GTH debt $11M more than forecast after missing latest land sale target

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Brightenview changes its mind about buying land at the GTH

The Global Transportation Hub (GTH) has failed to sell enough land to meet its revenue targets for the sixth time in eight years.

"A slower industrial development market is impacting the Global Transportation Hub. This is not exclusive to the GTH but prevalent across the prairie provinces," spokesperson Kelly Brossart wrote in an email to CBC News.  

"As a result, our anticipated land sale revenue has not been realized this fiscal year."

Brossart did not specify how much the GTH had expected to make in land sales, but a recent third-quarter update forecasted $11 million more in public debt than what was initially budgeted for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ends March 31.

$37 million in debt, minister wants 'aggressive' marketing

The update lists $37 million in debt, up from the $26 million initially budgeted.

The GTH also failed to meet its target for land sales last fiscal year, bringing in $2.5 million compared to a budgeted $12.5 million. The same was true in 2015-2016, when it raked in $3.7 million of a budgeted $15.6 million.

"We have got a significant investment there now, our goal is to have the rest of the servicing finished, the rest of the roadways finished, and then we can make a longer term decision as we go forward," Don Morgan, who's responsible for the GTH, said of the project on Monday. 

He added it would be "premature" to discuss the question of divesting the GTH until it is fully serviced and operational, with the authority being directed to undertake an "aggressive" marketing strategy to sell more land. 

NDP MLA and critic of the GTH, Cathy Sproule, told reporters the government cannot continue to sink more public dollars into the project.

The GTH's financial standing was discussed at a committee meeting in September 2017. GTH authority president and CEO Bryan Richards said at that time it was carrying $24 million in debt with the Royal Bank and had failed to make a payment since the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

According to financial statements from 2014-2015, it had brought in $12.9 million in land sales that year—$18.2 million in total, factoring in money made from property taxes and permits.

The authority says its most successful financial year was 2013-2014, when it tallied $36 million in sales from land revenue, largely due to SaskPower purchasing 145 acres for $25 million.

As of last fiscal year, the GTH had 12 clients.

The authority is set to table its annual report containing financial statements in June.