Politics

'The Sask. Party needs to be very, very careful': Misleading Brightenview advertising raises concerns for Opposition NDP

The Saskatchewan Party government’s decision to sign a $7.6 million land deal at the Global Transportation Hub with a company it held responsible for supplying potential investors in China with misleading information is raising eyebrows in the Opposition benches. 

Saskatchewan NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer said there is no justification for the government supporting Brightenview Development International Inc.’s latest proposed project when it knew about the problem years before the papers were signed.

“If they would have taken that information into consideration, then they wouldn’t have done this GTH deal,” Nicole Sarauer said Friday, one day after the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported on the misleading advertising.

“That’s what would make most prudent sense for Saskatchewan taxpayers; that’s what would make most sense for maintaining integrity within this government,” Sarauer added. 

According to a briefing note obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, the Sask. Party government has on four occasions learned of potential investors being provided with “inaccurate” information about Brightenview’s projects in Saskatchewan.

That information includes promises of priority processing under the government-run Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) and promotional materials intended “to convinced potential investors that the project has received (government) support.”

Ministry of the Economy officials said in the briefing note that while they could not determine whether Brightenview was directly responsible for the advertising, the government ultimately holds the company responsible for promoting the project accurately.

Government spokeswoman Kathy Young said in an emailed statement on Thursday that while Brightenview has responded to the ministry’s satisfaction in each of four cases, further violations could result in it being prohibited from using the SINP. 

Brightenview CEO Joe Zhou said in a separate emailed statement that the company always addresses “miscommunications” with third-party partners, and that any concerns brought to its attention are addressed immediately. 

That isn’t good enough for Sarauer, who said while the government’s dealings with Brightenview suggest it will do business with anyone “as long as the cheque clears,” it should hold itself to a higher standard. 

“(This) could affect the reputation of legitimate Saskatchewan businesses in other parts of the world — the Sask. Party needs to be very, very careful when they’re dealing with these types of situations,” she said.

The government has said Brightenview paid $3 million toward the land acquisition and the $45 million wholesame mall is under construction, but Sarauer said she’s skeptical given the company’s track record.

Its Dundurn megamall appears to be stalled — the land is undeveloped and all mention of it has been scrubbed from Brightenview’s website. A similar project in Chatham-Kent, Ontario fell through after Brightenview failed to buy the necessary land.

amacpherson@postmedia.com
twitter.com/macphersona

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