Saturday, July 15, 2017

On costly considerations

I've previously pointed out that there might be much less than met the eye to Brightenview's much-trumpeted "ground-breaking" at the Global Transportation Hub. But while there's now some dispute as to what work is being done at the Brightenview site, I'd think we should be particularly concerned about the terms involved if the GTH project is actually departing from Brightenview's historical trends.

After all, Saskatchewan's provincial government put substantial amounts of money into catering to the two main GTH tenants - with the theory that Canadian Pacific and Loblaws would serve as magnets for other businesses to relocate to the area. And it went far out of its way to cover up the terms of the 2009 CP deal in particular: they were only revealed through CBC's reporting this year after being withheld in the face of access to information requests.

Here's what the province agreed to in order to get CP to build on the GTH site (despite its theoretical agreement that the move would be mutually beneficial):
CP sold its old site to the City of Regina for $7.5 million.

The agreement says the land is being given to the private railway company "in consideration of CP's contribution to the project." According to the contract, CP agreed to pay for railway infrastructure, container handling facilities and buildings for the project.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Highways promised to pick up the cost for most everything else, including land, servicing, the moving of power lines, and construction of CP's parking lot and internal roadways.

And the province agreed to provide CP serviced, accessible land west of the city "at no cost to CP and free and clear of all encumbrances" except for a few easements.
Of course, the promise of drawing other substantial activity to the GTH area hasn't been met. And the lack of any other good news around the time of the last provincial election is exactly why Brad Wall was so desperate to cozy up to Brightenview in the first place.

But with the Wall government now relying on Brightenview as its only excuse for development in the area and the other scandals surrounding the GTH, it's apparent that the Saskatchewan Party now has a strong political incentive to ensure that something gets built - no matter who ends up paying the bill.

It's also obvious that Brightenview's track record involves many grand proclamations, but very little follow-through - particularly when it comes time to put the money contributed by unsuspecting investors into building anything at its own expense.

With that in mind, I'd think it's worth asking: what exactly are the terms of Brightenview's development? And in particular, how much is the public paying - either in direct costs for the Brightenview site, or in upgrades to the GTH area for Brightenview's benefit - as the price of the illusion of progress?

(See also Tammy Robert's post expanding on CBC's story about on the connection between Brightenvie and pay-for-play immigration.)

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