Environmental charges against Bill Boyd relate to land near controversial irrigation project


Environmental charges against former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Bill Boyd stem from apparent damage done to land near an irrigation pilot project he was touting to potential Chinese immigrants. 

The former economy minister is charged with three counts under the Environmental Management and Protection Act and one count under the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act.

Earlier this summer, a CBC investigation found the former minister was pitching an irrigation project to would-be Chinese immigrants, saying an investment could help them gain permanent citizenship in Canada.

The minister came under fire after it was revealed land Boyd farmed was being watered by the company he was promoting. 

One count alleges Boyd cultivated an area of native grassland near Eston, Sask., between April 1 and May 3.

The other counts allege that between June 15 and July 15 he altered the configuration of the bed, bank or boundary of the South Saskatchewan River near Eston; displaced, added or removed material from the riverbed; and removed vegetation from its bank.

Irrigation equipment

Irrigation equipment on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River on Oct.10, 2017 on land near Eston. This area is named in court documents outlining the environmental charges against former cabinet minister Bill Boyd. (Charles Hamilton/CBC News)

CBC News travelled to the land described in the court documents outlining the charges against Boyd.

The spot is on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River near land where Boyd and his family farm. On Tuesday, irrigation equipment, pipes and pumps were still on that land near the river’s edge. None of it appeared to be in use. 

It appeared gravel had been moved from the shoreline to make way for the equipment. An excavator sat idle near the site. 

This was the same spot shown in an online post on July 17 of the irrigation pilot project, located on a quarter section of Crown land that Boyd farms near the South Saskatchewan River.  

Bill Boyd phase 1

Phase one of the irrigation program was a pilot project which was located on the land indicated by the red circle. It is land Bill Boyd farms just south of Eston. (Happy of Life)

A government representative said that the land in question is Crown land owned by the Ministry of Agriculture. The South Saskatchewan River is regulated by the Water Security Agency.

Bill Boyd

Bill Boyd, the MLA for Kindersley, was formerly the minister of the economy. (CBC)

Boyd was scheduled to make a court appearance in Kindersley this week, but his case was adjourned.

The case is due back in court on Nov. 7. Boyd is expected to enter pleas at that time. 

The prosecutor said in court Tuesday that the Crown is trying to resolve the case. 

At the time of the initial reporting, Ian Stedman, a lawyer who specializes in political ethics at Osgoode Hall Law School in Ontario, said Boyd was in a potential conflict of interest because of his involvement in the Chinese irrigation company while acting as the minister in charge of the province’s immigration program. 

In fact, the conflict of interest investigations concluded in August with Boyd being found to have violated the act.