A former MLA’s job with an organization dedicated to promoting Anne of Green Gables came under fire during question period in the legislature today.
Opposition MLA Steven Myers said defeated Liberal MLA Cynthia King, received a 'soft landing' in being awarded a job with Forever Anne after losing her seat in the 2011 provincial election.
He asked Tourism Minister Robert Henderson how he was able to find $60,000 for this position at a time when dozens of provincial liquor store employees were laid off due to budget cuts.
“From where in your department did you find $60,000 to give (King) her soft landing?” Myers asked.
“TIAPEI (Tourism Industry Association) didn’t post the job, it wasn’t advertised and her resume just happened to land on their desk when they were looking for somebody.”
Henderson pointed out Anne of Green Gables is a major tourism draw for the province and Forever Anne works to grow this brand.
“It’s important that we can have somebody that can promote and grow that name and brand on Prince Edward Island and that individual does a tremendous job of doing that.”
King was hired as the executive director of the Forever Anne committee, which operates under the umbrella of TIAPEI. The provincial government provides funding for the executive director position.
Myers pointed out this was formerly a volunteer position, but since King was hired it now receives a generous salary.
Myers asked why Henderson chose to fire 21 liquor store employees while also finding new funding for a former colleague.
“When you cut money and you say you’re saving money by getting rid of people and then you give money to one of your friends, there’s a correlation. Everybody else in this room sees it,” Myers said.
Henderson defended the position, saying it is important in the marketing of Anne of Green Gables to tourists and tourism markets.
Liquor stores are run by the Liquor Control Commission, which is a Crown agency that operates independently of the department. As a result, the liquor store layoffs are unrelated to decisions made by Tourism P.E.I. for funding initiatives such as Forever Anne, Henderson said.
Myers then asked Henderson to confirm whether the $60,000 grant for her position was not renewed.
Henderson said he could not confirm this.
“We are going through our budgetary process and we haven’t at this time made a decision on how we’re going to be spending the money on grants that organizations apply for,” Henderson said.
He did add, however, he sees the promotion of Anne of Green Gables as a ‘very important product to promote.’
“I, as minister, will do everything I can to promote Prince Edward Island.”