Webster grilled over $40 in-room movie charge during stay in Texas resort

Teresa Wright
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Deputy Premier George Webster

The Opposition Tories are accusing Deputy Premier George Webster of ‘scandalous abuse’ of taxpayers’ dollars for expensing a $40 in-room movie during a hotel stay in Texas.

Webster travelled to Texas in 2011 for an agriculture conference, and stayed for three nights at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Centre.

During question period Thursday, Opposition MLA Colin LaVie tabled a detailed bill for this hotel stay, which was filed as an expense claim by the minister.

The bill shows a nightly room charge of $168 charge plus taxes and fees, but one of the days includes a charge of $38.77 for a movie.

“What movie did you watch in the room that cost $37.88?” LaVie said Thursday.

“Forty dollars can buy a family 16 loaves of bread, $40 can buy a family 20 litres of milk here at home. Deputy premier, why do you think Islanders should pay for your $40 in-room movie?”

A bewildered Webster replied, saying he does not remember watching a movie in his room, suggesting perhaps it was a mistake or that someone else may have ordered it.

“I don’t believe there was anyone else in my room, unless my staffer was in the room and turned the TV on and didn’t realize it was on, or turned the volume down or something,” Wesbter said.

“I’m not aware of it. I rarely watch movies even at home.”

But LaVie continued to question him on it, pushing Webster for details on what the movie was, why it cost so much and why he charged taxpayers for this personal expense.

“The movie must have had been some blockbuster movie, it had to be a real good movie,” LaVie said.

“We know that it was a long hard winter and Islanders have struggled through the winter to put food on their table…. what do you say to those folks who are struggling to get by who paid for your $40 in-room movie?”

Webster continually denied any knowledge of it.

“I will investigate that, and if it was that, if it was a movie or something – maybe the TV was running and I was sleeping, I don’t know, but I will investigate that.”

Politicians’ expenses are often scrutinized and have, in the past, led to some high profile controversies.

Former federal cabinet minister Bev Oda resigned from the Harper government in 2012 after she made headlines for lavish expenses billed to taxpayers, including a $16 glass of orange juice.

On Thursday, Opposition Leader Steven Myers pointed to statements made by Premier Robert Ghiz during the 2007 election campaign – before he became premier.

Ghiz told The Guardian at that time any Liberal cabinet minister caught misusing their government credit card would be fired.

The premier was not in the House Thursday, so Myers asked Webster directly whether this policy would still apply.

“As deputy premier, would those words still hold true today or is that another broken promise?” Myers asked.

Webster replied he believed all MLAs “should pay their own personal expenses as need be” but added if it turns out there was a movie charged to taxpayers, he would reimburse the expense.

“I will investigate that issue, and if that’s a charge to the room for a movie I will gladly reimburse that, but I need to investigate it first.”

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Gaylord Texan Resort, Convention Centre

Geographic location: Texas

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Recent comments

  • Please do something real
    April 11, 2014 - 22:41

    Webster should not have expensed this, and his staff should have caught it and removed it from his expense claim before it was submitted. It's not impressive on both levels. However, with all the problems we face in our province, I'm disgusted that our Opposition is spending its time going over three year old expense claims and calling a $40 mistake "scandalous". Get real! Work on how to help our farmers, our fishermen, our low income families, and lots of other Islanders facing challenges. Bring some ideas to the House and to our province. Don't waste our time with a $40 expense, and make PEI look like a joke nationally. If that's all you've got to bring up in the Legislature, I find you even less impressive than Minister Webster and his staff.

  • Summerside resident
    April 11, 2014 - 21:37

    This stuff goes on in Government at a much larger scale. To go after Webster for $40 dollars is laughable. Summerside are now releasing expense reports bu not really telling anyone what these expenses are. Every dollar spent by any Politician should be released to the public because its all OUR money they are spending, than we will decide what justified. The whole expense issues in Charlottetown and Summerside should be subjected to a Forensic Audit, than we would really know the truth. How about that Basil and Bruce, all you have to do is make a motion.

  • Myer's Bully Tactics
    April 11, 2014 - 18:30

    Is this all Myer's could talk about? $40? Hell let Mr Webster pay that back . Myer's is a loud mouth bully. Probably bullied most of his life so now he acts like the tough boy in the school yard. Hope the PC party can come up with a better man for his job soon before they lose all islanders trust.

  • SpuddyBuddy
    April 11, 2014 - 16:58

    It's $40 people, not a gold-plated trinket or an executive first class plane ticket. Wow. I could see if the minister were trying to hide a new 50-inch HD TV, like a NS cabinet minister tried to do several years. He admitted an oops and paid the money.

  • don
    April 11, 2014 - 15:13

    webster it is not the money it is the fact it was one and i wonder how many other times you or other mla's on both sides of e house have done this or got a $16.00 glass of juice. i think it is time for ALL mla's to post what they spend of tax payers money and i MEAN ALL even tips. ghiz said back in 97 he was going to have a OPEN government when is that going to start?

  • Steven
    April 11, 2014 - 14:06

    Ya but what about that $20 Million highway that is rougher than any dirt road on the island? You want to talk about poor spending let Webster watch his movies and stop blowing money on unnecessary highways

  • don
    April 11, 2014 - 10:59

    nothing will be one. but i wonder how many did he have in his hotel room? i want to know what is his meal costs?

  • UPWESTER
    April 11, 2014 - 10:30

    You people need to get a life and get off EI. You have far too much time on your hands. $40.? $40.?Everyday, this government is pi**ing away hundreds of thousands of dollars and 21 one of you genuises are complaing about a &40. room charge. I guess the old saying is true, it's the little things that get you in the end.

    • SLIPPY
      April 11, 2014 - 12:21

      So, we shouldn't care about the little things? Stealing is stealing. If you worked anywhere else, and got caught stealing, you would not have the option to pay it back and carry on. I agree, there are many bigger issues as well, but unless this is a hotel mistake, is is indicative of the sense of entitlement these people have, and their ability to get away with it

    • Guess Who
      April 11, 2014 - 16:45

      You know who is an idiot? Anyone who whines about the big expenses but doesn't think small expenses mean anything. EVERY expense means something.

    • rob
      April 11, 2014 - 19:54

      hey upwester,how bout you get off your high horse.its not the dollar amount that people care about, its the attitude in that he thought he was in the right to charge it to the taxpayer. i bet you got beet up alot as a kid,you seem like a real winner!!

  • He's no Oda
    April 11, 2014 - 10:14

    They are trying to compare this to Oda's $16 glass of orange juice, but Oda also charged $1000 a day for a limo and driver, changed hotels to the most hotel in the city instead of staying where she was booked (where the conference was). Five years before the infamous hotel stay she billed over $5000 for a limo in Halifax. If Myers opposition really think this is comparable to Oda, we have more to worry about them than we do the government. Can the PCs start working on a more capable team because this group seems to stick to grade two math.

  • Earl
    April 11, 2014 - 10:10

    WHO CARESSSSSSS We are getting abused at the gas pumps and with hst on our electrical bills. Prices of food are up. And all they can worry about wasting valuable time at these meetings is this bs.

  • Chester L
    April 11, 2014 - 08:51

    The View From Martinvale.......Chester L This obvious item on his expense sheet now has National Attention, but this only further tells me how both Liberals and PC party are so much the same with almost 0 distinction between them....so what......about the real items that are in the Legislature this session, the endless discussion on EI and our Islanders working out West.......Politicians trying to find a way out of the fact of the matter that every person on PEI is entitled to work where ever they want in Canada to better themselves.....so Liberals and Conservatives rant away but do not lose sight of the fact that to encourage an economy in PEI you need to sell the concept and invite the Industry in and tax accordingly......increasing the size of Government payroll at the expense of all Islanders is not job creations............that is Private sector work so do something to support this and in in doing so find Super Hero Innovation Minister of PEI a new portfolio so he will not continue to look so bland when he stumbles through a Question and Answer period and makes No Sense........so sad to listen to and then look forward to this cast of characters again in 2016........help us all.;)

  • Kim Creed
    April 11, 2014 - 08:30

    Ok coming from someone who works at a hotel there is NO way a movie costs $40 dollars, especially for a hotel room that costs $170 a night. I would say this is either a food expense or a mistake by the hotel.

  • This is what Island politics have come to...
    April 11, 2014 - 08:18

    We have an education system in shambles, lacklustre health-care, a structural deficit, and chronic unemployment and underemployment and this is what the opposition decides to harp on... That is the real scandal. At this point, I think a roomful of possums could run the government more effectively.

  • Fed up
    April 11, 2014 - 08:08

    Can t You tell "Re thinking. Vote" voted Liberal all his life? Whatever you Ghiz supporters say....this is wrong! I had to pass in my expenses for years...and I certainly checked it over well before expecting it to be covered! Only a small thing? How many more small things are they charging us for?

  • Senator Webster
    April 11, 2014 - 07:47

    Okay Senator, oops I mean Minister, Webster. Offering to repay the money after you are caught is not the way this works. First of all my six year old is smart enough to figure out what is regular TV and what is pay per view. Lets assume for a minute your story is correct and you are not as smart as your average six year old (which might not be all that much of a stretch). You are supposed to be smart enough, no, actually you are obligated to check your expenses and claim only appropriate expenses. When YOU review your list of expenses and YOU claim reimbursement for a $38 movie that is wrong and I don't care if it was your dog who was watching the television.

  • Craig
    April 11, 2014 - 07:41

    You have to actually purchase the movie with the remote not just press the power button ! Mla,s can't figure out how to run a tv in a hotel room but are qualified to run a province! We are so screwed like the type of movies that cost 37.88

  • rob
    April 11, 2014 - 07:30

    billing the tax payers for a block of porn,,,classy i tell ya!!

  • uhoh
    April 11, 2014 - 07:12

    Can you say porn?

  • Huh??
    April 11, 2014 - 07:11

    “I will investigate that, and if it was that, if it was a movie or something – maybe the TV was running and I was sleeping, I don’t know, but I will investigate that.” What arrogance! Now I know George may be a sweet old man, but what an arrogant statement, to either blame a staff member or that the TV was left on! No one believes that a TV left on charges for movies! Duhhhhh! Ghiz will never do anything because he is as arrogant as Webster. They are untouchables and we, the lowly masses, should be thrilled to have them! Didn't Oda loose her job for 40$ orange juice!?

  • AMAZED
    April 11, 2014 - 06:55

    Does anyone remember Pat Mellas wine tasting trip to California and how we paid for her husband to go along...$40 looks pretty small to me...should I bring up the other thousand dumb things Binns regime saddled tax payers with .

    • Two Wrongs...
      April 11, 2014 - 09:10

      Okay, so by your logic any money George Webster cheats the tax payers out of, up to and including the amount other politicians have cheated the tax payers out of, is okay. You should notify the legislators and auditor general of that because I think they are under the misguided notion that cabinet ministers are supposed to pay for their own darn movies.

  • Oh Brother
    April 11, 2014 - 06:55

    Really, is this the best the Tories can find to pressure the government with? This wasn't worth reporting. Laughable.

    • Fitz
      April 11, 2014 - 08:02

      It's nice to see the so many comments think that 37.88 is nothing to worry about and are happy to work this week and give your tax dollars off your check for him to watch a movie! It would be nice to know the $ amount that will get people upset maybe we can set a limit that anything under 10000 is ok ! Mla,s fill your pockets

    • huh
      April 11, 2014 - 11:26

      I'm not going to get too worked up over $37.88. That's like panicking because that penny you thought you had in your pocket wasn't there anymore. The opposition, probably because of the Mike Duffys and Bev Odas of the world, went mining for scandal. What they found was a a 2011 in-room movie charge. I'd almost be embarrassed to say that's all I found. If Webster intended to charge taxpayers for the movie, then shame on him for gauging his expense claim. But for the opposition to act like they just uncovered the scandal of the century is ludicrous. Unless there is evidence of chronic misspending (I'll assume there isn't or the opposition would have provided additional examples) then tell him to smarten up. And move on.

  • johnthames
    April 11, 2014 - 06:34

    Mr. Webster should know better. While it may seem like a small issue it speaks to the man's judgement and sense of entitlement. Civil servants cannot bill personal movies to the taxpayer while on travel, a serious no-no. Same for private sector. Minister Webster's behavior is probably indicative of those in Cabinet, ie an elevated opinion of themselves and their worth, when in reality we are only 140,000 people and could probably manage quite well without them, or at least with fewer of them.

  • John
    April 11, 2014 - 06:27

    There is only 1 kind of movie that costs $40.. Just sayin

  • ralph
    April 11, 2014 - 06:18

    debbi does dallas is still a good movie in texas

  • Debbie
    April 11, 2014 - 05:36

    Caught with his pants down! LOL

  • don
    April 10, 2014 - 22:26

    this government is all talk when it come to elections. and ghiz will not and can not fire any mla. we all know it. but i would like to know how many mla's uses the car we pay for for off island personal trips and uses our credit cards? i know of one mla that the story goes used our credit card to buy 2 chocolate bars and nothing was done. ghiz you have proved to all every promise you and your gang has LIED to every islander. so as you said back in 1997 "Liberal cabinet minister caught misusing their government credit card would be fired. so prove us wrong fire webster and not rehire him in a different job. i may be wrong but would that not be called -------- the tax payers money?

  • Re-thinking vote
    April 10, 2014 - 21:45

    If this is the best the opposition can come up with against the Ghiz government then I will be voting Liberal next time because either they really aren't that bad afterall or the Conservatives are inept and can't use question period for a serious issue. Plus I saw this on Compass and the Conservative MLA could hardly get his sentences out. This legislature makes the whole province look stupid. I am sure the Liberals most be laughing their heads off that the "big" issue of the day is a movie on a six day business trip. He definitely should have checked and paid for this, but the opposition is going through the bills with this much detail and finds $37.88.

  • nitpicker
    April 10, 2014 - 21:44

    Taxpayers should not being paying for in-room movies. That said, is that why there was controversy last week because Eastlink broadcast the ECMAs rather than legislature proceedings? Because heaven forbid we not get to hear, live, such asinine exchanges as what i just read in this story.

  • Just a dumb plumber
    April 10, 2014 - 21:40

    First of all I don't agree with the 40 dollar movie either but I'm curious what it will cost to get to the bottom of this one . What a flipping joke this is what gets talked about in question period with all the real issues out there and also gets attention in this paper must be a slow news day . This is bull ----

    • Staffing cost
      April 11, 2014 - 07:52

      It probably took Myers' staff a few hours to file requisite Freedom of Information requests, and then to scour them looking for stuff like this. Probably a few hundred in wages for a desperate political point in the Assembly.

    • FOIPP
      April 11, 2014 - 12:34

      If Just a Dump Plumber knew anything about FOIPP or the legislator...he would know that you don't need to file a FOIPP request...the visa bills are tabled in the legislator.