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Did government give away Mill River for free? P.E.I. MLA asks

['Steven Myers']
['Steven Myers']

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Did government give away the Mill River golf course, resort and 400 acres of land for free?

That’s what Opposition MLA Steven Myers is charging after looking at a detailed breakdown of government business grants handed out last year by Innovation P.E.I.

The breakdown shows government gave a company called Mill River Experience (9711864 Canada Inc.) a grant of $500,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year for “development of Rodd Mill River resort.”

The company is registered to Don McDougall and Anne McDougall-Cooper, who are the new owners of the Mill River golf course, resort and surrounding acreage.

Myers pointed out that $500,000 is the exact amount the McDougalls paid for the properties in the controversial Mill River deal.

“Why did you give away a golf course and not even get the buyer to put five cents of their own money into it?” Myers asked during question period.

In January, the province announced the entire Mill River complex would be sold to former Toronto Blue Jays founder Don McDougall as part of a 20-year deal wherein the province would give McDougall $6 million for capital improvements over 12 years and another $1.6 million to cover operational losses in the first six years.

RELATED: Mill River ‘sweetheart’ deal good exit strategy: P.E.I. government

Government also bought the 90-room resort on the property from Rodd Resorts for $1.8 million and included it as part of the deal.

McDougall’s bill for the whole property and all its assets was only $500,000.

While going through his department’s budget estimates Tuesday afternoon, Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald explained the $500,000 grant given to the McDougalls last year was part of the $6 million in capital money announced as part of the total $8.9 million Mill River agreement.

“That first $500,000 has been disbursed and the remaining of that is part of that $6 million that will be ongoing,” MacDonald said.

Myers then asked for more details about this grant, including when the McDougall-owned company applied for the money, the date the money was approved and when the money was disbursed.

MacDonald did not have the answers to these questions but said he would bring back as much information as he is able to provide.

Myers questions the timeline of this grant since it was given out in the 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended on March 31. Government announced the Mill River deal in January but acknowledged at that time the deal had not been completely finalized.

“They disbursed $500,000 at the very end of their budget cycle to make this happen? The timelines don’t work out at all… anyone who has ever dealt with government through a funding program, it takes forever to get your money,” Myers said.

That’s why he says he will continue to push for more details about this transaction.

“What I think is that government paid for McDougall’s part (of the deal), and if I’m wrong, they should prove me wrong.”

Twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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