The Nova Scotia government purchased a 15-acre plot of land for nearly 12 times the land’s assessed value, according to real estate insiders.
The land was bought for a new outpatient clinic that will be part of the QEII hospital redevelopment. According to the website ViewPoint, the entire 178-acre plot is worth just under $7.5 million. The Liberals bought 15 acres for $7.5 million.
A spokesperson for the province told Global News the purchase price also includes the cost of preparing the land for construction including leveling the land, bringing in utilities such as water and power, and building roads.
The ViewPoint assessment does not account for those costs.
The land, in the Bayers Lake business park, is assessed at $41,965 according to ViewPoint. The Liberals bought the land for $500,000 per acre. According to ViewPoint, it was purchased in 2013 for $9.3 million which works out to $52,247 per acre.
Preparing the land for the clinic’s construction will “require considerable expenditure by the owner,” department spokesperson Brian Taylor said in an emailed statement. However, how much of the $7.5-million cost to taxpayers is for the land, and how much is for the construction couldn’t be provided.
The land is owned by Banc Commercial Holdings Ltd. Besim Halef is the company’s president. He sits on the QEII foundation’s board of trustees and donated $3,000 to the Liberal party in 2013. The company’s vice-president, Alexander Halef donated $700 to the Liberals in 2013.
Premier Stephen McNeil said the Halefs’ connections to the Liberals “had nothing to do” with the land purchase. Adding, “At the end of the day, this is the right site.”
The government did not tender the project, meaning it wasn’t open to bids from any group that met the project requirements. Instead, the transportation and infrastructure department says it approached the owners of 14 sites who met the initial criteria, and then narrowed the options down from there.
The 14 options were narrowed down based on “availability, size, location, ease of acquisition, cost, transportation accessibility, and ease of development,” Taylor said.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie is demanding the government release more information to justify the purchase, and why the project didn’t go through an open competition.
“The best way to avoid these shadows is to have open tenders,” Baillie said.
Based on a timeline provided by the government last year, the outpatient clinic’s construction is expected to be completed in 2020.