Watchdog never ruled on GTH deals
Statement undercuts premier’s oft-repeated defence of Bill Boyd
The province’s conflict of interest commissioner says he was never asked to, and never did, rule on any conflict of interest related to the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) land deals.
Premier Brad Wall’s office has maintained for over a year that now-outgoing MLA Bill Boyd was not in conflict of interest in relation to the GTH land deals.
That was supposedly based on a ruling made by the province’s conflict of interest commissioner Ron Barclay. But Barclay told Postmedia News on Wednesday he was only asked by Boyd for an opinion on his Kindersley farmland arrangement with one of the men involved in the GTH land deals.
Barclay said that he was never asked to give an opinion related to any specific purchases of GTH land in relation to a member’s conflict.
Boyd went to Barclay after questions arose over two Saskatchewan Party connected businessmen buying, and then selling, 204 acres of land to the GTH. They made a total of $11 million in profit doing so.
One of those businessmen, Robert Tappauf, leases the farmland to Boyd.
The Sask. Party has maintained Barclay’s ruling was for both Boyd’s personal farm business land transaction arrangements with the Tappauf family and the GTH land transactions.
That was the line repeated by Boyd, the premier and others many times in the legislative assembly and media.
For example, in May 2016 Wall said, “When there were concerns about the individuals involved in the transaction side of the issue, the minister of his own volition went to the conflict of Interest Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest Commissioner wrote ... ‘I can state unequivocally that you, the minister, are not in breach of The Members’ Conflict of Interest Act.’”
Asked about the quote in his letter the government released 17 months ago and referenced by Wall in the Assembly, Barclay said “it applies, only, only, only to the one opinion I gave (on the farmland).”
The Conflict of Interest Commissioner said Wednesday he felt it necessary to clarify the notion that he had ruled on the GTH conflict because he was receiving letters from the public criticizing him for doing so.
Barclay’s ruling on Boyd’s business relationship with Tappauf referenced the GTH land deal, but the ruling of Boyd not being in a conflict of interest was only in relation to the farmland lease agreement the two had, not the GTH.
In response to the Leader-Post’s questions, a government official in the premier’s office wrote Wednesday, “No there is not another opinion from the conflict of interest commissioner — although the letter references the GTH land transaction. We thought a further review was required, which is why we asked the Auditor to review it. The Auditor’s report addressed the fact that there was no conflict of interest.”
Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson looked at the GTH land deals in a process audit and concluded the purchase of the 204 acres by the GTH for $21 million was done at a “significantly higher price.”
Boyd was removed from the Sask. Party caucus by Wall this week after Barclay made a ruling on another matter. Barclay said a trip Boyd took to China promoting a private agricultural irrigation company fell “below the standards expected” of MLAs.
The longtime politician announced his retirement on Aug. 15 and will be finished as an MLA on Sept. 1. It was revealed Wednesday that he is also facing environmental and wildlife protection charges over alleged riverbank alteration.
Interim NDP leader Nicole Sarauer sent a letter to Barclay’s office Wednesday requesting he investigate “the circumstances surrounding these transactions and provide an inquiry on any conflicts of interest or other breaches of the Act by the Member for Kindersley or other government members.”