I made several attempts to contact Kent by telephone to discuss the issue, but he refused to return my calls.
In 2015, I ran unsuccessfully in the provincial election. That’s no secret! Since then, I’ve dedicated my time to my business, working to develop it and advance the tourism industry where I live.
I decided to complete a major renovation so we could offer better accommodations and services to our customers. Four new mini-cottages would allow us to increase capacity to accommodate the motor coach tour groups that we are attempting to attract to the Coast of Bays region.
I explored opportunities for government assistance. I have always dealt with departmental representatives at the local level, never asking anyone to interfere politically. Strong program applications and plans were prepared, along with realistic and viable financial projections that were submitted to — in this case — the Tourism Department. As with all applications, mine went through a rigorous review and assessment process — one that’s frustrating at times, but thorough and diligent. I’d say our application was submitted, reviewed and approved before any government member or minister was even aware there was an application in the system.
Kent has said publicly that he doesn’t hear of many other hotel businesses like ours receiving funding. But we followed the process; our plan had merit and was financially sound. Any other company can do the same.
I tried to reach Kent by phone to gauge his understanding of the process. Had he seen our proposal? Did he understand of the scope of work, the rationale, the objective, both from a business and industry perspective? Had he reviewed Tourism’s assessment? Was he questioning the integrity of those working diligently to ensure these proposals are realistic and feasible; that they reviewed the ability of our company to repay the repayable loans approved, thus ensuring proper disbursement and prudent use of public funds? Did he contact departmental representatives to confirm if these were good projects, or to enquire if I had ever threatened to take this to a political level if things didn’t move in the direction I wanted? Never.
Since I began writing this, Kent returned my call. It didn’t last long. I couldn’t seem to get through to him.
He hadn’t seen the proposal or the departmental assessment. He had no knowledge of the objectives, no knowledge of the credible partners we are involved with. No knowledge that we have hired four people because of the improvements — two full-time, one student and one person with a disability who had been out of work for the past two years. I became quite frustrated and threw in a few choice words — uncharacteristic of me. Kent indicated he “didn’t like my tone” and abruptly ended the call.
But before he did, Kent repeatedly insisted that his “beef” wasn’t with me but with government. That infuriated me even more. If my name is drawn into question, it certainly does involve me. Does he truly understand the potential implications of his accusations — that in a small, rural community of about 1,800 people, someone has been “rewarded” and given a “gift” of $150,000, to do with as they please! That’s not the case, but many — without hearing explanation or fact — would be extremely cynical.
This was no gift.
We can account for every penny we’ve ever received from government sources. Provincial department representatives can confirm this. We work hard, we’re enhancing our community. We are trying to create economic and employment opportunities in this small, remote and largely forgotten area of the province.
As for Kent taking issue with my appointment to the Standing Fish Price Setting Panel, he’ll have to talk to the chair of the Independent Appointments Commission, former premier Clyde Wells, on that. If Kent looked at my resumé, he’d probably understand.
However, he’s obviously not one to base his opinion on facts!