Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NDP must explain $75-million sale

  • Print

BRANDON -- Was this the best deal that could be made, or did the Selinger government dispose of an important and profitable Crown asset for more than $100 million less than it is worth?

Last week, Finance Minister Jennifer Howard announced her government had sold the province's property registry (which includes the land titles system) to Teranet Manitoba for $75 million. Under the terms of the deal, Teranet will invest in new technology and will pay the province an $11-million royalty annually.

Teranet is wholly owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees' union.

When the agreement in principle with Teranet was announced in December 2012, it was criticized by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union as a privatization that would put profits ahead of public service and would jeopardize Manitoba jobs. The MGEU was correct to be concerned about the transaction, although not solely for the reasons stated.

Last September, when legislation related to the Teranet transaction was reviewed by a legislature committee of MLAs, then finance minister Stan Struthers was asked how the $75-million sale price was determined.

Struthers responded, "The -- we -- there was an evaluation done before we embarked upon this... and part of that evaluation was a look around at other provinces to see what they were doing, particularly Ontario, where Teranet had already been established for a number of years and performing there. But we looked at other provinces, as well."

If Struthers' advisers considered what was happening in other provinces, they apparently neglected to look next door to Saskatchewan.

In November 2012 -- a month before the Teranet deal was unveiled in Manitoba -- the Saskatchewan government announced it planned to sell 60 per cent of the Crown corporation that manages its property registry (Information Services Corp.) to the public.

The government would retain ownership of the remaining 40 per cent and de facto control of the company.

Five per cent of the ISC shares offered for sale were set aside for purchase by company employees, 45 per cent was allocated for Saskatchewan residents, and the remaining 50 per cent was available to outside investors.

The ISC share offering was completed eight months ago, raising proceeds of $147 million.

Unlike in Manitoba, where the $75 million paid by Teranet will be used to reduce this year's provincial deficit, the monies raised from the ISC transaction will fund infrastructure projects throughout Saskatchewan. It will also receive dividends of more than $11 million annually from its remaining 40 per cent ownership interest.

If 60 per cent of ISC was worth $147 million, Saskatchewan's property registry is worth almost $250 million.

Compare that to the $75-million sale price for Manitoba's property registry and several troubling questions immediately emerge.

Manitoba has rules for the disposal of surplus Crown assets. Why weren't those or similar rules followed in this case?

Why did the Selinger government negotiate in secret with just one prospective purchaser? Why wasn't the market opened up to other bidders, including Manitoba companies, in order to establish the true market value of the property registry and ensure Manitobans were getting the best price?

If the example set by Saskatchewan's government had been followed, it may have raised far more money, would have maintained Manitoba control over an important government activity, would have earned higher annual revenue for the government and would have provided a stable income stream for Manitoba investors.

Why was that example not followed? Was it because of partisan politics? Was it because the Saskatchewan transaction too closely resembled the sale of MTS by the Filmon government in the 1990s, and that the use of a similar model by the Selinger government would neutralize a political weapon the NDP has used against the Tories for more than 15 years?

Is this another case of financial ineptitude -- eclipsing the Crocus debacle -- or did our NDP government give a sweetheart deal to union friends in Ontario?

Manitobans deserve a full and frank explanation as to how an important, profitable Crown asset could be sold to an out-of-province corporation for far less than it may have been worth. That explanation must start with the immediate disclosure of the valuation Struthers claims the Selinger government relied upon.


Deveryn Ross is a political commentator living in Brandon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2014 A11


Updated on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 7:32 AM CST: Adds that the Saskatchewan government will also receive dividends of more than $11 million annually from its remaining 40 per cent ownership interest.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Free Press 27 cent digital payment system

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • A  young goose stuffed with bread from  St Vital park passers-by takes a nap in the shade Thursday near lunch  –see Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge Day 29-June 28, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

About Deveryn Ross

Deveryn Ross joined the Free Press as a political columnist in 2011. His columns also appear in the Westman Journal and other community newspapers throughout Western Canada. He has also served as a columnist for the Brandon Sun, Brandon Today and several rural Manitoba newspapers.

Born and raised in Brandon, where he still resides, Deveryn has been active in politics at all levels for more than four decades. He has worked in various roles on dozens of election campaigns in several provinces and has provided strategic advice to elected officials and candidates from all major parties.

Deveryn holds a Juris Doctor degree from Dalhousie University and Bachelor of Arts from Brandon University, where he was awarded the medal in political science.


Should NDP MLAs sign the "pledge of solidarity"?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google