Docherty under fire for $16 hotel room upgrade

Teresa Wright
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Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty

Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty has been forced to explain why she upgraded her room at a posh Toronto hotel last June, while this week presenting a budget with a cut to social programs of almost $2 million.

In the legislature Friday, the Opposition Tories tabled a detailed hotel bill showing Docherty upgraded her room during a stay at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto last June.

The upgrade cost $16.

Opposition MLA James Aylward says he called the hotel and was told the upgrade was for room on a higher floor with a better view.

“What do you say to all of your clients in social programs who paid for your room upgrade at the top luxury hotel in Toronto to one with a better view?” Aylward asked Docherty.

She denied this was the reason for the room change, explaining the room she had booked wasn’t ready when she arrived and she needed to change for an important meeting to lobby for affordable housing for seniors.

The upgraded room was available right away and cost only $16 more, so she agreed.

“I believe that, for the price of the upgrade in order for me to be ready for my meeting on time, that it was definitely worthwhile, the investment,” Docherty said.

But Aylward pointed to her department’s financial projections for this year, included in the provincial budget tabled earlier this week.

It shows her department did not spend the full amount it had budgeted last year on social assistance and other support programs, leaving over $2.3 million unspent in 2013.

This year, her department has reduced its budget for social support programs by close to $2 million from what was budgeted last year.

Aylward says his office hears constantly from Islanders who are struggling financially. They could have used help from the $2.3 million that Docherty chose not to spend last year.

“Islanders are hurting, there’s no secret about that, we’re hearing terrible stories everyday and for this minister to leave $2.3 million on the table from programs when Islanders are looking for help, Islanders are looking to feed their families, Islanders are looking to provide heat in their oil tanks – it’s inexcusable.”

Docherty said the fact she saved $2.3 million on her budget last year is positive news, as it means fewer Islanders needed social assistance.

She stressed no one who comes looking for help from the province is turned away.

“The fact that there is a reduction actually is a good thing… It means that Islanders are working. It means they don’t have to come to our department for supports,” she said.

“The reduction has nothing to do with any over-expenditures anywhere else. It’s the fact that we are working hard on behalf of Islanders to ensure that they are impacted as little as possible.”

Docherty has acknowledged in the past, however, that rates for food and rent allowance in P.E.I. are quite low.

But on Friday she explained she cannot raise simply those rates if there is extra money in the budget, as there was last year.

“I can’t just suddenly give everybody a bonus cheque and then back to where they were, I have to be very mindful of how that money is being used.”

As for her hotel room upgrade, she insists she did not ask for it but did take it after she realized how little it would cost.

“We’re not talking significant dollars,” Docherty said.

Aylward believes she should have used her own money to pay for it rather than expensing it to taxpayers – even if it was a nominal amount.

“She’s so out of touch… to Islanders who are in need, $16 is a lot of money.”

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Islanders, Toronto hotel, Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Geographic location: Toronto, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Island joke
    April 14, 2014 - 03:21

    $16 isn't a big issue, but certainly if the government released this information, it is open to be judged. Just like we are all open to judge the "work of art" at the Confed Centre, just up from the Provincial government building. Bails of hay left blowing in the wind, rotting at the steps of our crown jewel door step. How much work did this "art" exhibit cost tax payers? Bet more then $16 and I am certain costing more to clean up. Foolishness is every where.

  • brian
    April 13, 2014 - 16:13

    Get real. With all the waste going on with government. This is a very poor excuse for a news story, go find something worth reporting. Go find some real waste.

  • Nit picking
    April 13, 2014 - 15:18

    $16.00 spare me ..chicken crap.....it's just bringing out the party biased head bangers ,whiners and people who feel they have been wronged......get a life people ...it's $16.00 .....nothing to do with shoplifting,food banks or disability cheques.....sorry for your circumstances but this is just nit picking....when our politicians travel I doubt they are treated like royalty.....if you do it enough you get tired of it.......get alife!! NO I did not vote a Liberal last time if it makes a difference.

  • country boy
    April 13, 2014 - 15:00

    To attack this Cabinet Minister over #16.00 is absolutely ludicrous. She is available for her constituents at any time. Her hard work and availability is very special. Let's get off our high horse and stop attacking politicians that give so much of themselves. Stand proud and tall Valerie, you don't deserve this criticism.

  • yolanda
    April 13, 2014 - 10:26

    All the people decrying the small amount in question here, are missing the point of integrity and honesty, ---- if you shop lift is does not matter if it is a $ 20.- ITEM OR a $ 100.- ITEM, THE FACT IS YOU TOOK SOMETHING THAT WAS NOT YOURS. THE OPPOSITION NOT ONLY HAS A RIGHT TO POINT THIS OUT, - THAT IS WHAT WE ARE PAYING THEM TO DO, IT IS CALLED CHECK AND BALLANCES. It is too bad that the writers here do not understand our system, but worse yet, that they are willing to defend and accept such irregularities.

    • who
      April 13, 2014 - 12:25

      POLAR FOODS. Which party was that again?

    • AMAZED
      April 13, 2014 - 15:05

      I agree , when do you think we will get a truthful account of the BINNS years ,our childrens children will not clean up this mess! I just hope no nimrod wants to name a park or something after him or any of his cohorts...more money and in poor taste .

  • Darlene
    April 13, 2014 - 10:13

    she said no one is ever turned away you ask the premiers office if people are turned away when needing help my husband got laid off last summer for a month and we couldn't even get a voucher for food and they wouldn't help us I am disabled and because my spouse works I cant get any help from the province why don't the province get the people off assistance who can work and help the people who can't and maybe join the 21st century and catch up to Ontario they provide a disability cheque on a provincial level

  • ben
    April 13, 2014 - 09:19

    really the only reason is that she wanted to.

  • AMAZED
    April 13, 2014 - 09:03

    Where were all these numpties during Pat Binns administration(or lack of!),or are they all Binns years millionaires,no shortage of them! I would be ashamed to say I voted Tory unless of course I was one of the chosen people who overindulged at tax payer expense. These people should also lower their eyes when in public.

  • Jo
    April 13, 2014 - 08:03

    Start giving drug test to the ones that want assistance and you'll save way more than $2.3m I can't believe everyone is arguing over a $14 room upgrade and a $40 movie. Seriously, have you never used a company card to your benefit? I hear it all the time 'I'll just put it on the company card' well consider the government as their company and the tax payers as the governments clients. It's the same damn thing. And for the people who keep saying to the commenter's 'show you name' and 'stop hiding behind a fake name' well it seems lately you can't say anything without being jumped, attacked, almost killed, bullied, etc. People have a right to comment anonymously without being bullied (yes I did just call you all BULLIES) Everyone needs to grow the he'll up and quit your nitpicking at every little stupid thing on here.

    • perhaps
      April 13, 2014 - 11:05

      Perhaps they should give stupid tests before allowing people like you to post on this site.

  • Margaret
    April 13, 2014 - 00:21

    If the parties believe that chasing down expenses so they can come up with an "Alison Redford" than I am truly voting NDP. Spending countless hours to go through tedious bills to find an "ahha"" moment over $40 or $16 or god forbid, next week - $300 - who cares? Why aren't they asking why they underspent on $2M in social payments??? Do these people (in this case Tories) get it?? There are big issues that matter - it is a terrible reflection on the priorities of the Conservative party. I had hope…now I just realize they are truly a lost cause.

  • Summerside resident
    April 12, 2014 - 22:06

    Here we go again with a $16.00 expense and a $40.00 movie. Surely the PC'S have more important issues to be harping about. If you want to really yell loud bring up the PNP money scandal, both Liberals and Conservatives got pockets full over that one. Bring it on Steve

  • Stewart Smith
    April 12, 2014 - 21:28

    Oh for goodness sake! Why don't you chase the real stories? i.e. the tens of millions that have been wasted by this government investing in dubious businesses and unwanted roads!

  • Jan Roach
    April 12, 2014 - 20:38

    Slims pickings in the legislature. How much time did it take for James & Co to look thru all the travel claims to come up with $16. Room up-grade or a & $40 movie. Time is money too folks!!! Can we maybe have some important items in question period instead of trying to one up each other.....

  • Tara Ileso
    April 12, 2014 - 20:04

    Just curious why Islanders can't voice their opinion while using their real names.

  • peter
    April 12, 2014 - 19:51

    This does seem like a small amount, and the explanation seems plausible. However both the movie deal and this should be seen on the background of the large amount each government person is entitled to claim for personal expenses without showing receipts. One would think they would have paid these things themselves, and still have had money left over from the "allowance". Maybe the Guardian or the MLAs who have brought this to our attention could supply us with the daily travel allowance information.

  • Liberal Dong
    April 12, 2014 - 19:41

    Get over the $ 16.00 dollars and a stupid movie,to all who are suppose to be representing our Island we have high priority items to get across here and to be discussed,never mind the petty stuff,time to get this island aiming straightforward, get on to real business and stop wasting our taxpayers dollars,now get to work on serious issues now.

  • hawkeye
    April 12, 2014 - 19:37

    Hmmm ,Well your all missing an interesting point. The Provincial MLA's gave up their expense allowance in July 2007 , had the $11grand attached to their salary.. Should not be claiming anything and paying their own personal expenses outside what is budgeted for additional expenses.. Oh by the way the 11 thousand gets tack onto to their salary and increases their pensions CPP and Civil Service Plans .. Pretty slick considering Pension reform legislation passed last November oops!!

  • jane
    April 12, 2014 - 17:38

    Oh please, leave her alone $16, REALLY!

  • caringal
    April 12, 2014 - 16:13

    If the Opposition wants to do their job,then concentrate on something important like the deficit,or education,etc. Minister Docherty isn't breaking the bank,and probably had a good reason for upgrading.Please stop the pettiness!!!

  • issue
    April 12, 2014 - 14:40

    The issue is if she wanted a better room then pay for it out of her nice provincial salary that she earns fot taking up a seat . Im not a fan of hers either .I dont think she working for the people of the province but to upstage her self importance .

  • Opposition makes Rob Ford look good
    April 12, 2014 - 14:40

    $16 dollar upgrades are your only defensive against cuts to the budget?! You should return your salary, its more than $16 and you don't deserve it. You are not making a point, you are making a fool of yourself. You make Rob Ford look good when you do this type of stuff. and by the way, if you had done as much as, or had the integrity of, Valerie Docherty, you would be a much better person.

  • Chris
    April 12, 2014 - 14:09

    If she wanted the upgrade she should pay it out of her own pocket, not the tax payers. You're a civil servant not Donald Trump. Show some leadership.

  • Puzzled
    April 12, 2014 - 13:11

    I was told that an M L A gets 4 or $500.00 hundred dollars a day for setting on committees over and above their wages. How about returning that Money

  • Chester L
    April 12, 2014 - 13:02

    The View From Martinvale 0

  • Herr Goethe
    April 12, 2014 - 12:20

    “ Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Wow...lots of stones in flight here! How many of you posting comments in regards to this, committed theft and didn't view it that way? EMPLOYEE THEFT; time, supplies/inventory, personal internet use. The list goes on. If you believe Minister Docherty fleeced you out of $16, what amount has your employer been deprived of, at the expense of your decision-making?

  • Dave
    April 12, 2014 - 11:19

    If the best you can do is complain about a $16 charge, I say she should be commended, not grilled..............$16 is nothing in today's world when you travel. ........Some people need to get out more........I think you are embellishing

  • Wayne
    April 12, 2014 - 10:39

    I am definitely in support of our MLA's saving tax payer dollars and not using government credit card for personal use, but come on $16.00 because she had to make a quick decision so the meeting could start on time, let up this is petty. Give her a break,.,.

  • nitpicker
    April 12, 2014 - 10:33

    "She’s so out of touch… to Islanders who are in need, $16 is a lot of money.” I tell you, the state of Island politics is hitting a new low in terms of stupidity. Ok James, here's the scoop: Her trip to Toronto would have been $1,000 minimum. You are worried that a $16 room upgrade charge is taking food of the tables of Islanders???? If things are that tight, your protest should be about THE ENTIRE TRIP.

  • Small Minded People
    April 12, 2014 - 10:20

    $16 Really ! Why are we talking about This ? I Spent that Yesterday on Chicken Wings... Give the Lady a Break ! Lets Talk About How Bad the Roads Are Here.... They re Bad !

  • Fed up
    April 12, 2014 - 09:43

    IF her room was NOT ready, the hotel would upgrade her FREE OF CHARGE!! It has happened to me several times....so her reason for the upgrade is a bunch of.... Also, saying seniors don't need "her" money?? Is she living in reality? Let her live on what seniors are living on. $16.00 wouldn't pay for her make-up...but would buy food for someone making minimum wage....and fighting to keep warm! These high earners with government expense cards need to WAKE UP!!!

    • OK
      April 12, 2014 - 10:23

      The next time I see someone on social assistance at Tim Horton's I'm going to scream at them for being a social parasite. They are stealing money that could be used to save a dying baby, and they need to be publicly flogged. If this is the worst thing that this government is doing, than great, if not shot the $#@%$ up and go after the worse.

    • really
      April 12, 2014 - 10:38

      Unless she showed up before check-in time. Then the hotel would probably not upgrade her for free.

    • UPWESTER
      April 12, 2014 - 11:20

      Fed Up... You need to get off welfare or EI. What you should be really mad about is the fact that the disfunctionalConservative party actually has two MLA's who actually wasted their time (ours really)to try and recoup a total of $56. How much did it cost taxpayers to have these Inspector Clousseaus solve "The Case of the Wayward Remote" and "The Case of the Upgraded Room", coming to a theater near you soon. To put it in perspective, the room upgrade is the cost of a pack of smokes, which many of you smoke each day with so much idle time on your hands.I understand now why Hal Perry crossed the floor, with that dog & pony show that is the Cons., I would cross too.

  • Another
    April 12, 2014 - 09:37

    Just another example to prove my previous post re Webster's $40 . Need I say more. LOL

  • huh
    April 12, 2014 - 09:35

    I am so reassured that our loyal opposition is working tirelessly to uncover such scandalous atrocities.

  • same story
    April 12, 2014 - 09:28

    Come on boys ? Sixteen dollars , you lads don't have a clue. Even the most petty tory can't get upset over Sixteen dollars !

  • voter
    April 12, 2014 - 09:23

    noticed that the opposition is scared of attacking the more imbedded pork barrellers on their expense accounts

  • good one
    April 12, 2014 - 08:52

    Thats a good example why I will not vote for this government movies hotel upgrades when islanders on social programs cannot even get a place to live or eat ?

  • Brenda
    April 12, 2014 - 08:22

    Really? This is all that the opposition can complain about? $16.00 for a room upgrade and $40.00 for a movie . I think that our members must be paying attention to their charges. And shame on our media for giving this "news" any attention. The weather is more interesting than this.

    • Jarrod
      April 13, 2014 - 10:16

      I don't see 40+ comments on any weather stories here today....and hey, you took the time to express your thoughts too! (Which includes trying to decypher a captcha).

  • Observer
    April 12, 2014 - 08:20

    I have stayed at the Royal York, on a number of occasions, but no longer go there. It is a lovely old building, but I don't think I would call it "luxury" or "posh". In fact, RY is a sort of like a dusty old tart. And apparently they will et ANYONE stay there. On one occasion when I was there, Brian "The chin" Mulroney showed up...

  • Shirley
    April 12, 2014 - 08:20

    WHAT A JOKE GET REAL DOUCHERTY!!!! It means they don’t have to come to our department for supports,” she said. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS SHE LIVING ?? NOT HERE ON THE ISLAND.

  • observer
    April 12, 2014 - 08:12

    These clowns in opposition have a lot of time on their hands obviously. If the woman needed a room right away she really didnt have much choice other than agree to the extra fee. I would bet that the opposition spent more than $16 researching this when you consider the wages and phone calls to the hotel. give the woman a break

  • WayneDrops
    April 12, 2014 - 07:32

    The Islas Reform Party must have Dan Aiken doing research for them...

  • south shore
    April 12, 2014 - 07:24

    I am no fan of Valarie Docherty since she said that if plan b saved 1 life it was worth the expenditures. She should have been immediately fired from cabinet as every budget makes life and death decisions with budget allocations to health, social service etc.To raise not spending 2.3 million however is overreach unless you can point where it should have been spent under existing programs . Better research may have been to question why she stayed at the Royal York rather than more economical choices although they me tough to find in Toronto.

  • No Doubt
    April 12, 2014 - 07:21

    Well I was having my doubts if the opposition was doing its job but WOW, not only did they find a $38 movie but now a $16 upgrade, with sleuths like this we will be in good hands. I am sure these were found with no waste of time, time that could have been used to try and work on making the province better. Neither the Hatfields nor the McCoys will ever help this province get on track. It is time for Islanders, especially those who have a connection to a political party to DEMAND better. Stop supporting this childish style of politics just because it is coming from your party. If neither party wants to govern instead of play politics then I would rather form a Maritime union. Will be sad to see our status as a province disappear but we are going bankrupt and not because of $16 hotel upgrade, but because ALL these politicians are looking for personal gain.

  • Joe Schmoe
    April 12, 2014 - 06:55

    You would think she'd be more careful with tax payer dollars. The money she's wasting could be better spent paying for those late night movies George Webster enjoys. Oh but he said he may have "sat on the remote control". Yes George...we all sit on our remotes to turn on the movies. Does that mean we have to sit on them to turn it off? You crack me up...heehee! And Valerie insists that the upgrade was well worth it because it allowed her to be "at her meeting on time". These people are priceless.

  • don
    April 12, 2014 - 06:27

    She stressed no one who comes looking for help from the province is turned away. Anyone got a shovel i would love to see all the people that are turned away come to ghiz's office and tell him but that would be a waste of time maybe they can go on tv faces covered and tell the truth about why they were turned away. And can you tell me why a 16.00 upgrade help her get ready for her meeting? Is there anyone in ghiz's gang that knows how to tell the truth?

  • David
    April 12, 2014 - 06:03

    I would be interested in hearing just how Aylward got this information. 1) What did he say when he called the hotel because from personal experience hotels will never usually tell anyone other then the guest much about their bill. Having been a guest at the Royal York myself I am quite interested in hearing their privacy policy. Secondly just how much money did Aylward waste in chasing the $16.If he spent $16 in phone calls not to mention how many hours he wasted of tax dollars all to chase down $16 it is hardly a good investment for US THE TAXPAYERS!

    • Robert
      April 12, 2014 - 10:44

      Obviously, Aylward went looking through Docherty's expense claims and saw the $16 charge. The hotel would have done nothing more than explain the difference between two of their rooms.

    • David
      April 12, 2014 - 14:29

      Sounds like the Aylward done more then go through the expenses. Maybe a phone call to the hotel pretending to be someone he was not. I doubt very much if the Royal York would tell some random person calling there why a specific guest was upgraded. maybe Aylward should explain what he said in his phone call because this is an MLA who wants to be in government someday. Not sure I am comfortable with ANY MLA acting like police officer and pretending to be someone he is not and having access to people's private information. What next if he ends up in Government will he be snooping on all our medical information to see who gets what from the Healthcare system. Sounds more like Aylward wants to be PEI's version of the CIA.

    • Robert
      April 12, 2014 - 16:55

      You're a little off base, man. The hotel didn't provide any personal information. Aylward looked up Docherty's expense claims that she filed HERE in order to get reimbursed from the PEI government for her travel expenses. He saw the bill with the extra $16 bucks per night upgrade. So he called the hotel and asked them the difference between Room "A" and Room "B" which costs $16 more. And apparently they told him that Room "B" costs more because it has a better view. You don't need to give anyone's names or pretend to be someone else in order to ask a hotel the very general and simple question of why one room costs more than the other.

  • Please explain
    April 12, 2014 - 05:58

    Please explain why she or any of the Ministers need to stay at the most expensive hotels anyway? we did pay for that as it is, my question would have been what kind of room did she have to start with? a standard, or a suite, there is a huge price jump there, or is it a given that all of the ministers expect such extravagance at the cost of the taxpayers, because a standard is 200.00 and then they jump from there!

    • John MacDonald
      April 12, 2014 - 12:41

      Honesty is the REAL issue. I've traveled a lot. Hotels routinely upgrade AT NO COST. This is particularly true if the hotel is the reason it cannot perform in some capacity. Yes, $16 is not an issue but holding elected officials accountable to highest standards is a reasonable standard of public service. Island nepotism is our most serious issue. Period. By its nature, it requires diligence to expose and correct. It is discouraging and trusted officials who betray our trust are shameful.