Pri­va­ti­za­tion cleansing won’t get rid of lin­ger­ing stench around GTH

PressReader - LStep Channel - Pri­va­ti­za­tion cleansing won’t get rid of lin­ger­ing stench around GTH
The scent of scan­dal at the Global Trans­porta­tion Hub (GTH) will linger long af­ter its sale.And given how near im­pos­si­ble it will be for the Saskatchewan Party gov­ern­ment to un­load the stench, it could be around for a very long, long time.Jus­tice and GTH Min­is­terDon Morgan an­nounced Fri­day the un­sur­pris­ing-but-none­the­less-stun­ning news that his gov­ern­ment would be­gin the process of di­vest­ing it­self from the GTH.That process be­gan with dis­miss­ing the in­land port’s pres­i­dent and CEO Bryan Richards and re­plac­ing him with a pri­vate-sec­tor con­sul­tant to run things. It also in­cludes re­defin­ing the GTH’S gov­er­nance struc­ture and hir­ing a pri­vate realtor.Fi­nally, a key el­e­ment ap­pears to in­volve fa­nat­i­cal op­ti­mism in the no­tion that there is sud­denly go­ing to be an il­log­i­cal de­mand for over­priced land that the GTH hasn’t been able to sell for three years and that this de­mand will be such that the gov­ern­ment will be able to over­come the port’s $40-mil­lion debt.Ad­mit­tedly, Morgan was re­al­is­tic enough to make it clear Fri­day that the gov­ern­ment an­tic­i­pates there will be no single buyer. This was al­ways a mas­sive un­like­li­hood, given that the GTH is a Crown cor­po­ra­tion that func­tions more as a mu­nic­i­pal­ity on its own.This also means the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment (or some other gov­ern­ment en­tity — most likely, the City of Regina, if the prov­ince ever gets its way) will have to con­tinue to main­tain the util­ity ser­vic­ing costs.As such, costs of the GTH will con­tinue to be borne by tax­pay­ers — even if the gov­ern­ment does man­age to sell all the land at what most an­tic­i­pate will be dimes on the dol­lar. (As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, the stench of the GTH is likely to linger long af­ter any land is sold ... very much in the same way that the pre­vi­ous NDP gov­ern­ment never quite cleansed it­self from the smell of Spudco’s rot­ten pota­toes.)Mostly, what all this does is best suit the gov­ern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal goal of lim­it­ing the GTH dam­age as much as pos­si­ble.This has been the gov­ern­ment’s modus operandi for three years now — since the orig­i­nal pre-2016 elec­tion CBC story that re­vealed two Saskatchewan Party-con­nected busi­ness­men made a to­tal profit of about $11 mil­lion from flip­ping the sales of 204 acres of land that were un­der gov­ern­ment ex­pro­pri­a­tion.Last Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment wasn’t es­pe­cially well-crafted be­cause you can’t re­ally craft a bril­liant GTH me­dia strat­egy any­more. No amount of spin on the GTH can avoid the re­al­ity of the po­lit­i­cal mess it is and will likely con­tinue to be when you have run up a $40-mil­lion loss and aren’t sell­ing any land.But that doesn’t mean Morgan — a rather crafty politi­cian — wasn’t ply­ing his con­sid­er­able skill as best as he pos­si­bly could. That means get­ting the Sask. Party through the next elec­tion while min­i­miz­ing the po­lit­i­cal dam­age the GTH will do to the gov­ern­ment.What Morgan and the gov­ern­ment started Fri­day was the tomato bath af­ter the skunk spray, in the hope GTH smell wears off by the 2020 vote.He re­peated ear­lier ad­mis­sions that his gov­ern­ment had no busi­ness in this busi­ness in the first place, but with­out any com­mit­ment to a thor­ough leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee re­view, a foren­sic au­dit by the pro­vin­cial au­di­tor or even a cost-ben­e­fit-anal­y­sis of tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars — any of which would likely re­veal more about the GTH deals.In­stead, Fri­day was a pre-emp­tive strike to al­low the gov­ern­ment to at­tempt to re­veal as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.Run by a pri­vate third party, we might ex­pect even less re­sponse to le­git­i­mate in­quiries or free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests — all in the name of “pri­vate com­mer­cial trans­ac­tions” which we sup­pos­edly have no busi­ness know­ing about even though it’s tax­pay­ers as­sets be­ing sold.Ex­pect Morgan and com­pany to even scold those mak­ing in­quiries be­cause bad pub­lic­ity over how much the land sales are worth only hurts fur­ther land sales.The prob­lem for the gov­ern­ment, how­ever, is none of this will nec­es­sar­ily elim­i­nate the GTH odour from our nos­trils. The smell will still linger.

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