Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

GTH Minister can’t say whether Loblaws paid for land or not

Grocery-giant Loblaws is the primary tenant at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), just east of Regina. It has a one million square foot distribution facility at the inland port, but the province cannot say whether or not the land was paid for.

Minister responsible for the GTH Don Morgan said that it’s because of the non-disclosure deal signed with the company.

“Loblaws is in a very competitive environment. Their practice is they ask for this type of thing ordinarily. I wasn’t there at the time, but they asked for it and it was granted,” Morgan said.

When asked directly whether or not Loblaws paid for the land, the minister said the price and terms of the agreement can’t be discussed due to the non-disclosure agreement.

“I can’t say anything about what the consideration was,” Morgan said.

“If you agreed to that language, then there’s a reason you agreed to it, and I think that’s what the Attonery General [Don Morgan] should be talking about right now,” GTH critic Cathy Sproule said.

Sproule has been pushing for answers on what Loblaws paid for the land in Question Period in recent days. Because of the lack of answers, she believes the land was given away for free.

“This is the problem with this government. They’re giving these kinds of non-disclosure agreements instead of being upfront with how they’re spending taxpayer’s dollars,” Sproule said.

“This land was expropriated for purpose, and what happened? It ends up in a registered investment trust.”

These questions come after it was revealed in a committee meeting that the province was subsidizing a GTH bus service primarily used by Loblaws and Emterra employees.

Before locating their distribution facility at the GTH, Loblaws was up Highway 11 in Saskatoon. The company was looking at moving out of province.

“It was a complex agreement that dealt with a number of issues. The goal of it was to prevent Loblaws from moving to Calgary, which was their option,” Morgan said. “They had outgrown the space they had in Saskatoon and their plan was to move to Calgary. The officials at the time tried to make a deal with them that would keep those jobs here.”

Morgan said that officials at the time negotiated a “competitive” agreement, helping keep roughly 1,000 jobs in the province.

He added that it is not uncommon for the province to sign non-disclosure agreements in commercially sensitive deals, specifically landlords the province is renting from.

Other GTH deals, like the original Brigthenview deal valued at $7.6 million, are public knowledge.

“Every other business that has purchased land at the GTH – the purchase price is listed on the title; every other business,” Sproule said. “So what’s so special about Loblaws? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

Morgan added that the GTH still sees significant revenue from Loblaws being the primary tenant at the GTH through property tax.

In 2018, the GTH’s property tax revenue clocked in at $2.1 million.

While being well aware of the non-disclosure agreement, Morgan said he has not read the agreement, but knows about the details.

Global News has reached out to Loblaws for comment, but has not heard a reply.

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