The Saskatchewan Forest Centre in Prince Albert was a topic of discussion during Question Period in the provincial legislature on Monday.
Warren McCall, MLA for Regina Elphinstone-Centre and Opposition House Leader, asked why the government had the centre up for sale—especially with the listing price less than what it cost to build.
“We don’t know if this makes any dollars and cents,” he said. “So that gets us concerned.”
The building is currently listed at $12 million. It was built around 10 years ago at the cost of $12.7 million.
McCall said he doesn’t want to second guess the appraiser, but said the building itself is important to Saskatchewan.
“You can make an argument that, just factoring in inflation alone, that it would put it north of $15 million in terms of overall cost and how it relates to the value of the asset,” McCall said.
In addition, he said if it does sell, the government would likely have to pay rent to the new owner because some government offices are located there. “This seems like it’s setting up to lose taxpayers money on a whole bunch of fronts.”
McCall said they would like to see the building used for what it was made for—provide research and innovation for the different partners in the forestry sector.
“We would like to see the government not looking to fire sale an asset at a loss.”
However, the minister of crown investments, Don McMorris, said it’s because the building isn’t being used for what it was built for, it’s up for sale.
The Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation (SOCO) owns the Saskatchewan Forest Centre. McMorris said SOCO has a mandate to foster innovation and technology.
“When we look at the Forestry Centre and what is was sold at the time sold at, at the time, was going to be innovation within the forest industry; bringing in private partners and government to innovate within the forestry sector,” McMorris said in scrum after Question Period.
According to McMorris, what they’ve discovered is 17 per cent of the building is occupied by companies that have some input into the forestry centre, but that’s not enough.
He said the building shows a small profit, but reiterated that is not “following through with the mandate” of SOCO to have it as an office building.
“The small profit that we are making through it—all it takes is one tenant to pull out and that profit isn’t there, so we think building management, in this case, would be better done through the private sector and that’s why it’s being put up for sale,” he said.
The sale doesn’t mean government employees will be moving out of the building if it’s purchased, McMorris said.
“It would be up to each particular ministry that looks after that space. The ministry of environment has some people in there, [the] ministry of economy has some people in there, it’s up to them to determine what space they need,” he said.
As for why the centre is up for sale for less than it was built at, McMorris said it has depreciated slightly. He said it’s being put on the market for a “fair-market value,” and it could sell for more depending on the real estate market.
So far, McMorris hasn’t heard of any possible buyers.
On Twitter: @sarahstone84
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