Watch­dog never ruled on GTH deals

State­ment un­der­cuts pre­mier’s oft-re­peated de­fence of Bill Boyd

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - D.C. FRASER

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.”


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