Opposition critic says Islanders need to know if tax dollars put at risk
© Guardian photo
Opposition Leader Olive Crane is flanked by Progressive Conservative MLAs Hal Perry, left, and James Alyward as they prepare to enter the Provincial Legislature in Charlottetown in this Guardian file photo.
The provincial government won’t be calling for an audit of its dealings with any companies associated with businessman Richard Homburg after defeating a motion from the Opposition Thursday.
Opposition innovation critic Hal Perry brought forward the motion and said there are many unanswered questions about the province’s dealings with Homburg and his related companies.
“This government uses taxpayers’ dollars as if it was their own,” he said.
The motion came several weeks after Homburg Invest Inc. announced it was shutting down the Holman Grand hotel because of what it said were unsustainable losses.
Homburg Invest Inc., which is a publicly traded company, has been under creditor protection for more than a year and owes the province about $16 million it borrowed to build the hotel.
Earlier this week, Premier Robert Ghiz said government was close to announcing a buyer for the hotel.
The provincial government also has outstanding loans for other properties owned by different companies that are or have been associated with Richard Homburg.
In presenting the motion, Perry said taxpayers need the auditor general to find out if tax dollars have been put at risk.
“Taxpayers need details,” he said.
Perry said the auditor general needs to find out if the government will be responsible for any of the hotel’s financial losses in the future.
“Is it the responsibility of the province if the hotel doesn’t meet its financial obligations on a monthly basis?” he said.
Islanders need the confidence of knowing the auditor general has looked into the issue, Perry said.
“They need an honest, impartial assessment of what has taken place without the political spin.”
The Opposition has suggested the hotel’s value has dropped and the sale price won’t be enough to cover the province’s loan.
In his response, Innovation Minister Allen Roach questioned where the Opposition was getting the idea the hotel would be sold at a bargain basement price.
“I just don’t know where that comes from,” he said.
Roach criticized the opposition for what he said was attacking and portraying the local business sector in a negative light.
“This is extremely unfortunate when we are at a critical time of sensitive negotiations on the sale of this property,” he said.
When it came time for the vote, only Opposition MLAs stood in favour of the motion and it was defeated.