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Sask. NDP still waiting for answers from province 10 weeks after Sunrise Hotel controversy

Meara Conway, the Saskatchewan Opposition NDP social services critic, speaks to reporters in Regina on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, over accusations that a motel owned by a Saskatchewan Party legislature member raised rates for a social assistance client. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeremy Simes. RJB

It’s been more than 10 weeks since the Saskatchewan NDP requested information on the government’s hotel usage and payment policies and, to date, their questions remain unanswered.

Sask. Party MLA Gary Grewal owns the Sunrise Motel – which faced scrutiny after claims of inflated charges for clients on social assistance. Clients claimed they were being charged as much as 50 per cent more than regular clients.

The province disputed the claims.

According to Opposition ethics and democracy critic Meara Conway, the NDP made two freedom of information requests surrounding payments. She says the minister promised them answers months ago.

“Minister Makowsky promised answers months ago and still hasn’t delivered. All the evidence suggests that he’s running interference for a teammate possibly playing dirty,” Conway said. “Saskatchewan people work hard for their tax dollars. They deserve to know whether Sask. Party MLAs are using their influence within government to benefit the private businesses of politicians.”

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Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan NDP demand answers for inflated hotel fees paid for by the Ministry of Social Services'
Saskatchewan NDP demand answers for inflated hotel fees paid for by the Ministry of Social Services

The information requests were made to Makowsky’s office on Dec. 12, 2023. One asked for his ministry’s policies on hotel stays. The other sought to clarify which hotels are used by his ministry.

According to the NDP, on the deadline set by law, Makowsky’s office told them they could not provide any records. “They claimed that they did not have enough time to investigate, even though Makowsky promised answers to these questions months earlier,” a press release read.

Meare went on to say Makowsky was asked to provide information about his policy 12 times during the last legislative sitting. “Five times on the record he promised to investigate and report back to the house. This promise was first made 71 days ago on Nov. 15.”

“I just don’t buy that Makowsky needs more than ten weeks to figure out what his hotel pricing policy is or which hotels his ministry uses,” said Conway. “This is the type of information that many social workers use in their job daily. Much of this should be readily available.”

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Opposition members posed a total of 46 questions about the Sunrise Motel scandal during the last legislative session. On 32 occasions, Makowsky responded by saying that he was “endeavouring” to get more answers or “looking at” or “looking into” the situation.

According to Makowsky, it’s just a matter of time until the information is released, but it takes time to go through the records.

“We’re certainly not hiding anything. It’s just that these things do take time,” Makowsky told Global News.

“There’s a lot of information that officials have to go through and that process has been underway for a while, but that ‘s where we are at. It’s not a ducking out or trying to not do what I have committed to do.”

Makowsky expects the information to be ready “soon,” but would not give a date.

He said the data requested goes back five years, and a lot of people have stayed at the hotel over that time, and programs have changed.

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