It was a sight that hasn’t been seen in the province in years — MHAs met in the House of Assembly Wednesday for a meeting of the public accounts committee.
Politicians were questioning Bob Pike, chairman of the Marble Mountain Development Corp. (MMDC) which operates the west coast ski resort and is wholly owned by the provincial government.
In his report in January, acting auditor general Wayne Loveys identified a host of issues at MMDC. The corporation is running a deficit above and beyond its annual $400,000 operating grant from the provincial government. Because of the debt, the corporation has to pay interest and bank expenses totalling $164,115 annually.
There were also problems with purchases which weren’t properly done through the public tendering act, and the use of fuel for snow groomers was not properly monitored.The public accounts committee covered a lot of the same ground as the auditor general, but over the course of several hours of questioning, it also delved into the nitty gritty of Marble Mountain operations — from the mechanics of chairlifts to the economics of making artificial snow.
Pike broadly told politicians that the committee accepts the problems that Loveys identified, and it’s working to fix them.“Our policies are all under review,” he said.Arguably the most interesting thing about Wednesday’s meeting was that it was happening at all.
It’s been more than five years since the public accounts committee last held a public meeting.Committee chairman and Liberal MHA Jim Bennett said people should expect a lot more of them.Next month the committee will hold another public meeting to question officials from the Western School District about issues that the auditor general raised about the board.
“I felt it went well,” PC MHA and committee vice-chairman David Brazil said. “At the end of the day I’m confident that we can put together a report that will be relevant to making recommendations to improving the operations of Marble Mountain.”
As the proceedings wore on into the afternoon, there was a brief verbal dust-up as Brazil complained that the NDP representative, Christopher Mitchelmore, was focusing on “nickel and dime” issues.Liberal Eddie Joyce took umbrage to that.
“If I’ve got to go line by line to make sure I’ve got the proper information, I will be doing it,” Joyce said. “I think it’s unfair for you as chair to criticize a member of the public accounts for asking questions (on something) which is in the Auditor General’s report.”
Mitchelmore chose not to respond to Brazil, but speaking to reporters during a break in proceedings, he was unapologetic for getting down into very specific issues, and taking a very aggressive tack.
“Certainly I’ve been aggressive, because my background comes in business development and providing lending to financial institutions, and based on the findings of the auditor general reports, there are very loose financial controls,” he said.