We are owed more GTH explanations

Murray Mandryk

Let us be clear it is a good thing the RCMP is not laying criminal charges in the Global Transportation Hub fiasco.

Certainly, it is a great thing for the Saskatchewan Party government, whose credibility would have taken a serious hit if it headed into the 2020 election under the cloud of criminal court cases.

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But consider for a moment how bad such a circumstance would have been for democracy itself.

Such a scandal would have affected the political fortunes of the Sask. Party, as was the case for the Progressive Conservatives in the early 1990s after their own caucus communication fraud scandal that produced 16 criminal convictions of MLAs and staff.

Setting aside judgment whether the old PCs deserved this fate (they went into hiatus and most of their members converted to the newly formed Sask. Party), this scandal disrupted the political balance in the province for nearly two decades.

What was essentially a two-party system in Saskatchewan between the NDP left and the alternative, became a one-party system as that alternative transitioned from the PCs to the Liberals to the Sask. Party after the 1997 merger.

Of course, its far less likely even GTH criminal charges would have killed the mighty Sask. Party in the same way.

Nevertheless, had the RCMP found reason for charges, there can be no doubt that it would have taken an even greater political toll on the Sask. Party than this mess already has.

After two and half years and some 7,500 man-hours of RCMP investigation, we can be now confident that there is no reason to suspect criminality.

That has to be a good thing.

But does that mean this whole sorry GTH affair is now over and we should never know what really happened?

No. Not by a long shot.

Maybe the “judicial” inquiry now being demanded by the NDP is not needed.

One would think such legal matters (with the exception of civil suits that may still possibly emerge out of the myriad of pending land acquisition transaction lawsuits) have been dispensed with.

But consider all the other things the RCMP has likely discovered during its two and a half years of investigation— non-criminal matters of questionable ethics, conflict of interest and downright government incompetence — that the public deserves to know about but doesn’t yet know about.

Although the GTH anticipated $10 million in land sales in the 2017-18, it made no such sales that fiscal year and only $231,000 in land leases.

Total GTH debt is now $40 million, including a $28-million loan from the Royal Bank of Canada.

Debt interest is now $845,000  — $200,000 more in 2017-18 than the $635,000 in the previous fiscal year.

And this supposed inland port actually has only 12 clients, many of which are government entities ordered to locate there.

Moreover, the GTH’s very existence has clearly impacted other costly decisions, namely, the routing of now $1.9-billion Regina by-pass that has become, arguably, an even bigger fiasco.

Now, Justice and GTH Minister Don Morgan is talking about unloading the whole mess.

“In retrospect, it’s probably not a business the government should have been involved in,” Morgan said.

But why did it become such a mess? The public is owed this explanation.

In fairness to the opposition’s own politically driven call for a “judicial inquiry,” it repeatedly demanded politicians and bureaucrats come to legislative committees to explain what went wrong.

Government MLAs blocked this each and every time, sometimes using the “under-investigation” excuse.

Well, there is no longer a police investigation to use as an excuse, and politicians should be required to explain their actions.

And we should have an in-depth provincial auditor forensic audit advancing her initial damning finding in a June 2016 report.

This would seem to be the very minimum that is now required.

© Copyright Battlefords News Optimist

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