The provincial auditor general has opened separate investigations into two city real estate deals.
The auditor general’s office has requested city officials turn over records relating to how city hall declared the old Vimy Arena property surplus and then transferred the land to the province to facilitate the establishment of a long-term addictions treatment centre for men.
The auditor general also wants city files on the analysis and sale of the former Canad Inns Stadium site and the creation of a tax increment financing zone in the area.
Revelations of the investigations came through a report to executive policy committee from Michael Jack, the city’s chief corporate services officer.
The investigation into the Vimy Arena deal appears to have been prompted by a request late last year from MLA Steven Fletcher. He alleged city and provincial officials acted inappropriately when they agreed to have the land used for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. Fletcher did not respond to a request for an interview.
The old football stadium and property was declared surplus in 2010 and later sold to a partnership between Cadillac Fairview and Winnipeg developer Shindico for what was the ill-fated Target department store chain project.
A request for an interview with Auditor General Norm Ricard was denied. Ricard sent an email response, confirming he had opened the two investigations.
The Vimy investigation, Ricard said, was prompted by concerns raised by a member of the legislature and from area residents.
The former stadium investigation, Ricard said, is part of the audit of the province’s public accounts, specifically the Phase 1 Investors Group Field loan allowance. "We are conducting additional audit procedures to assess the reasonableness of tax increment financing revenue projections, and the adequacy of actions taken by the Province and the city to maximize revenue from the former stadium site," Ricard said.
Ricard said he would offer no further comment because the investigations are ongoing. He said he had no timetable for when the investigations would be completed and results released.
The report from Jack to EPC states that the administration doesn’t believe the auditor general has jurisdiction to investigate those two deals because neither involved provincial funds. The report recommends officials co-operate "in the interests of transparency to the public and maintaining good relations with the province."
The report states those files subject to solicitor-client privilege would be withheld from the auditor general.
The report notes that council approval is required to allow the auditor general access to civic records "which he is not legally entitled to to access in order to investigate matters which do not fall within his jurisdiction."
EPC will consider the request to turn over the files at its July 9 meeting.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.