Boyd conflict demonstrates Sask. Party’s entitlement attitude
The most disturbing aspect of the Saskatchewan conflict of interest commissioner’s report on former Sask. Party caucus member and soon-to-be-former MLA Bill Boyd is that the events in question all happened while the Kindersley MLA was already under suspicion for much more direct, serious allegations of conflict.
The cheek of a politician — knowing all eyes in the province were still on him and that there was an active investigation into the Global Transportation Hub that he presided over — to fly to China and flaunt the MLA’s conflict of interest rules by using the government logos and government titles to promote his own personal business is stunning.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be all that shocked.
The man Premier Brad Wall described at the time of Boyd’s retirement as the very DNA of the Saskatchewan Party repeatedly demonstrated during the GTH that he firmly believed rules of process with proper checks and balances did not apply him. And every breach and misstep received the unwavering support of Wall and his entire government.
So what if provincial auditor Judy Ferguson unleashed a damning indictment suggesting the purchase of the 204 acres by the GTH for $21 million was done at a “significantly higher price” and “not in a fiscally responsible manner.”
The focus/spin would only be on a few words in Ferguson’s mysterious second press release saying there was “no wrongdoing.”
So what if well-researched, investigative news stories by the CBC raised serious concern about inappropriate government GTH spending?
The Wall government would simply use the full power of the state to lean on its critics. There would be utterances from the premier that reporters’ careers would end over the story.
New Democrat MLAs who raised concerns in the legislative assembly over the $6 million made on the deal by Robert Tappauf (a farming business associate and political donor to Boyd’s campaign) were accused of engaging in a drive-by smear.
Public servants working for the Economy and Highways Ministry and the GTH who might have been able to shed light on these deals were barred from testifying before legislative committees by Boyd’s caucus colleagues.
Simply put, Wall and his Sask. Party government sent out a clear message long ago that Boyd’s dealings in government were above rules of scrutiny and conflict of interest.
This takes us to what’s been most disturbing about Boyd’s trip to China — the ongoing notion of entitlement that seemed to have found it acceptable to flaunt government and your past role in government for personal gain with seemingly little regard for the rules of conflict of interest.
Had the CBC not found out about Boyd’s personal trip in March with details of exactly what he did and why it was wrong, we would never have known about it. Certainly, Boyd never bothered to bring the matter to the conflict commissioner (or even the premier’s office) in advance of the trip.
For all the criticism conflict of interest commissioner Ron Barclay has received for not offering more views on the GTH, let us be clear his mandate does not allow him to pursue such issues on his own. He is largely at the whim of what MLAs report, and penalties for not reporting conflict violations until after the fact are something less than harsh.
Yet among the current Sask. Party leadership hopefuls, only Jeremy Harrison — who lacks credibility on the matter as the vehement defender of both Boyd and the existing law — seems interested in pursuing change.
Barclay ruled Boyd violated Section 5 of the act because
“it is obvious that Mr. Boyd’s presentation was an attempt to influence the decision of potential investors” and that “he inaccurately represented the involvement of the Government of Saskatchewan with regards to his agriculture business.”
These were serious charges. Yet from the hero’s sendoff Boyd has received, one gets the impression no one in this party is all that chastened.
Contrary to the view of some Sask. Party leadership hopefuls, this needs to change.