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Sask. NDP still waiting for answers from province on Sunrise Hotel controversy


The Minister of Social Services has yet to provide information on the Sunrise Hotel controversy in Regina after promising answers, the provincial NDP claims.

On Thursday, NDP MLA and Ethics and Democracy Critic Meara Conway called for answers to the scandal, saying that Gene Makowsky, the minister of social services, refused to respond to two freedom of information requests about payments into the Sunrise Motel.

“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 in a news release.

“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.”

The provincial NDP originally alleged that the Sunrise Motel in Regina, owned by Saskatchewan Party MLA Gary Grewal, inflated a room rate for a Regina resident on social assistance on Nov. 15. The price of a room for Evelyn Harper rose by 50 per cent once the Ministry of Social Services began footing the bill.

The provincial government disputed that claim, calling it “unfounded.” Grewal said he does not play any part in the day-to-day operations.

The provincial NDP submitted two freedom of information requests to the minister’s office on Dec. 12, one asking for policies on hotel stays and one asking for clarity on which hotels are used by the Ministry of Social Services.

Makowsky’s office did not provide answers by the deadline, according to the NDP, claiming they did not have enough time to investigate.

The NDP is accusing the province of hiding the information but the government said it will be released by Feb. 10.

Meanwhile, the provincial auditor will investigate Saskatchewan’s procurement and payment practices when people on social assistance need to stay at hotels, which will be released in December in the 2024 Report (Volume Two).

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, Makowsky said the process is underway and the ministry will be able to release something soon.

“[We're] certainly not hiding anything. It’s just that these things do take time. There’s a lot of information that officials have to go through and that process has been underway for a while. That’s where we’re at. It’s not a ducking out or trying to not to do what I’ve committed to. I’ve committed to what the opposition has asked for several times. It’s just a matter of timing,” he said.

The Ministry of Social Services pays higher rates at motels in lieu of damage deposits. That policy is under review. The government says it will get back to the NDP soon.

- With files from Wayne Mantyka Top Stories

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