OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTINE TELL MLA (SASK PARTY)
Dear MLA Christine Tell,
My name is Nestor Mryglod. I am a Principal owner of Super Seamless of Canada. I am writing to communicate concerns regarding the impact the new Highway #1 Regina Bypass project has had upon our business along with several other land owners adjacent to this new infrastructure. The following is a summary of the events which have prompted me to forward this letter and to publish it in an open public forum.
In 2005 our company purchased an 11-acre tract of land alongside the Highway No.1 South Service Road adjacent to Tower Road. The city approved our plan and we began our expansion to construct a 200,000 square foot manufacturing plant on this site in 2010. We were aware that someday the Regina Bypass would be built on Tower Road as the ratified plans for the future bypass were available for inspection and those approved plans had been shown to us by the RM of Sherwood at the time we applied for our building permits. At the time we applied for permits to build on our site, we were assured that accepted practice regarding the approval of any changes would likely take several months if not years to implement. Our building plans were approved and we proceeded to order 2 pre-engineered buildings as per those approved plans.
Traditionally, any potential changes were said to be subject to review by the planning departments of the R.M. of Sherwood, the City of Regina, and the Department of Highways. These approvals of our plans only reinforced our impression that no major changes to the Regina Bypass plan would be implemented in the areas for which these permits had been issued.
Furthermore, we had been assured that no major changes were anticipated or even likely to be endorsed. We had been told that this plan had evolved after many years of engineering functional studies so we had no reason to believe or even suspect that such plans could be changed literally overnight. Sadly, we would be in for an unpleasant surprise.
It was not until June of 2013 at a public open forum that we were made aware of a new ‘preferred plan’ for the Highway #1 Regina Bypass. The consultation process with potentially affected landowners in the path of these proposed changes had not taken place or even been facilitated. It was apparent that something (or someone) had succeeded in influencing to city to adopt changes to the existing plan with little if any attempts made to provide opportunity for feedback or the sharing of concerns from many landowners who would be affected by these changes. It was clearly apparent that these proposed changes would have significant negative impact on many owners, ourselves being a prime example.
Only much later did we learn about ‘closed meetings’ which were held earlier in May of 2013 (one month prior to the public forum mentioned above) between the Government of Saskatchewan, the City of Regina, the RM of Sherwood, and major developers along Tower Road. It was at these meetings that a revised plan requiring the relocation of the eastern terminal of the new Regina Bypass 400 meters east of its originally proposed location on Tower Road.
For our company this proposal resulted in several major points of contention.
- Our building project would have to be suspended as part of our property was directly in the path of the revised plan.
- This dictated that we no longer owned sufficient land to complete our expansion at that location.
- As a result, we were forced to abandon construction in midstream which had the effect of destroying the value of the capital investments we had made thus far.
- We suffered as a result of these dramatic effects in several ways. In the process of attempting to intervene in the implementation of this revised plan, we suffered the loss of our office administrator who experienced a massive stroke which we directly attribute to the stress brought about by this situation. Unlike a typical employee, she was a family member who had invested a major part of her life savings in our company and therefore had a vested interest in its success and survival. We could not afford to relocate to an equally accessible property without significantly more compensation than we were eventually offered.
- The increased employment potential that our expansion project would produce would now be forfeited.
These were the factors which directly affected us, but there was another important factor that had an indirect but equally significant impact on other businesses and the city itself;
- The revised plan eliminated the possibility for a northern leg for the Regina Bypass. The revised plans had no provision for relieving the existing infrastructure in east Regina which was already overwhelmed by the traffic using the ring road and city streets in that part of the city.
Many had been long-time advocates for this component due to the highest volume of westbound freight traffic entering Regina being destined for the commercial / industrial sectors in the northeast quadrant of the city.
I want to clearly communicate what is at stake for us and others as a result of the New Regina Bypass location being arbitrarily imposed upon those whose livelihoods and futures have been severely impacted.
Referring to point #4 above, we have learned that other land owners who had similar properties were offered exponentially larger amounts for their landholdings. Our research has revealed multiple instances of disproportionately higher values being paid to others whose land was similarly situated. These facts raise a number of questions as to the motives and beneficiaries behind the revised Regina Bypass plans.
I will remind you that I contacted you in 2014 when we discovered the implications of the newly revised Regina Bypass Plan. We also sent letters to Premier Brad Wall and Highways Minister Don McMorris at the time questioning the rationale for the proposed changes. The only explanation we were offered was that it was the engineers who decided where the Regina Bypass would go.
This prompted us to enquire with senior Highways engineers, and in documented and recorded conversations, these same engineers said that they did not agree with the relocation plan and that in their opinion it had been the developers who influenced the changes.
We continued to work to uncover the truth behind these contradictory positions. We learned that many issues were in need of explanation. For example, our research revealed that Long Lake Investments’ Principal Murad Al-Katib, had purchased 500 acres of land along Tower Road in 2012. At that time, in 2011 Mr. Al-Katib was a director on the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission along with Mayor Pat Fiaco. In 2012 Mr. Al-Katib was again director of this organization with Mayor Michael Fougere.
Mr. Al-Katib was able to purchase these 500 acres for $12,125.00/acre totalling $6 million dollars. A short time later, Mr. Al-Katib sold back 128 of those acres to the same government. His company received seven times more than was paid for the property resulting in a landfall profit of $8.4 million. Long Lake Investments now has 372 extra acres with effectively no cost that are now for sale for $375,000/acre. This represents a 3300% profit derived from transactions that have been orchestrated by a civic employee who is in partnership with the investors.
To clarify, it is obvious that Mr. Al Katib could not have financed these transactions on the wages he collected as a public service employee. He would have needed backing from elsewhere which we understand was supplied by foreign investors. We are not disputing the premise that intelligent ideas for economic development are beneficial, especially when they attract outside investment in our province. We do however question the lack of transparency in these negotiations when they are done using taxpayer’s money resulting in a windfall for a public servant who has greatly benefited. When one factors in the last minute revisions to the Regina Bypass project that resulted in this windfall, the optics are poor to say the least. This is aggravated by the fact that other land transactions on both sides of the city appear to be tainted with similar misuse of privileged information by those in trusted public offices.
If nothing else, as taxpayers we should be entitled to a full disclosure of the circumstances surrounding these and other transactions related to this project. The new Regina Bypass represents the largest infrastructure investment this province has ever made and as such represents a financial commitment that appears to have been mismanaged on several levels.
Our research clearly revealed other examples of exploding values associated with land acquisitions surrounding the Bypass. These transactions took place suspiciously soon after they were purchased. These purchases were initially made by those with close ties to elected officials, at least two of which resigned their public offices soon after these properties were purchased. Questions arise when these transactions were completed by the very same government agencies which these elected officials were responsible to oversee.
We discovered that Harvard Developments had purchased 141 acres of land right on the corner of Tower Road and Highway No.1 from Gulf Flying J in 2012. We learned that Gulf Flying J had previously tried to get approval to build a truck stop at this location but were repeatedly told by the city that there were no plans to provide infrastructure in that area for what could amount to another 25 years or more. Based on the city’s communication Gulf Flying J chose to sell the property to Harvard Developments. Shortly thereafter, the newly completed Aurora Retail development now sits on fully serviced facilities 20 years ahead of schedule.
This is yet another example of how official policy appears to have been influenced without consideration for due process or appropriate communication. City officials failed to provide adequate notice of intent to others who would be affected by these last minute changes. The notice that was provided communicated what was apparently that of a ‘fait accomplee’.
The decisions had already been made.
This would support the comments earlier referenced from the senior Department of Highways engineers that the major influencers for last minute revisions came from the developers. This is an inconvenient truth as it directly contradicts the official line given to the public when the city administration was questioned on this matter. It became increasingly frustrating to get clear and transparent communication from any official source responsible for the Regina Bypass project. As a result we are not alone in having depended on what was represented as ‘highly unlikely to change’ as a factor in determining future plans and major investment decisions. We feel we have been misled and manipulated by those whose influence is greater and whose interests are being served at our expense.
What about alternative solutions?
We spoke with Brandt Developments about the location of the Regina Bypass. They told us that they had met with the government in 2013 when they discovered that their access would be impacted with the Regina Bypass long Tower Road. They took a plan to the government to move the Regina Bypass to Gravel Pit Road outside the City. This plan would have placed the Regina Bypass right beside your families land holdings. They included in their plan the estimated costing to move the Regina Bypass that would have saved Saskatchewan taxpayers 25% of $100 million back in 2012 when the Regina Bypass had a price tag of only $400 million. For reasons that only became clear later, this proposal was never acted upon. When we questioned the owner of Brandt about the status of his alternative plan, he indicated to us that the proposal had been shelved and that he had made his own dea. It should be noted that Brandt at one point had threatened to relocate outside the province in response to the proposed changes. We are only left to speculate about the concessions that must have been given to Brandt that resulted in a reversal of his position. “Business in the park” comes to mind as a project that was later the subject of some controversy.
At one point the government seemed to be in favor of the Gravel Pit Road alternative and was advocating its consideration. For some reason this dialogue ceased and was never part of the agenda in open public forums. We contend that those open forums were not well publicized in the first place.
It remains a point of contention that the efforts to notify those stakeholders that would be affected by these changes were at best only partly effective. We can only speculate that this alternative was unpalatable to others who would be negatively affected by it. This would be potentially true in the case of the Tell family holdings, and we can readily identify with those kind of concerns. It is apparent that some dialogue must have taken place among the stakeholders in this area, but that dialogue was never part of the public record.
It is obvious to those who have followed the events surrounding this project that a compromise was needed with Brandt to ensure they would remain in Regina. We agree that Brandt is a valuable asset to our local economy and should be fairly accommodated. It would appear that Brandt has had their concerns addressed and the precedent has been established to facilitate a valued employer in our province.
We wonder however, why the same principles have not been applied in dealing with other companies who also contribute to the economic diversity and growth of our community? While we do not have the same footprint as a Brandt or a Cindercrete, we still represent a viable business with growth potential that has suffered a disproportionate impact on the future of our business and the additional employment that we had planned to provide as a result of these changes to the original plans.
We started our own investigations, talking to stakeholders, doing research, and writing letters to the government. We soon discovered that no one agreed with the location of the Regina Bypass. Harvard Developments and Long Lake Investments who had purchased 640 acres of land along Tower Road appeared to be the only companies that had no objections to these revised plans. The fact that two subsequent Regina mayors also appeared to have close associations with one of these companies does nothing to dispel concerns of collusion among civic officials and prominent developers.
Eighty percent of the land required for the Regina Bypass was located in the RM of Sherwood. The RM strongly objected to the location of the Regina Bypass and thought the process was flawed as the stakeholders were not involved in the discussions. The RM tried to organize a meeting of all of the stakeholders in the RM that would be impacted by the Regina Bypass. Just before this meeting was to take place, suddenly the Reeve, Kevin Eberly, was fired and there was a probe into his conflict of interest, this probe turned into a closed inquiry. During this time, an interim Reeve, Neil Robertson, was appointed as legal counsel for the City of Regina. This represented another potential conflict of interest resulting in no consensus being achieved through any public forum.
To further add to the list of inconsistencies, another unusual land transaction occurred close to the town of White City. In 2011 the Government of Saskatchewan sold 7.45 acres at the intersection of Highway #1 and #48 to Mauri Gwyn Developments for $20,000 per Acre. This land had been owned by Highways for decades, and was effectively useless land, given the location. In 2015, the government repurchased 2.45 acres of this property back from Mr. Gwynn, and paid a whopping $400,000 per acre, or 20 times more than they had sold the land for a few years prior.
This raises questions for any taxpayer whose funds are being used to finance these transactions. It should be noted that land right across the highway was expropriated for a significantly lower value, between 15 and 25 times less per acre!
The questions that beg to be answered are clear. Why is there such discrepancy in land prices when dealing with our various levels of government? ..and ..Where is the accountability to the taxpayers whose funds are being used to make these purchases?
At this point I have confined my comments to the issues arising on the east side of the city. Our research shows that similar inconsistencies are evident at the opposite end of this project surrounding the GTH.
Most people are aware that the GTH has has been the focus of controversy and potential scandal for years. In the beginning, the Department of Highways needed 54 acres of land for the section of the Regina Bypass that would be constructed alongside the GTH. The government could have exercised their prerogative to expropriate the land needed at the time from the original owners for $5,750 an acre which was the market value based on what similar lands were being expropriated for at the time. Instead, the government ended up paying $103,000 per acre for this land.
The most troubling aspect of this land purchase exists with its history of ownership. Two prior transactions took place shortly before these properties were purchased by the provincial government. Mr. Robert Tappauf, a land buyer from Alberta acquired property which would soon become essential to the Regina Bypass project. Mr. Tappauf made an offer to purchase, and then flipped the land overnight directly to another land developer, Mr. Anthony Marquart netting around $6 million profit. Mr. Marquart in turn resold 204 acres to our provincial government for an additional profit of $5 million.
It has been noted that Mr. Tappauf rents over 2200 acres of land to Bill Boyd, the former Deputy Premier and the Minister responsible for the GTH at the time. One cannot help but speculate as to how the information about the future Regina Bypass plan was being handled and by whom?
Mr. Marquart was offered 20 times more than other landowners in the areas along Highway No.1 and Pinkie Road. The same government agencies who paid Mr. Marquart had offered other land owners in the area amounts based on the appraised values they had established for these properties. Those values were significantly lower than what had been paid to Mr. Marquart. When these land owners wouldn’t accept the lesser offers their land was then expropriated. Something is wrong with this picture.
It is a matter of public record that Premier Wall, eventually signed an Order in Council to pay over $21 million for this land on February 27, 2014. When using the value of the land expropriated from the landowners along Pinkie Road and Highway No.1, the 54 acres of land needed for the Regina Bypass should have been worth approximately $315,000. This would imply that the government was somehow manipulated into overpaying about $21 million for this property. Sadly, the landowners along Highway No.1 and Pinkie Road have been forced into legal actions to try to get more than $5,750 an acre, and will inevitably spend years in court. Regardless of the outcome, which is uncertain at best for these land owners, there is likely to be an increased cost to the taxpayer for the legal actions that have resulted from this debacle.
Furthermore, when called upon to address these very serious concerns, the Premier’s office decided that it would be best to call for a Process Audit, rather than a Forensic Audit, or an RCMP investigation.
Presumably, it should be well known that process audits would only confirm that all of the T’s were crossed and all the I’s were dotted. They do nothing to expose any malfeasance or collusion among those who had access to privileged information or who might influence the planning and development process without public discussion and consultation.
We took our information to the RCMP when they were conducting their investigation into the GTH. In September 2018, the RCMP reported that in consultation with Manitoba Prosecution Services, they had completed their investigation of the land dealings in and around the GTH. The investigation spanned two and a half years and dedicated 7500 hours.
They stated that all of the information they relied on was freely provided to them, and that their investigation never met the threshold to subpoena evidence. As such, it was recommended that no criminal charges be laid.
One cannot help but wonder what their mandate for the investigation was? Only reviewing records of land transactions which were freely provided by those involved does not necessarily shed light on the events leading up to those transactions.
Our last line of defense is the RMCP who are supposed to be an independent body protecting the rights of citizens in our country and enforce the laws. They closed the file and didn't even look at the Tower Road and White City land scandals. The RCMP investigation that was completed only on the GTH land transactions has left many wondering how the RCMP could close the file on something that appears to be so blatantly wrong?
When Gord Wyant was campaigning for Premier of Saskatchewan, he promised to call for a Public Inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub land transactions regardless of the RCMP’s decision not to press any charges. He is on record as stating; “We need it 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, documents and testimonies but to make some findings so that we can put this whole thing behind us as a party.” He went on to say: “There are unanswered questions for me. I am a citizen of this province and weather I am a member of the government or not there are some troubling things about this. At the end of the day we need to clear the air so that the people are made comfortable with what happened.”
To date, (almost two years later) no further comments from Mr. Wyant have been made. Anyone following this string of events finds this to be compelling evidence that any further investigations into these matters has been suppressed. The only comments that have been offered have been to dismiss the entire subject as having no substance based on the RCMP’s implied exoneration of the participants. We have repeatedly been told that “there is no smoking gun”. While that phrase suggests that there is nothing wrong, it fails to acknowledge that there have been serious wounds inflicted on several individuals and on our public purse. While no ‘smoking gun’ was discovered, there is still ‘blood on the ground’ emanating from the unfair and inconsistent treatment that many have received.
A company from France, Vinci, is responsible for building the Regina Bypass. The Regina Bypass is a P3 Project that was tendered out to 3 contractors, , Vinci, SNC-Lavalin and Hochtief-AECOM. Vinci won the bidding for the general construction contract and 30-year maintenance of the project. Vinci has been linked to scandals across Europe including money laundering, bribery, and human rights violations. With recent revelations regarding SNC-Lavalin, we’re not sure if we are giving the lesser of two evils our hard-earned tax dollars.
Are our legislators unable to see the obvious ethical questions that might arise surrounding their decisions when awarding these multimillion dollar contracts?
The question that everyone asks is; Why the Government of Saskatchewan did not use Saskatchewan road and bridge builders to build the Regina Bypass? Apparently, even though we now have some parts of this new infrastructure that cannot accommodate farm machinery or some over-sized transports, we are assured that the decision to award this project to a foreign company was in our best interests. We can only hope that the reasons for this would pass closer scrutiny in light of all the controversy surrounding other aspects of this project. Sadly, we have seen some local contractors in the industry close their doors in recent months. Many would agree that our current economic climate is volatile enough without exporting our resources such as tax revenue and jobs outside the province of Saskatchewan.
The 2017 budget 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.
The resulting impact on the local economy has been devastating. It has become far more difficult for first-time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage. The resulting effect has been immediate and painful. Nearly every contractor and supplier has been forced to lay off employees and scale back their operations. For sale or lease signs have proliferated in our commercial / industrial sector at an unprecedented rate. Finally, we now have a federally imposed carbon tax which has added to the cost of every household’s operation. In short, the economic climate in this province is experiencing severe stress.
This hightens concerns surrounding the cost of the Regina Bypass being a contributing factor to our present provincial debt. The cost of the Regina Bypass exploded from $63 million in 2007, to $400 million in 2012, then $800 million, then $1.2 billion and finally ended at greater than $2 billion. These costs still do not include the price of land acquisitions! While we have heard attempts to justify these cost increases with the argument that the scope of the Bypass has expanded over the years, it does not negate the fact that these are valued tax dollars that were siphoned from the treasury resulting in many other needed items becoming axed with the 2017 budget.
The ‘scope’ of the Regina Bypass has always been to provide an alternative route around Regina for through travelers in order to alleviate congestion, and improve safety along Victoria Avenue and Highway No.1 East. Ironically, the project envisioned in 2007 for $400 Million would have done just that. As it expanded, however, the scope appears to have morphed into an economic development opportunity, and is far less about providing a safe and cost-effective alternative route around the City of Regina for today’s west-bound traffic entering the city. Most of this traffic is destined for locations in the northeast commercial/industrial areas of Regina en route to Saskatoon and Edmonton.
At this time and for the foreseeable future, westbound traffic beyond Regina continues to be less than northbound traffic entering the city. Further aggravating this situation is the failure of the GTH infrastructure on the west side of the city to gain traction and attract the industrial clientele we were promised would appear. No doubt this area is designed to accommodate industrial and commercial expansion but at this point that is likely to be many years from now, if at all.
Public perception is important. When one considers the observations above, many questions arise concerning the credibility of the communications (or lack thereof) that have emanated from our current legislators. When no answers are being offered that address these specific concerns, it paints a picture of either deliberate ignorance or a conscious intention to bury these facts from taxpayers and hide behind the rhetoric of ‘no smoking gun’ as is often repeated. It appears that the priorities of expenditures have been heavily influenced by plans to accommodate developers and land speculators while ignoring the more immediate and practical needs of many existing businesses in our community. The lack of willingness to engage and communicate on the part of our elected officials only fuels the fires of skepticism.
Please indulge me while I provide some useful information. A comparison has been made between another recent major infrastructure project in western Canada and the new Regina Bypass. The Coquihalla Highway in B. C. was the largest highway project ever undertaken in North America at the time it was built. It was completed with a cost of $848 million in 1990.
If we adjust for inflation, today’s price would be $1.68 billion. This project spanned 20 months and was built through mountains, caverns and rivers in three phases over 324 kilometers in length. It included 20,000 tons of steel, 125,000 tons of concrete, 160 kilometers of guard rail, 38 bridges, 18 interchanges, and 19 overpasses. Engineers had to clear and strip 1700 hectares of land, remove 2 million truckloads of overburden and nearly 4 million tonnes of gravel. Over one million tons of asphalt had to be crushed and graded.
Pipelines and railroads needed to be crossed and relocated more than 50 times. Reinforced earth walls were built to retain sections of roadbed and river diversions were designed and implemented to improve fish habitats, deflect flood torrents and protect against avalanches, none of which are concerns in Saskatchewan. This enormous project employed 10,600 people directly and created 16,000 spin-off jobs.
In comparison, the Regina Bypass was built on flat prairie land and required no rock blasting, not having to fill valleys or reinforce earth walls, no river systems had to be manipulated and rebuilt. This project is much smaller in scope and difficulty than the Coquihalla Highway. The Regina Bypass includes 12 overpasses, 40 kilometers of new highway, 20 kilometers of resurfaced highway, 55 kilometers of service roads and twinning about 5 kilometers of highway No.6. How is it that the Regina Bypass, a project that is less than the shadow of the Coquihalla cost over $2 Billion Dollars?
The standard argument in defense of this cost is the nature of the P3 component of maintenance for the next 30 years. While this stipulation appears reasonable from one perspective, it fails to disclose the real costs of each component of the overall price taxpayers are being asked to bear. It is well documented that P3 projects throughout the country have not been as cost effective as were initially thought. In point of fact, many have resulted in significantly higher costs than would otherwise have been accrued. We need to see the calculations of these costs which justify sending our tax dollars overseas for the next 30 years.
It is also noted that these estimates do not take into account the costs of moving collateral infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines, gas lines and phone lines which had to be modified numerous times throughout the construction process. When these costs are factored in, the estimates go up by another $3 or $400 million dollars which has not been factored into the costs being reported. In summary, Saskatchewan taxpayers have legitimate questions about the real value they are getting for their money.
Over the last 6 years we have spent over 20,000 hours researching, writing letters, and doing everything possible to lobby the government to get fair compensation for our business which was destroyed when the Regina Bypass was moved 400 meters from Tower Road. We feel we have been targeted by the government because we would not accept the comparatively meager amount they offered to pay us for our property.
In 2014 we presented a petition to the government calling for them to rethink the location of the Regina Bypass. The NDP opposition did not bring up our petition in any session of the legislature. We have subsequently gone to our MLAs both in the Sask. Party and NDP Party with no result. We have attended public events, advertised our story in many venues and turned to printed media where we published this information.
This has resulted in positive feedback from a diverse local audience in Saskatchewan.
In short, we have done everything we could to create public awareness. Many agree that the public purse appears to have been abused.
The absence of any response from our elected officials continues to fuel the fires of suspicion that this story is being deliberately suppressed. Both the government and mainstream media have not been receptive in either listening to our concerns or asking the crucial questions that remain unanswered about the land acquisitions and subsequent rationale justifying these expenditures. We have been barred from public events such as the Cathedral Village Festival and other parades. We were denied access to the opening of the Regina
Bypass and were told to leave as we were talking to Xavier Hulliard, the President of Vinci.
The burning question for us is: Why are we being ignored and our questions being swept under the rug? Have we lost our understanding of what it means to be a democratic society? Do we not deserve answers that make sense?
We feel it's relevant to mention that (now-retired former Premier) Brad Wall, (now-retired), former Minister responsible for the GTH) Bill Boyd and former Finance Minister Kevin Doherty (also now retired) were all members of the Grant Devine government several members of which were convicted of criminal activity. Oddly enough, all three of these gentlemen resigned more than two years before the ends of their elected terms and shortly after the RCMP announced that their Federal Criminal Operations Division would be delving into the highly dubious GTH land schemes which excessively enriched a pair of the provincial government's private sector associates.
Thousands of people have been negatively impacted by the Regina Bypass. People are losing their land, homes, businesses, ballpark, accesses, life's work, health, history and futures. Over the last few years we have learned that there are six people in our small area who are suffering from terminal illnesses. We have no doubt that the stresses experienced as their lives were disrupted by the new Regina Bypass have contributed greatly to their overall health concerns.
I attended the Premier's Dinner in 2015 in hopes that I could set up a meeting with Premier Brad Wall to discuss how we could salvage our business plans. Instead of being met with helpfulness, Premier Wall warned me to be very careful about what I was saying about his MLAs and specifically referenced your name as a potential litigant.
Two weeks later, after just completing a letter to Premier Wall, the champion of the cause, my sister Sylvia, brought it to my desk and collapsed in my arms. Sylvia fell into a two-month coma and has been living in Wascana paralyzed on half of her body for the last four years. Sylvia did not deserve this; no one does.
In summary, our 40 year old metal building product business had great potential to add value to our community in several ways. We had imported specialized equipment which would facilitate the manufacturing of insulated steel exterior cladding and siding for which a ready market across North America was available. Our state of the art ‘green technology’ now sits in containers unused for the last several years as we have nowhere to house it in an operational facility. The accompanying added employment that was planned for this expansion has also become a victim of these poorly handled processes. We were bulldozed through by our local authorities without consideration or consultation. The costs to us have been dramatic and insurmountable.
I choose to avoid any libelous implications in my public statements. I only ask the questions that I believe deserve answers. That is why I am communicating to you in this form. I am publishing this as an open letter in the hope that you will respond.
The issues of accountability and responsibility from our elected officials when handling public money are critical and fundamental. Whether they are elected or appointed, we should expect a high ethical standard of practice and conduct from them.
It is apparent that if we relax our vigilance in these areas, we will pay the price of our complacency. Avarice and greed will always be with us, but that does not mean we should remain unprotected from their consequences. We believe that is what our elected leaders are supposed to be doing. Have we gotten this wrong?
I again implore you to reflect upon the information being offered in this letter. We have spent over 20,000 hours in research and have accumulated an archive of documentation and recorded conversations all of which point to a lack of transparency and a need for accountability in answering the questions that arise from our investigations. We only document the facts and they speak loudly for themselves.
It seems we are repeating a cycle that has been seen before and needs to be dealt with. The often quoted aphorist Georges Santayana, said it well in the previous century when he wrote: “…Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It’s time to demand accountability, transparency and real advocacy from our elected officials. We are the people who must bear the cost of these mistakes. If we fail to engage in the process, we will continue to be victims.
We are asking you, Christine Tell, our MLA in Wascana Plains, where our business is located, please help us to get our business back on track. We would welcome any opportunity to have a meaningful, open and candid discussion.