PEI seafood promo trip to Alberta costs $24K

Teresa Wright
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Ron MacKinley

A recent seafood promotional trip to Alberta cost taxpayers close to $24,000, according to documents tabled in the legislature Thursday.

Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley led the expedition, along with two of his staff and the head chef of the Culinary Institute of Canada.

Together, they entertained restaurateurs, chefs and others in Edmonton and Calgary with over $3,600 worth of P.E.I. seafood.

A report detailing the trip expenses and details, tabled in the legislature by MacKinley Thursday, says this trip fell within the mandate of the department as it helped to promote P.E.I. seafood to existing markets.

“The purpose of the promotion was to create a greater awareness and demand for Prince Edward Island seafood products in Western Canada,” the document states.

“By hosting promotions in Alberta, the department was focused on expanding an existing Canadian market.”

The Calgary event was held on Sept. 9 at a venue called The National. It was reception hosted by MacKinley for Calgary chefs and restaurant owners to promote Prince Edward Island seafood products. MacKinley posted photos of this event on his Facebook page. They show the venue crowded with the happy faces of guests posing with MacKinley, drinks in hand.

Another event was held Sept. 12 at the Edmonton Golf and Country Club.

The report says both venues were recommended by “market contacts” based on their locations, facilities and “ability to accommodate the requirements of the promotion.” Invitations for these events were coordinated through the department, the Concorde Group Alberta and Sysco Foods Calgary and Edmonton. Invitations were extended to chefs, restaurateurs, retailers and food service distributers.

MacKinley and P.E.I. seafood were also front and centre at the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival on Sept. 19.

The total expenses for this promotion also includ a prize awarded for a trip for two to P.E.I.’s Shellfish Festival for a lucky Alberta couple.

MacKinley said the trip has already proven a successful venture.

“Since the trip, Sysco Foods, one of the largest food distributers in Canada, has added another P.E.I. company to its list of vendors and they have also indicated their interest in buying more lobster and cherrystone clams,” MacKinley said.

“Almost two million people, including many Atlantic Canadians, live in Calgary and Edmonton. We know there is a market for our seafood there and I am very proud of our efforts, both from our seafood exporters and staff, to increase sales in Alberta.”



Here is a breakdown of the Alberta seafood promotion trip costs:


Chef services – Culinary Institute of Canada - $5,461.92

Department staff travel - $7,132.22

Seafood - $3,686.68

Shipping (seafood) - $1,081.35

Venue costs - $3,570

Prize winners - $1,558.70

Minister’s travel and expenses - $984.69

Total - $23,475.56



Geographic location: Alberta

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Recent comments

    November 17, 2012 - 10:59

    Appears to be money well spent as it may create a demand for PEI seafood in Alberta.They get a better product (I have eaten seafood in Alberta as part of a celebration on more than one occassion and spiny lobster tail tastes like muddy trout)and we get a much needed new market.Win Win.Compare this to Pat Mella's wine tasting trip to California or other Binn's era trips to Hong Kong etc.Promoting within our own country is smart and likely cheaper to tranport the product with less red tape.I might add I've also had spiny lobster tail on festive occassions with the Coast Guard,a hamburger would have been better appreciated.

      November 19, 2012 - 13:05

      Or Ghiz's trips to China, India. Or Ronnies trip to China. Don't make this a partisan issue, all governments act irresponsibley.

  • mac
    November 16, 2012 - 19:56

    I have a great idea, the civil servants arrange everything for these outings, just like travel agency, ---the companies pay for their ticket and can take as many people along as they wish. The Minister stays home and only one civil servant goes as a tour leader. Now that approach would be fair to the taxpayers, and the great critics of welfare would feel much better knowing that they had not accepted any----

  • sterling graham
    November 16, 2012 - 19:55

    Two things, Ronnie, first, how come you didnt stop by, i live between Edmonton and Calgary?, second point, only about 10% of us could afford most of PEI sea food, oh, preaps, cod fish, now and then.

  • alfredd
    November 16, 2012 - 19:50

    I thought the same as Ed Gallant, --- why was McKinley's travel expenses so low compared to the staff??? Something funny with these figures , and who went first class and who went sardine class? Can't see Ronnie squezed in like a normal tourist . As some one brought up, how much business was gotten from this trip, -- is there ever any proper evaluations done for these trips??? Rpobably not, without data they can keep on telling us how great and needed they are, --- and the freebe continues, Mrs.MacIssac even got in on one, ----oh the stuff that goes on, in the name of business. IF IT IS SO GREAT WHY TO THE COMPANIES NOT PAY FOR IT THEMSELVES? -- BECAUSE IT IS CHEAPER TO FARCE THE Taxpayers to-----

    November 16, 2012 - 15:28

    A very productive trip and at a reasonable cost. We need more of this.

      November 17, 2012 - 13:43

      It remains to been seen if it is productive or not. Adding a new vendor or expressing some interest in lobsters is not the same as coming back with a signed Purchase Order. Until that happens, it is only potential. If going there by a minister who knows very little about fishing (after all,he's a farmer),why aren't these seafood companies going there themselves, on their own dime. That's how you build your company and grow your sales. To many of these companies are sitting back clipping coupons and leaving the promotion of their companies to governments. That is a recipe for failure. We can't expect the governments to be the be all end all.

  • M in Calgary
    November 16, 2012 - 14:03

    I attended this event in Calgary and can speak to how well it was run and how impressed everyone in attendance was. I noticed many of the cities top chefs in attendance (including Top Chef Canada runner-up Connie De Sousa), all enjoying the PEI seafood and it's excellent preparation by the Culinary Institute chefs. There is an absolute boom in the restaurant industry here in the city these days, with new establishments popping up all the time. And with that there is a noticeable lack of fresh, high quality seafood available for purchase and on menus. So showing the top chefs and restaurants of this city what the Island has to offer can do nothing but good towards helping bring their dollars to our fishermen and producers.

  • Shirley
    November 16, 2012 - 12:00

    TO: Want to hear another joke? YEA RIGHT WHAT LUNCHEON DID YOU COME BACK FROM WITH RON LOL!!!! AND SINCE YOU ARE SO SMART TRY READING what I wrote I said half of PEI is in the west NOT half of Alberta is from the Island.

  • SAP
    November 16, 2012 - 11:58

    JM, "it takes money to make money" Yes it does, so some of our island businesses should start using their money to promote themselves, and make more, government should keep their noses out, since it is NOt their money they spend.

  • Islander taxpayer too
    November 16, 2012 - 11:33

    From the comments of the ones that are patting MacKinleys back I say complete fools blinded and buldozed again thinking oh wow spend money to make money. Well answer this how has it been working for us so far????????????? Yea right the Gov. gets richer and the rest of the island gets poorer by the day.Wake up and give your heads a shake and see things the way they are. People here with no food ,no money for heat for their homes.having to go to food banks,lost of jobs left and right and you still believe this Gov. Wake up before you are one of these poor souls I have just mentioned as lives can change on a dime.

    • huh
      November 16, 2012 - 15:53

      How's it working so far? Well, perhaps not so bad. PEI seafood and potatoes can be found all over Canada and the US. Since many areas of the US don't even know PEI exists, and since there are many other providers of product, I would have to assume that it was marketing efforts that helped grease the wheels. If PEI product could only be sold locally, we'd have no providers at all. They'd be out of business. My opinion is less about blindly supporting McKinley or anyone in government. Heaven forbid someone try to look beyond politics and offer a comment other than the "government is evil" opinion that's frankly been made several thousand times.

  • Susan
    November 16, 2012 - 10:21

    Simply shameful... Unbelievable....... This corrupt government will not listen to Islanders anyway... can't wait until they are TURFED out of office.

  • SG
    November 16, 2012 - 09:18

    I wonder if GMO Salmon was a topic of discussion? The cost of this promotional trip would have provided a minimum wage Islander with year's salary and still left a surplus of $2, 675.56

    • JM
      November 16, 2012 - 10:37

      But the revenue that may result from this trip may provide income to a lot more islanders than just one. It takes money to make money!

  • Why Is this news?
    November 16, 2012 - 08:01

    Why is this news? It's part of this Minister's job to promote Island seafood in markets outside of PEI. Come-on Guardian: you can find more newsworthy stories than this! Stop trying make this story out be something that it's not. Shameful.

    • Sylvia
      November 16, 2012 - 10:47

      All amounts of tax money that government spends should be made public. It's your tax money and mine and I want to know how much is being spent and on what it's being spent. We have the right to know all the details.

    • Ulfric
      November 16, 2012 - 14:19

      The guardian did not bring this up. Legislature did. The Guardian just report it. I'd be more worried when stories go unreported. Also you should read a little deeper, this is not about whether he did his job correctly, it is a question of how necessary the cost was. Let them get away with 24k, next thing you know they are spending double that. The way I see it, if they were there on diplomatic purposes the province of Alberta should have covered the accommodations. PEI is their guest but PEI ends up paying for everything involved. That sound right to you? I understand it cost money to make money but only when it is spent wisely does it yield it's best return possible. If you don't mind me asking, what's news worthy to you?

  • Proper Thing
    November 16, 2012 - 07:55

    I don't see much bad in this. Sure, we are going to have a lot of people come on here and complain about the money that was spent but everyone would also complain if our government wasn't doing anything to promote the sales of our island's seafood. It's hard for them to keep everyone on the island happy with their spending, but whether you're liberal or conservative, you should agree that promoting our seafood is something we desperately need to do ... So well done Ron!

  • AL
    November 16, 2012 - 07:18

    I'd just like to get a jump on those who'll say this $24,000 should have been put into schools/hospitals/fixing the pothole on my road instead, and say well done to the Dept. of Fisheries. Not everyone will see the value in spending this money but it needs to happen to promote our island grown products to the rest of canada. Great news, great story. Now lets move on.

  • Let's support MacKinley
    November 16, 2012 - 07:01

    Look, what's the fuss about, let's fact this out. $24 000 is a drop in the bucket, not even a few day's interest on the cost of borrowing for Plan B. Put it in perspective, at this price Islanders could have sent MacKinley and his contingent to a three hundred venues for what we're going to loose on the Holman Hotel hustle. And in fact, if you compare $24 000 against what those "special people" were paid to process the PNP money, we could keep MacKinley on the road continuously right until Monday October 5, 2015. Naw, this is one of the better ideas this government has initiated - let's support it.

  • hmatt
    November 16, 2012 - 06:49

    Stories of this nature drive up by blood pressure, and the worst of it is, they truly believe they are entiltled.

  • Garth Staples
    November 16, 2012 - 06:30

    Introducing Minister and staff or PEI seafood to Alberta? Half the population of Alberta is from Atlantic Canada!!!!! Where were the PEI entrepreneurs?

  • Mike Mac
    November 16, 2012 - 06:24

    With all due respect, this seems like a reasonable amount of funds to support an effort to promote the Province. I am not sure if there is an issue with the funds spent. It would be helpful though, if the writer would point out where the costs were excessive relative to accepted norms for travel and expense, since I think that is what the article is trying to suggest might be at issue.

  • hats off
    November 16, 2012 - 06:20

    we have been pushing to get PEI product to on food markets all over the world! This was a great venture for PEI and it fishing community. What difference if it cost around twenty four thousand bucks. this is how sale and promotion companies work, Its good business !!

  • Donald Draper
    November 15, 2012 - 22:44

    Is this the 1950'S? come on

  • don
    November 15, 2012 - 22:40

    ok ronnie how many billions have to brought back in sales?

  • Shirley
    November 15, 2012 - 22:36

    Thanks to this gov.half of PEI lives in Alberta and damn well know about PEI seafood.GIVE US A BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!what a joke.

    • Want to hear another Joke?
      November 16, 2012 - 10:47

      Just so you know, PEi is the size of the average county/municipality in Alberta. There are 46 of them. There are 3.6 million people there. People from PEI would be lucky to account for 1% of the population. Oh sorry that was a fact, your statement was the joke.

  • Shirley
    November 15, 2012 - 22:35

    Thanks to this gov.half of PEI lives in Alberta and damn well know about PEI seafood.GIVE US A BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!what a joke.

    • nitpicker
      November 16, 2012 - 10:15

      Alberta's population approaches 4 million. Would PEI's contribution to that even crack a half a percent? I find these stories and their accompanying headlines to be a cheap way of getting public reaction (and the public always obliges). Not that any government expenditure doesn't deserve scrutiny, but these trade functions have been going on forever and are necessary to maintain and promote our exports.

  • one question
    November 15, 2012 - 22:26

    One question I do have is that when there are promo trips of this kind why does this minister always have ticket to ride. He also went to China (and maybe Japan ?) along the way?? Does he always have to attend?

  • Jon
    November 15, 2012 - 22:07

    Seems pretty reasonable to me. Ronnie's a bit of an embarrassment as a spokesperson but showcasing PEI seafood in Calgary is smart - it's within Canada so there are not trade regulations and there is money in the oil capital.

  • Justine Thyme
    November 15, 2012 - 21:55

    This was a fantistic opportunity to show fellow Canadians our fresh and wonderful seafood, too bad we were in the media at that time with shellfish closures around the Island. Hmm, just thought of something, MacKinley is in charge and there is a seafood closure ... MacKinley goes to Alberta and then there is a beef recall ... coincidence, yeah likely but MacKinley and a bad meal likely doesn't go hand in hand with his meal allowance.

    • mej
      November 16, 2012 - 10:13

      And don't forget it rained yesterday...that's likely the governments fault too!!!

    • mej
      November 16, 2012 - 10:46

      So if the NDP happen to "by some miracle" get elected, who will they fill those positions with? Will they keep all those Liberals and Torys in those positions? Oh and for Adam who is wondering about a good NDP candidate in Montague/Kilmuir...Bill Cann former liberal, former Island party, and Now NDP will be running most likely.

  • Ron
    November 15, 2012 - 21:50

    I think 23,475 is closer to 23,000 than 24.

  • intobed
    November 15, 2012 - 21:44

    I think this trip was probably a good thing. Alberta is so horribly polluted by the oil companies that many of the rivers have terribly deformed and mutated fish. Alberta beef has taken a severe hit with the e-coli problems and the XL meat packing plant. A open and quite wealthy market to move into to sell our seafood.

  • what a load of...
    November 15, 2012 - 21:26

    OK, so how come the chef charged that much and why did the dept staff travel cost so much??? I'd be very interested to see just how much increased trade really does come PEI's way as a resut of Mr Creosote MacKinley's food orgy, similarly with his Chinese freebie too.

  • aaron jarvis
    November 15, 2012 - 21:25

    Eating like KINGS , while tax payers eat at the soup kitchen and food banks . .

  • Ed Gallant
    November 15, 2012 - 21:00

    How come MacKinley's travel and expenses are only $985. yet 2 of his staff rack up travel expenses of $7,132.? Why is the 2 staff travel expenses so high and his is so low? Could some of his expenses be lumped in with his staffs'? Didn't they travel together or did the staff go via China?