The P.E.I. government has finally released a document that outlines details of a $950,000 government loan that funded the province’s controversial e-gaming scheme. The Guardian filed a Freedom of Information request in November 2013, requesting details of the $950,000 loan from Innovation P.E.I. to the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. Now, more than two years later, Innovation P.E.I. has finally released the one-page document, which outlines what is referred to as the “Proposed Budget” of the e-gaming initiative.
A one-page document — that was supposed to provide details on a $950,000 government loan to fund P.E.I.’s e-gaming initiative — raises more questions than it answers.
The province withheld the document last fall when it finally released the loan contract signed between the Mi’kmaq Confederacy and Innovation P.E.I. — after The Guardian filed a freedom of information request two years earlier.
A subsequent ruling by P.E.I. Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose ordered the province to release the document — again after The Guardian applied for a review of the province’s decision. Faced with a pending deadline to release the page or cause further delays and additional costs to taxpayers by seeking a judicial review, the province relented Monday.
Now, one wonders what all the fuss was about? Details are sketchy in this proposed budget and taxpayers still don’t know where most of their money ended up. The page could easily have been released with the loan contract last fall because the information is simply a list of proposed expenses. There are more than a dozen line items allotting funds to turn the e-gaming scheme into reality. It does not say who got the money or what services were actually rendered.
Some work was carried out before the loan was completed and thus it was a matter of reimbursement. Other work wasn’t done. The onus is certainly on the province to provide clarity on the money still not accounted for.
One can be assured that following the money trail will be a priority for the Opposition parties once the legislature reconvenes early next month.
It also hasn’t been explained what role the Confederacy played in proposing the scheme or what its role was going to be implementing it.
Creating a regulatory framework is cited as the expense for most of the loan money but little detail is offered for what work was actually started or completed, and who was actually paid. Guardian requests for additional contracts listed in the document were not provided.
The province made the right decision not to delay things with a judicial review. It saved taxpayer’s money by not fighting a losing battle. But the government also seems determined to delay and stonewall each step of the way through this process.
The province has key legislation pending this spring on government loan write-offs and it would have been counter-productive to fight this ruling now. This $950,000 e-gaming loan is essentially a write-off because the money is gone — spent or squandered — whatever you want to call it.
The focus will now shift onto members of a secretive e-gaming committee — formed to put the plan into motion — and its exact role. It was a grandiose scheme to make this province an Internet gambling regulator and earn millions for the province and confederacy. It all sounded too good to be true. It was.
It had as much likelihood of success as Internet scams arriving daily to your email in-box from fictious but generous oil-rich Nigerians determined to leave your enormous bequests — all for no particular reason.