PREMIER SCOTT MOE WANTS TO HEAR OUR CONCERNS - WE ARE COMPLYING
Dear Mr. Premier:
We recently received a postcard in the mail indicating that you wanted to hear from us. As your communication indicated that Saskatchewan's economy is improving and that our province continues to grow after three years of low natural resource prices and fiscal challenges, we are concerned that some issues that have contributed to the provincial debt remain unresolved. As you indicated that you want to hear about our priorities and our communities' priorities as the Government of Saskatchewan builds a plan for 2030, we wanted to respond to that request. Over the last few years we have become frustrated with the apparent lack of credibility ascribed to our public awareness campaign by the present government. As a result, we have been forced to experiment with a variety of communication platforms in an attempt to garner the attention of legislators and the general public This letter is merely the latest in a long series of communications intended for that purpose.
OUR GOVERNMENT DEMANDS SILENCE FROM ITS CITIZENS? WHY?
During the past 11 years, we note that the provincial budget has been balanced only 3 times. Our province now has a P3 debt of over $20 Billion Dollars with a significant portion of this encumbrance originating with the expense of constructing the new Highway #1 Regina Bypass. As this has been the largest Infrastructure project in the 114-year history of our province, we are concerned that several aspects of this project appear to have been manipulated to benefit selected investors and developers at the expense of Saskatchewan taxpayers. Specifically, the timing and process by which land acquisitions were made to accommodate the new bypass were not conducted in a consistent or transparent manner. In several instances, government agents affixed arbitrary values to annexed land while demanding that the owners of these properties sign non-disclosure agreements before payment would be received. These policies are an affront to all taxpayers. Unless national security is at risk, there should be no circumstance under which our government can demand silence from its citizens. What or who are they trying to protect?
SOME WERE PAID MUCH MORE THAN OTHERS WHY?
We later learned that developers were paid multiples of these factors, up to 80 times more than long time owners of similar sized parcels. We also believe that it is more than coincidental that some of the land owners receiving these significantly larger sums for recently purchased properties had benefitted from access to privileged information that had not been made available to the public at the time of their purchases. In some cases, public sector employees and elected officials had prior personal business relationships with the purchasers. We maintain that when public funds are being used, certain moral, ethical and legal constraints should be in place to ensure proper stewardship is maintained. We contend that this did not happen and as a result it would appear that ëinsidersí were able to manipulate our government into paying some developers and speculators excessive amounts while at the same time coercing others to accept far lesser values on penalty of withholding payment if they would not agree to keep silent about their settlements. The optics of these activities are extremely poor and demand further investigation.
THE BYPASS PLAN WAS ALTERED AT THE LAST MINUTE WHY?
We now have a major long term investment which fails to address many of the current needs it was originally intended to fulfill. The 500% increase in cost vs budget occurred after developers purchased key parcels of land which turned out to be critical to accommodating the hastily revised plans; -plans which had been many years in development. Such major changes to a plan which was described and represented by city engineers and other officials as: ínot likely to change in the foreseeable futureí -are without precedent and invite suspicion that they have been altered to serve partisan interests. Many who found themselves out of the loop of influence, either having invested in future growth based on those plans or having their existing properties annexed to accommodate those surprising changes, have been severely harmed. These late changes and the lack of sufficient public dialogue surrounding them has caused outrage among those who have been impacted. Sadly, many were only made aware of the implications of these changes after the fact.
A MAJOR EXPENSE WHICH HAS FAILED TO SERVE ITS INTENDED PURPOSE
Turning eastward to the Global Transportation Hub, it seems we have an equally if not greater collection of concerning issues. The facility that was originally promised to bring new industry and commerce to our region has failed miserably to attract prospective tenants. While appealing to many, the project is contingent upon commitments from outside investors who have yet to participate. It would appear that the entire concept may have been ill conceived from the outset. The GTH and access to it comprise a significant portion of the expense we are being forced to bear as the Regina Bypass plan enters its final stages of completion. We are faced with paying for a magnificent network of roadways that essentially lead nowhere and serve no one on the west side of Regina while the eastern end of this roadway falls far short of alleviating the heavy truck traffic that needs to access the Eastern and Northern areas of our business districts.
THE GLOBAL TRANSPORTATION HUB WHY HAS IT FAILED TO WORK?
Some who have followed this endeavor from its beginning have maintained that a Global Transportation Hub without a major north-south connection to the U.S. border would fail to attract the investment needed to make it viable. It would seem that the lack of enthusiasm from prospective tenants may be in part due to this missing component. Land acquisitions surrounding this part of the new Regina Bypass appear to have been manipulated for the benefit of a few well-placed investors. Enough questions arose around these issues that the RCMP was asked to investigate these transactions as well. We also note that MLA Gordon Wyant, who entered the Sask. Party leadership race late last summer said a number of things in his campaign speeches.† Mr. Wyant routinely told his rally attendees that: ìhe would hold a Public Inquiry on the GTH land deals no matter what the RCMP investigation concludedî..because; ìthere are unanswered questionsî.
WE HAVE BEEN PROMISED ANSWERS HOW LONG MUST WE WAIT?
During an early September 2017 interview with CBC, Mr. Wyant emphatically stated: ìIím a citizen of this province whether Iím 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 arenít preferred then thereís going to be a report thatís tendered to the director of public prosecutions which isnít going to be made public and that doesnít 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. Sadly, once Gordon Wyant was elected as Deputy Premier, he suddenly changed his tune on his suspicions regarding the Regina Bypass land scandal. Why he has not kept his promise to open the books for a Judicial Public Inquiry? This question needs to be front and centre as it has yet to be formally asked or answered to date. The Provincial Auditor has yet to perform a Forensic Audit ( or any other type of study) into the Regina Bypass Land ìScandalî
THE RCMP SAYS THEREíS NOTHING WRONG? WHERE WERE THEY LOOKING?
On July 25, 2018, Super On July 25, 2018, Super Intendant Paul Segency with the RCMP Economic Crimes Division spoke at a press conference about their investigation into the GTH Land Dealings. Superintendent Segency said that after 2 and a half years and 7500 hours investigating these transactions, no charges would be laid. He also disclosed that all of the information that was used to make this decision was freely provided to them from the parties being investigated and that they never reached the threshold to subpoena evidence and the file is now closed on the entire Regina Bypass Scandal. We have learned that the investigation that did eventually take place only concerned itself with an audit of procedure. Procedures for the purchase and sale of these properties all followed contractual agreements between the parties and were fully disclosed. It is important to note however that these contracts for sale disclose nothing of the negotiation process leading up to them, they only reveal the final result. No light has been shed on the rationale behind establishing comparative land values and their disclosure. Neither does the history of ownership prior to and immediately following the sale of these properties appear to warrant investigation. Unfortunately, a forensic audit has never been authorized for any of these transactions. We would like to see the financial records for both Bill Boyd and Robert Tappauf subpoenaed. For the RCMP to fail to achieve the threshold for subpoenas suggests that they were never given the mandate to look beneath the surface of these transactions in the first place. Further explanation is needed.
ELECTED OFFICIALS VOLUNTARILY RESIGN MID-TERM FOR WHAT REASON?
We find it more than coincidental that Premier Brad Wall, MLAs Bill Boyd and Kevin Doherty all subsequently resigned mid term while these issues were being investigated by the RCMP. Those investigations failed to produce any convictions or charges, but the timing and optics of these resignations communicate a poor message. The RCMP have been widely acknowledged to claim ìthere were no smoking gunsî discovered in the details of these land transactions despite the implications of collusion. As many of the relevant land transactions took place only a short time prior to the governmentís annexation of these needed lands, it would appear that a select group of shrewd investors and speculators managed to acquire these properties from the original owners at depressed prices in time to resell them for exponentially larger amounts back to the government. It is a matter of public record that at least one of these íinvestorsí was in a business relationship with an elected government official.
MEDIA THREATENED WITH LEGAL ACTION WHY?
Earlier in our campaign to gather support from the general public, the GTH ìland scandalî was highlighted in a report given by CBCís Geoff Leo in February 2016. Bill Boyd, then the minister responsible for the GTH - threatened to bring legal action against the CBC to prevent the story being aired. As the timing of this news release was scheduled ahead of the provincial election, suppressing it appeared to serve the political agenda of the Sask Party at the time. Consequently, the delayed release of the provincial budget until after the election seems to serve the interests of those who might find themselves in an uncomfortable position should they be held to account for decisions made during the implementation of the Regina Bypass project.
OUR GOVERNMENT NOW ADMITS THE GTH WAS A MISTAKE REALLY?
The provincial government has recently admitted that the 10,000 square foot GTH facility that they invested in has been unsuccessful in attracting any tenants. For nearly three years, the handful of provincial government employees who have been occupying a 10,000 square foot new facility will now be transferred to an office somewhere else in the city while the government looks to sell off what can only be described as a white elephant. They are on record as admitting ìThe GTH project has been a mistakeî.
ETHICS AND THE LAW WHO SHOULD THEY SERVE?
We have never disputed the legality of buying and selling land, as those activities are perfectly legal in and of themselves. We only take issue with the suspicious nature of highly profitable quick real estate flips which resulted in huge financial windfalls for individuals who had business relationships with both elected and appointed civic officials. It would appear that those who were not as well connected to the decision makers found themselves forced to accept vastly different settlements conditional on their agreement to keep silent before being paid. If one considers the context of these transactions, an investigation into their background circumstances also needs to be done. If the RCMP has no legal or procedural mandate for this sort of investigation then who else does? Possibly a Judicial Inquiry or Commission appointed to re-examine the rules of conduct for public sector employees and elected officials needs to be put in place. It continues to appear to many that when we look closely at the history of land transactions prior to the bypass project being announced in its new location, the letter of the law has displaced the spirit of the law when it comes to protecting the interests of Saskatchewan taxpayers.
If NO LAWS WERE BROKEN WHY ARE THE DETAILS BEING HIDDEN?
To clarify; while it may not be illegal to acquire advance knowledge about future plans surrounding any public project, to turn that knowledge into an opportunity to make windfall profits at the expense of taxpayers should not be allowed. It is especially troubling to consider that in the process, government representatives appear to have played an active role in preventing this type of information from becoming public knowledge. From heavily redacted reports on the rationale behind the Regina bypass plans to non-disclosure agreements being demanded from land owners who were forced to sell their properties, it would appear that our legal system has failed to provide the protection it is in place to ensure. The role of government should not be to demand silence from those with whom they are doing business. To make this a condition of any citizenís cooperation is, in our opinion, tantamount to conspiracy. Our unsanctioned investigation is based on facts and information in the public record. It has revealed major inconsistencies in the financial dealings between our government and the many individuals whose lands were in the path of the Regina Bypass.
THINGS THAT DEFY EXPLANATION THEY DEMAND ANSWERS
Our investment in this yet to be completed project appears to be ill conceived on several levels. We are spending more to build the Regina Bypass than B.C. spent on building the Coquihalla Highway which in itself is cause for alarm. Compounding this is the fact that the new bypass appears to have neglected many operational needs. It incorporates innovations which do not fit the practical necessities of many of its users. Sadly, it appears to provide access to facilities which no one uses or appears to have any interest in using any time soon. When one factors into this equation the present state of the economic climate in Saskatchewan and the added tax burden that has been placed on our construction industry along with some of the federal taxation programs that have been put in place, our provincial economy has been placed under extreme stresses. It is hard to balance these facts with any claim that the provincial economy is experiencing growth. This statement will not ring true for many of us.
WHAT WILL BE OUR LEGACY?
We recognize that progress and change are inevitable and can often be uncomfortable for those find themselves in the way. That is nothing new. What is also true is that history is full of examples where those who lack the political or social connections to power or influence are destined to be taken advantage of. Some learned only after the fact that they had sold their properties for up to 80 times less than others had been paid for similar parcels. In this íenlightenedí age we should be entitled to better things from our lawmakers. The Sask Partyís platform represents them as a party fighting for Saskatchewanís interests and its future. To many, the battle on many fronts appears to have already been lost. We have been asked to pass on a $2 Billion Dollar commitment to future generations. The fact that this expense is for infrastructure that fails in its intended purpose is more than disappointing, it is bordering on negligence of the highest order. These issues transcend partisan interests and demand attention. If we cannot see them being taken seriously by the present legislators, what choice will we have but to rally for change? We implore you to show us a government whose priorities are transparency, accountability and advocacy for those who must bear the costs. We cannot afford to continue this form of fiscal mismanagement. You have asked for our feedback, we in turn look forward to your response. We thank you for this timely request for our opinion.
How can you justify spending 2 Billion Dollars on the Regina Bypass that was built in the wrong place, has impacted thousands of people and businesses, and was influenced by developers? Who purchased land along Tower Road in 2012? After Long Lake Investments and Forester Projects Harvard Developments purchased land along Tower Road in 2012, the Regina Bypass was moved 400 meters to accommodate the Aurora Mall development which could have never gone ahead if the Bypass had stayed on Tower Road as they would have lost over 60 acres. After the 400 meter road, the Aurora Mall site lost only .54 of an acre. Also, after the 400-meter move, the cost of the Regina Bypass increased 500% from the original price of 400 million. This move impacted thousands of people. People lost land, homes, businesses, ballpark, access, life's work, health, history, and future. Then the government bulldozes through peopleís properties and businesses. Developers who had recently purchased land along the Regina Bypass route received up to 80 times more for their land than long term land home and business owners.†
If you had the Saskatchewan people in mind you would be more focused on rebooting our economy. The most recent challenge that you have taken on is the federal carbon tax. Why would you take on this fight? All this is doing is wasting more taxpayer dollars. Are you just trying to make it appear that you are fighting for Saskatchewan after the Sask. Party killed Saskatchewan? Are you trying to leave the impression that you are actually doing something good? The carbon tax is a constitutional issue that you can never win on. Why waste all of the money on lawyers and now you are wasting more money appealing the decision, for what? Your party should be focusing on how to get Saskatchewan back on track by eliminating the PST tax so we can reboot our economy otherwise we are in for a seven-year recession thanks to the Sask. Party government waste.
Why wasnít the Regina Bypass built outside of the City at Gravel Pit Road? Brandt provided a Regina Bypass plan to the government in 2013 that proposed building the Regina Bypass at Gravel Pit Road that could go north and south around the city. This plan would have been fully functional to reroute truck traffic coming into the city on Victoria Avenue. Why did the government not approve of this plan that would have saved 25% when the Regina Bypass price was only $400 Million dollars. Does a Sask. Party MLAís family own land along Highway No.1 and Gravel Pit Road that would have been impacted if the Regina Bypass was built outside of the city at Gravel Pit Road? †
To make matters worse, the government treated long term land, home, and business owners with disrespect. They made people sign confidentiality agreements so they wouldn't tell their neighbor the value they received for their property or try to get together. When taxpayers in the RM of Sherwood tried to organize to get together the government created the R.M. of Sherwood Ruse by firing Kevin Eberly saying that he had a conflict of interest and he was going to make $58 million dollars to build a city beside a city which never would have happened. Then they brought in a lawyer for the city of Regina as interim reeve to shepherd in the Regina Bypass 5 kilometers south of Regina. Meanwhile, developers along the Bypass route were being paid up to 80 times more for their land than long term land, home, and business owners.†
This land scandal didn't stop there; Maurie Gywen at White City needed land to put up a berm and a fence at Highway No.48 and Highway No. 1. The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure sold him 7.4 acres at $20,000/acre in 2011. Three years later they purchase back 2.4 acres of the exact same land because they needed it for the Bypass and paid him $400,000/acre. Across the road, people are getting between $15,000-$27,000/acre. How is this ethical, fair, or even logical?†
If you look at all of the construction projects now underway in the east, west, and south Regina, it all starts to make sense. The Regina Bypass was intended to lay out a development plan for the city of Regina for the next 100+ years. But wait, doesnít the government maintain that the purpose of the Bypass was to provide an alternative and safe route for truck traffic to get into and around the city? If this was the goal then why didnít the Bypass go north around the city? A northern route would have been fully functional and half of the overall price. The governments own studies said that 15% of the through truck traffic goes south meaning the remaining 85% travels north to the Commercial Industrial Business District of the city which is in the Northeast. †
We have all heard about the federal scandal involving SNC-Lavalin. SNC-Lavalin was facing charges for fraud and corruption in connection with close to $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011. If SNC-Lavalin is convicted on these charges, they would be prohibited from competing for federal government contracts for the next ten years. SNC-Lavalin hoped to receive a Deferred Prosecution Agreement which would mean they would be spared a trial and possible criminal charges. It was later revealed that Public Prosecution Service of Canada found that SNC had not met the criteria for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement but high ranking members of the Office of the Prime Minister was inappropriately trying to influence this decision. Coincidentally, SNC-Lavalin bid on the Regina Bypass but the government ultimately decided to go with a company from France who is deeply rooted in scandals across Europe including money laundering, bribery, and human rights issues. Vinci won the bidding for the general construction and maintenance over the next 30 years for the Regina Bypass. Very few Saskatchewan contractors received any work from the Bypass. The government has been saying that 70% of the contractors are Saskatchewan companies. Well, of course, they had to incorporate in Saskatchewan. Now we are paying $688 million for maintenance to an out of Country or Province Company when we have so many experienced and deserving local companies that could have done this work. This money will never again see the light of day in Saskatchewan.† Is this going to end up like the roof on the North Battlefords hospital that failed? The bypass is already crumbling and sinking with poor engineering on the roundabouts and diverging diamond.†
When you compare the Regina Bypass to the Coquihalla Highway as per the enclosed article, you can easily see that the taxpayers of Saskatchewan have been ripped off by the government. Yet, you maintain that the Sask. Party is fighting for Saskatchewan.
The final blow that really killed our provincial economy was the 6% PST on the construction and service industries that have brought the construction industry to a grinding halt. This, coupled with the decline of the oil and gas industry, sent the province spiraling into a recession that is now impacting everyone in the province. Was this the plan to divert the attention away from the Regina Bypass Scandal, the biggest scandal in Canadian history? Well, you pulled the wool over a few peopleís eyes but with increased public awareness this will be the demise of your government just like the Grant Devine government that was involved in a less than a million dollar scandal that saw 13 government MLA's being charged criminally for fraud. Twenty-five years later, the Sask. Party has managed to waste 2 billion dollars on the Regina Bypass, 2000 times bigger than the Grant Devine scandal and the RCMP do nothing; this is a crime in itself.
Twenty-five years ago Saskatchewan saw the biggest political scandal in the history of our province. Twelve members of Grant Devineís Progressive Conservative government were charged criminally in relation to a scheme that defrauded Saskatchewan taxpayers of nearly a million dollars. Now, twenty-five years later, we have a $2 Billion Dollar scandal, 2000 times bigger and no one has been charged. Interestingly, three members of the Sask. Party that was central to the Regin