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Economy minister behind GTH woes should be held accountable

It’s always rather amusing how political partisans find any excuse possible to justify the lousy performance of their preferred ministers.

            It’s always rather amusing how political partisans find any excuse possible to justify the lousy performance of their preferred ministers.

            Consider the former NDP government in the old SPUDCO days that managed to find every excuse in the world to justify the $36-million-plus loss and how it was handled.

            Leading up to the debacle, the former NDP government had been forthright in insisting that this was a private-public enterprise.

            Well, the truth of the matter is, the NDP government was never the least bit honest about this.

            It was only through a civil case and the ensuing court documents that we finally saw that then Economic Development Minister Eldon Lautermich had been telling individuals - including those bidding on the building of the potato storage sheds - something quite different.

            That inspired then premier Lorne Calvert to conduct an internal investigation that concluded Lautermilch and the government had not been forthright.

            Even after all that, Lautermilch was still not dropped from cabinet.

            Sure, he was relieved from his economic development duties, but he stayed in Calvert's cabinet (at full cabinet minister’s salary) in a lesser capacity.

            That’s not exactly how it works in the real world.

            If you fail to do your job, you cost your company money and - at the very least - you get demoted.

            Heck, there’s even a high likelihood you are fired or asked to resign.

            That standard also applies in government.

            Certainly, that was the standard applied to former NDP SaskPower president Jack Messer after the Channel Lake inquiry and to former SaskPower president Robert Watson after the Smart Meters fiasco.

            But ministers do not seem to bear the consequences for their actions.

            Like Lautermilch, they remain in cabinet. Essentially, they are rewarded even when they don’t do their jobs.

            Again, it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

            If you forget to put seed in the drill, you don’t get a whole bunch of supporters apologizing or justifying the job you did.

            More likely, you have your neighbours drive past your farm and snicker a bit. And that’s probably not as bad as the added costs and loss of income you must bear.

            Whether you like Economy Minister Bill Boyd or not, it’s tough to apologize for the job he’s done in in the wake of Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson's report on the Global Transportation Hub.

            In her report to determine whether the purchase of land for Regina’s inland port reflected “fair value,” Ferguson determined taxpayers wound up “buying land at a significantly higher price” because government did not act “in a financially responsible manner” when it wound up paying $103,000 an acre for 204 acres. Other landowners - under the threat of expropriation - settled for less than $30,000 an acre. Some are now suing as a result.

            Notwithstanding claims by Premier Brad Wall that Boyd and his government had to pay that much because land prices were skyrocketing, Ferguson said other appraisals actually weren’t even used in determining the price paid.

            The real problem was that Boyd and the government did not have “clear land acquisition strategies” and certainly did have “proper documentation” for their actions.

            The auditor determined that there was a “unique board governance” and that “the active involvement of the GTH chair/minister” simply made decision making difficult.

            What she is saying is that Boyd made all the decisions without any proper oversight from the politically appointed GTH CEO, its board or anyone.

            As a result, it is Bill Boyd who must be held accountable.

            And notwithstanding his years in politics and his other contributions, his handling of the GTH was a mess that follows costly smart meters and carbon capture.

            In the real world, there are consequences for a record like this.