Posted in Letters

In anticipation of the March 4, 2019 resumption of the Legislative Assembly sessions, we wanted to present a letter we wrote and posted to Premier Scott Moe last May. To date, our team has not received a reply from the Premier’s Office. Below is the first half of our letter; the second half will appear in next week’s Compass:

May 30th, 2018

The Honorable Scott Moe
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building
Regina, Sask.
S4S 0B6

Dear Premier Moe,

We have sent your provincial government dozens of letters over the last few years regarding your party's decision to build the outdated, seriously flawed, dysfunctional, unsafe, costly, developer influenced, dead-end Regina Trans-Canada Highway #1 Bypass – a major roadway system that is partly situated within city limits. The east terminal was originally planned to be built along Tower Road, but that terminal mysteriously ended up being constructed 400 meters east of Tower Road. That seemingly innocuous shift to the east severely impacted many good people who subsequently lost their land, homes, businesses, health and hopes for the future. And for no justifiable reasons whatsoever!!

In our letters we posed many probing questions to individuals within your government, including then-Highways and Infrastructure Minister Don McMorris. The only answers we received about the 400-meter shift were that Highways' engineers decided where the Regina Bypass would be constructed. So, we talked to senior Highways' engineers, and they told us they didn’t agree with the present routing. They stated their mandate was only to determine how the east sections of the bypass would link up with Pinkie Road (situated on Regina’s southwest outskirts). They also mentioned that many key decisions as to where the bypass would be located were greatly influenced by certain developers and land speculators. We continued to write letters and ask questions, and we eventually discovered that two prominent private sector Sask. Party supporters seemed to be two of those "certain developers and land speculators."

One of those developers/land speculators purchased 500 acres adjacent to Tower Road in 2012 for $12,163 an acre. This corporation’s principle owner was a director of the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission during 2011 and 2012. And since 2013, he has served as the chairperson of that organization (now known as Economic Development Regina Inc.). The other developer/land speculator, also in 2012, purchased 141 acres along Highway #1 and Tower Road with blueprints in hand for the establishment of an ambitious mega mall.

Since at least 2007, when Stantec Engineering's Functional Study was released, the Regina Bypass was approved to be built along Tower Road, with an interchange at that location that would allow traffic to flow both north and south around the city. That pivotal interchange would have effectively alleviated much of the heavy truck traffic that enters the east side of the city and congests vehicular movement on Victoria Avenue. However, after those certain developers and speculators purchased land in close proximity to Tower Road in 2012, the City of Regina launched its Official Community Plan to study potential development along Tower Road. The government had told the previous land and business owners along Tower Road that it would be at least 25 years before that land would be annexed to the city and approved for development. However, mere months after those developers/speculators purchased their parcels just off of Tower Road, the process to annex their land to the city was started -- apparently 25 years ahead of schedule.

From May 6 to 9 of 2013, closed-door meetings were conducted between select individuals from the City of Regina, the RM of Sherwood, the provincial government (including Highways' engineers), MMM engineers and a few specially invited Tower Road-area private sector stakeholders. Then, in July of 2013, at the first public open forum staged to roll out and hype the innovative and historical Regina Bypass project, the original approved plan to have the bypass built on Tower Road (with interchanges to allow traffic to flow both north and south around the city as well as into the Commercial/Industrial Business District) was replaced by the 400-meters-east-of-Tower-Road routing plan that seemed to have been influenced and preferred by the closed-door schemers.

There are so many unanswered questions, and they absolutely must be answered:

Why was that critical terminal moved 400 meters east of Tower Road soon after certain "insider" developers and land speculators purchased a total of 650 acres just east and south of Tower Road in 2012?

Why did your government officials present only a redacted version of the Functional Study when they were asked to explain the science and logic behind their decision to construct that critical terminal 400 meters east of Tower Road?

Why did the projected cost of the Regina Bypass explode from $400 million in 2007, then to $800 million in 2012, then to $1.2 billion in 2015 and now to over $2 billion dollars?

Shortly after the 400-meters-east-of-Tower-Road shift was put into play, your government acquired 110 acres from the developer/land speculator group which bought 500 acres in 2012 for $12,163 an acre. And your government paid that group $76,586 an acre!! A 630% profit!! Was that excessive profit handed over because vital sections of the East Regina Bypass would now be constructed directly through the middle two miles of that their recently acquired property? And…they still own about 390 of the 500 acres they purchased in 2012; and their Commercial Development Plan has already been approved for a CN Intermodal service alongside their railroad tracks; and your government has built (with public funds) that private incorporated company fabulous new service roads. So, it appears these visionary (aka “insider”) operators are poised to rake in tens of millions of dollars of additional profits from a chunk of land that only a few years ago was deemed to be non-serviceable and of only modest cash value.

If that critical terminal would have been built on Tower Road, the mega mall developers would have lost about 60 of their 141 acres to the bypass. Would that scenario have significantly scaled back -- or maybe even terminated -- their plans for the mega mall?

Why did the City of Regina fast-track the Southeast Community Development Plan by approving development along selective portions of the Regina Bypass -- at least 25 years ahead of the city’s original intentions?

Did your government seriously consider the Brandt Plan that proposed to push the bypass further east out to Gravel Pit Road (which is located outside of city limits)? That route would have saved Saskatchewan taxpayers about $100 million, reducing the cost from $400 million (the projected price tag when the bypass was approved to be constructed on Tower Road) to a more palatable expenditure of $300 million.

Does a Sask. Party MLA’s family own land along Gravel Pit Road? Are they currently commercially developing that land? Did this "well connected" family divert the Regina Bypass away from Gravel Pit Road?

Why didn’t your government study and consider building the bypass starting on the outskirts of Balgonie, with sections engineered to circumvent Regina and to connect safely and efficiently with Highway #1? This viable alternative plan would have cost far less than $2 billion dollars and would have been at least 80% more functional.

Why did your government award the bypass’s general construction contract to a French consortium headed by Vinci? That completely incomprehensible decision shipped so many of our collected tax dollars overseas and took so much work away from deserving and highly qualified Saskatchewan road and bridge building contractors.

Did your government know that Vinci is deeply embroiled in scandals all across Europe?

Our team posted a letter, dated May 30, 2018, to Premier Scott Moe. To date, we have not received a response from the Premier’s Office. In the following copy, we posed a number of important questions:

1  Why were countless long-time land, home and business owners along the Regina Bypass's “Corridors of Carnage” treated so callously and paid so poorly when the Ministry of Highways' land procurers came knocking to either negotiate or expropriate? On the flip side of the tarnished coin, your government paid certain preferred developers and land speculators 5 to 80 times more per acre for tracts of land they purchased mere months before the bypass’s eleventh hour rerouting schemes were so brazenly fast tracked over the summer of 2013.

If the Regina Bypass’s critical east terminal had been constructed on Tower Road (as per the original approved plan) many people along the South Service Road Bypass route would not have been subjected to extreme levels of stress as they desperately battled to keep their long-held properties from falling into the hands of the Ministry of Highway's land snatchers.

2 Could this extreme stress have contributed to the terminal illnesses that have now afflicted a number of these former land, home and business owners?     

3  Why are former property owners (a.k.a. unwilling sellers) being forced to spend years in court and many tens of thousands of dollars to seek fairer compensation? The only real winners in these actions are the lawyers representing the besieged former property owners. 

4 Why did your government target Super Seamless of Canada? Was it because we were asking potentially damning questions regarding the science and reasoning behind that closed-door decision to move that critical Regina Bypass east terminal 400 meters east of Tower Road? 

5 Why were bulldozers sent in to tear through our property just four days after we were hit with an expropriation notice from Land Titles? Tons of our building products were destroyed and piles of dirt were dumped onto our driveway and the entry into our driveway. Those spiteful actions severely damaged our existing business operations, and absolutely decimated our International Business Expansion Plans.               

6 Why did your government want Super Seamless of Canada to sign a Release/Settlement and confidentiality agreement before they would rebuild our access and driveway?

7 When approached at the 2017 Premier’s Dinner, why did then-Premier Brad Wall refuse to schedule a meeting with the principals of Super Seamless of Canada, and instead threatened us by angrily stating that our talk could be considered slanderous?

8 Why did the Mayor of White City (a land developer and talking head for the Regina Bypass) not respond to the letters we posted to him? And why did he try to slander the Why Tower Road group? Why did the Deputy Mayor of White City assault a member of the Why Tower Road group during the grand opening of the White City overpass?       

9 Why did (now retired) MLA Bill Boyd launch a legal action against CBC Saskatchewan after their iTeam investigative journalist, Geoff Leo, unearthed the GTH Land Scandal story in February, 2016? And then, why didn't this scandalous story come out before the provincial election in early April, 2016? Was this damaging information deliberately and deceptively kept from the voters until that provincial election was in the history books? Were Mr. Robert Tappauf and Mr. Anthony Marquart deputized by the Ministry of Highways and instructed to ride out West and get entangled in the GTH's land buying/selling/flipping profiteering games when tracts of land needed to be acquired from McNally Enterprises and an Order of Catholic nuns?

The GTH Land Scandal appears to have "only" squandered many millions of dollars of taxpayer funds. When the critical Regina Bypass East terminal was repositioned 400 meters east of Tower Road (seemingly to satisfy the greedy agendas of certain government-friendly private sector developers and speculators), the taxpayers of Saskatchewan were sideswiped with a bloated $2 Billion Dollar collection of highly disjointed, confusing and unsafe thoroughfares that have not significantly reduced the volume of large truck traffic that is still coming into the city. In fact, the Aurora Retail Mall will create much more traffic congestion around Tower Road when its new stores and businesses are opened.

10 Was MLA Don McMorris the "political engineer" of the Regina Bypass? He said at first he wasn’t convinced the Regina Bypass should be constructed in its present locations, but that his engineers convinced him not once, not twice, but three times that it most definitely had to be built in its present locations -- a complete and utter contradiction from what we were told by a number of senior Highways engineers.          

11 Why hasn't the provincial NDP more harshly criticized and more closely scrutinized the Regina Bypass's incredibly convoluted and confounding land dealings? In particular, the secretive interactions that went down in the vicinity of Tower Road – which have exorbitantly benefited a few Sask. Party-supporting corporate raiders – absolutely must be extensively investigated.

12 Why did former Premier Brad Wall abruptly retire from political life just as the GTH Land Scandal was beginning to come to light? And why did two of his closed-door, backroom partners-in-planning, former MLA’s Bill Boyd and Kevin Doherty, also mosey on down that same hideaway retirement trail?    

13 Why aren’t more members of the local media reporting on any of the Regina Bypass's scandalous land acquisition deals?

14 Why does radio talk show host John Gormley refuse to have the Why Tower Road group on his show? And why does he discredit them for trying to expose the real stories behind the bewildering planning and re-planning phases that have now spawned and unleashed this out-of-control public works monstrosity?        

The 2017/18 provincial slash-and-burn, $1.4 Billion Dollar deficit budget has unfairly impacted all Saskatchewan taxpayers. STC and other essential government services were shut down; other vital government jobs and salaries were cut; some Crown Corporations were placed on the auction block; and the construction and service industries were slapped with a 6% PST.  

15 Was that disastrous deficit budget largely the result of the $2 Billion Dollars that were wasted on the Regina Bypass project? This shamefully mismanaged and misdirected undertaking (that should never have been constructed in its present locations) has crippled Saskatchewan’s economy for decades to come. Did the disproportionate spending that your government poured into the Regina Bypass project delay the maintenance and upgrading work that critically needs to be done on so many dangerous and deadly highways throughout the province -- such as Highway No.6 south of Regina and the site of the catastrophic Humboldt Broncos bus crash? This absolutely is Highway Robbery: the Biggest Infrastructure Project Scandal in Saskatchewan's History!!

There’s a complete distrust of our government in the wake of the Regina Bypass Scandal. And the blatant cover-ups along with our government’s refusal to disclose vital information, have only compounded the many missteps and misfires the party has committed over the past decade. Is the government moving towards a dictatorial style of leadership, like in Crimea, where people’s properties are taken by force?  How could this happen in a so-called democracy? How did your government ever allow this to happen?

16 What are you going to do, Premier Scott Moe, to fix the wrongs that are now destined to be part of your legacy? Will you announce, in the very near future, that you will open up the provincial books to a full Judicial Public Inquiry, a proper Forensic Audit and a comprehensive RCMP investigation into all aspects of the Regina Bypass Scandal? Why is your government so determined to avoid ordering these moral and just procedures? What exactly is your government hiding?

Philosopher Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Premier Scott Moe, we want to believe you are a good man. Is your government truly accountable, transparent and trustworthy? What will it take for your government to do the right thing?

From: the Curious and Concerned Taxpayers of Saskatchewan