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And now, a word from our sponsor. Sports fans and concert-goers are well versed in the art of sitting through obligatory greetings from those who helped pay the bills.

We smile and applaud and hope they have enough sense not to overstay their welcome.

Sponsorship is an essential lubricant for recreational and cultural activity. Much of it comes from private business.

But in this province, the government remains a ubiquitous source of funding for events that may otherwise not see the light of day.

This is a good thing. It promotes a vibrant and diverse community, and ensures there’s a little extra entertainment and spectacle to suit everyone’s taste.

But have you ever wondered how a government minister always seems to be available for this or that ceremony?

If documents posted on the province’s access-to-information website are any indication, it’s because the minister’s day planner is inextricably tied to funding grants.

Cain’s Quest is an annual 3,300-kilometre snowmobile race across the Labrador wilderness.

The event has risen from relative obscurity to become an international event, with writeups in sporting publications worldwide.

It’s done so with the help of grants from the province’s regional diversification fund — up to $76,000 in 2012 alone.

Online documentation of Cain’s Quest grants — unveiled through an access request — primarily deal with strict oversights for that funding. Organizers are required to account for all expenditures, and notify the department of any change in plans.

But among the conditions listed in an appendix is a curious paragraph about promotion:

“The Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development reserves the right to make public announcements regarding the project.”

Reserves the right?

Just try and stop them!

In fact, these days it’s de rigueur to announce and subsequently reannounce most funding allotments.

But then things get a little more sticky.

“In addition, the Minister shall be advised of any announcement or ceremony regarding the project. An announcement or ceremony shall only be held on a date suitable for the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and the applicant. The Minister or designate shall be invited to participant (sic) in the announcement or ceremony.”

In other words, it’s not just a courtesy to invite the minister along — it’s a contractual obligation. A variation on the old “me and the government brought you this firetruck” ploy.

To be fair, no minister in his right mind wants government generosity to go unseen.

Except it’s not the government’s money. It’s ours.

Something to remember the next time you see that ministerial smile beaming from the podium.

Geographic location: Labrador

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