that from our deckled car it did not appear that we were promoting a book.
We do realize that the theme of our message contrasts that of the theme of the exhibition parade which is one of celebration. Our frustration has always been our difficulty in finding a legitimate platform to communicate our message to the general public.
We get it though. What we are ‘promoting’ is not a subject for celebration. It is a subject for public awareness and concern. An encouraging note however was that after we were left in an empty parking lot and being threatened that law enforcement would show up to prevent us from participating in the parade, we were gratified to received high fives, thumbs up and cheers of encouragement from others participating in the parade and many others along the parade route. It causes us to think that maybe, just maybe, whatever we have been saying in whatever venue we could find to say it, is being heard by more people as time goes on.
PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTERSHIPS FACTS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
Mr. Romoff is President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. He has demonstrated incredible bias in favor of Public/Private partnerships while failing to address some of the real and major concerns that have emerged with the P3 model.
Recent P3 projects in Saskatchewan have proven to be ineffective. The mainstream media in Saskatchewan has failed to criticize any P3 project and even appears to be supportive of these undertakings despite their being numerous problems with many of these projects.
Here are some facts that contradict such endorsements.
- Saskatchewan Party government has refused to disclose information on the extent of the cost and commitments of projects using the P3 model.
- P3 schools in Saskatchewan cost far more to maintain than other Saskatchewan schools.
- The Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battlefords had to replace its roof only 75 days after opening. According to Saskatchewan Party government Health Minister Jim Reiter, the entire roof was replaced because installed insulation panels had shrunk and caused leakage.
- Former Premier Brad Wall announced the rebuild for the Saskatchewan Hospital in 2011. At that time the cost was $100 million. Less than three years later, the price jumped to between $175 and $250 million. When the contract was signed in 2015, the cost had reached $407 million. One of the reasons for this high price tag is the $185 million set aside for maintenance over 30 years. That is $6.2 million a year on one facility. This is hard to swallow, considering the former health region spent $3.1 million a year on all of their facilities!
- The Regina Bypass is now the most expensive stretch of flat road in Canadian History with a price tag much higher than the cost initially pitched to Saskatchewan residents. The cost of the Regina Bypass has ballooned so quickly that the government will not disclose how much the final cost is. We do know that $700 million of this $2 Billion price tag is consumed by maintenance fees.
- Vinci, a company from France who is deeply rooted in scandals in Europe, including human rights issues, money laundering, and bribery was awarded the P3 contract for the Regina Bypass.
- The Regina Bypass has presented severe structural problems. The foreign conglomerate being paid to manage it has a record of delayed responses to urgent matters.
- The Regina Bypass project has many deficiencies. In an email obtained by the NDP through access to information, a Department of Highways official said there were 1,100 minor deficiencies found in phase one of the Bypass as of Oct. 2017. Parts of the Regina Bypass have been sinking, much of the paving work was subpar, and another paving contractor had to be hired to complete the shoulders of the service roads. Light poles are also failing having to be reinforced as they are falling over.
SNC LAVALIN AND THE REGINA BYPASS
The SNC-Lavalin scandal has been on the minds of many Canadians since the story first broke in February 2019. People have been anxious to know more after a report by the Federal Ethics Commissioner titled, Trudeau II, found the Prime Minister guilty of violating federal ethics codes.
The announcement leaves us with many questions heading into the election. We risk the possibility of re-electing a government that may be charged later with serious crimes. Unfortunately, it appears that bribery and corruption are common themes in Canadian politics. Saskatchewan has been facing its own LavScan here with the Regina Bypass, or should we say, BypassScan. There seems to be a common thread between engineering firms around the world to secure contracts unethically or illegally. It also appears that the government turns a blind eye to this activity.
It is well-known that Saskatchewan’s largest infrastructure project, The Regina Bypass is a P3 Project that was tendered out to 3 contractors, SNC-Lavalin, Vinci, and AECOM. The question that everyone asks is why the Government of Saskatchewan did not use Saskatchewan road and bridge builders to engineer and build the Regina Bypass.
Through the bidding process, Vinci, a company from France who is deeply embroiled in scandals in Europe, was awarded the contract over SNC-Lavalin. The cost of the Regina Bypass exploded from $400 million to now over $2 Billion Dollars, five times more than the original budget estimate! On May 3rd, 2019, MP Erin Weir stood up in parliament and said, “We have heard a lot on this House about SNC-Lavalin, but Saskatchewan people are concerned another multinational construction company accused of corruption. Vinci Construction took $2 billion to build a Bypass around Regina that was supposed to cost only $400 million. Will this government investigate to ensure that federal funds invested in this boondoggle were not misused?”
A HIGH ALTITUDE VIEW OF OUR PROVINCIAL ECONOMY
A few short years ago, Saskatchewan was in the midst of an economic boom. The good times we had were largely due to resource development apart from the farming and agricultural sectors. We are fortunate to have natural reserves which have contributed to crop production becoming a smaller percentage of our provincial economic output. The common denominator among all of these items is the demand in a highly competitive world marketplace. When the price of a barrel of oil drops below $60, we are effectively taken out of the running as a supplier. When political decisions are made that alienate major customer countries like China, crop commodities and beef exports are also curtailed. Along with these restrictions, any additional economic development plans with these potential partners are put on hold. The causes for our economic woes fall into two categories: categories: 1. those over which we have no control and 2. those over which we have some influence and the ability to anticipate the consequences of our decisions. When you combine these factors with local mismanagement of our finances, you get a ‘perfect storm’ of lost revenue which must be replaced.
The 2017 Crash and Burn saw crown corporations being sold off, essential government services cut, the shutdown of STC, and an increase to the PST. Not only was it raised to 6%, it was also imposed on the construction and service industries. These were sectors that were already forced to adjust to new regulations imposed by Ottawa aimed at making it more difficult for first-time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage. The effect has been immediate and painful. Nearly every contractor and every supplier has been forced to lay off employees and scale back their operations. Finally, we now have a federally imposed carbon tax which has added to the cost of every household’s operation.
Yet despite these observations, we are being told that the Canadian economy is in good shape and growth is consistently happening. Many business owners in Saskatchewan would be hard pressed to support such claims.
Before the 2017 budget, PST had only applied to construction materials. But the budget had the effect of extending it to labor and overhead, since the tax is now imposed on the final contract or sale price. The change added about $197.6 million to provincial coffers that fiscal year, less than the anticipated $350 million.
On May 1, 2018, the Bank of Canada released that for the last 30 years household debt in Canada has been on the rise not only in relative terms but also relative to the size of the economy. They stated that at the end of last year, Canadian households owed over $2 Trillion Dollars and three quarter of this debt is mortgages. Stats Canada has released that there have been declines in trade, transportation, warehousing, and business and building services in Saskatchewan.
Shortly after the Sask. Party announced the 2019-2020 budget, a CBC article was released announcing that the overall debit in Saskatchewan is increasing by $1.8 Billion Dollars over the next year and will reach $21.7 Billion Dollars by the end of 2019. This represents an increase of $10 Billion Dollars since 2015. How is it possible that in just four years the Sask. Party has increased the overall debit in Saskatchewan by 50%!
Another interesting fact discussed in this article is that the interest payments are $694 Million Dollars on our provincial debt. This is nearly identical to what the province spends on protection including policing and corrections. The point we want to emphasize is that some issues with regard to fiscal management can be controlled. While we cannot anticipate international political consequences or the effect of climate change, we can do a much better job of controlling and managing our own financial resources.
Recently, Premier Scott Moe met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss among other things the Federal Carbon Tax. We also heard Minister of Justice Don Morgan say that the provincial government has retained MLT Aikins law firm for the Supreme Court challenge on this subject. The retention of this council will cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $500,000 in addition to the Constitutional Lawyers the government already employs.
This figure also doesn’t represent the court fees and additional legal fees that will be required to sustain this action as it winds through the courts over the following months, or years if necessary. The carbon tax is a constitutional issue that will most likely be a no win battle for the Sask. Party.
We contend that the recently imposed PST tax is the burden that Premier Moe should be focusing on. Saskatchewan taxpayers need to call on Premier Moe to repeal the PST tax that has impacted everyone in the province, crippled the construction industry, and sent our province spiraling into a recession.
We contend that the PST tax was introduced to make up for their waste on the $2 Billion Dollar Regina Bypass. This money will never see the light of day in Saskatchewan again. We suggest the Sask Party should retain the $500,000, (which we all know with real costs will be five times this amount just like the Regina Bypass), repeal the PST increase and reduce its scope. Finally we repeat that a Judicial Public Inquiry and Forensic Audit into the Regina Bypass Land Scandal be conducted.
Unfortunately, it would appear that the Sask. Party is using the carbon tax as a smoke screen to distract people from the outstanding issues that have in part contributed to our present economic climate. We need to get our local house in order before pursuing a debate with our federal government which can only lead to more division and lack of cooperation from Ottawa.
As taxpayers we deserve honest answers and transparency from our elected officials and an admission that the management of the Regina Bypass Land Scandal has been a major contributor to our economic woes. A Judicial Public Inquiry and Forensic Audit would ensure that certain rules be put in place to prevent a recurrence of this type of fiscal mismanagement.
This was a fight we took on that ended up being a fight for our life, a fight for the lives of others, for government accountability and transparency, for our elected officials to step up and do the right thing.
Likely, many taxpayers believe, it is far too late to ever recoup even some of their wasted dollars. Nevertheless it is absolutely critical that we band together and demand more transparency and accountability from our elected officials before they enter into transactions that affect us all especially while benefitting only a selected few with exorbitant profits drawn from the public coffer. We must ensure that this kind of secretive decision making by our elected public servants is prevented and can never reoccur. The issues of accountability and responsibility to the electorate on the part of public sector employees are critical and fundamental.