Boyd con­flict demon­strates Sask. Party’s en­ti­tle­ment at­ti­tude

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - OPINION - MUR­RAY MANDRYK Mur­ray Mandryk is the po­lit­i­cal colum­nist for Regina Leader-Post. mmandryk@post­media.com

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.

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