2 motels linked to Sask. Party MLA got $731K in government business since 2020 election

Newly released documents show that the two motels associated with Saskatchewan Party MLA Gary Grewal got $731,194 in government business after he was elected in 2020. The Sunrise Motel and the Thriftlodge, two Regina motels that Grewal has ownership stakes in, are both used by the Ministry of Social Services to house vulnerable people. In February, CBC reported that both motels had received a combined $384,178 in government money from the ministry in the 2022-23 fiscal year. The NDP shared additional funding figures released by the Sask. Party on Monday that disclosed money given to the Thriftlodge and the Sunrise Motel — nearly three-quarters of a million dollars following Grewal’s election in 2020.The Sunrise Motel received a total of $1,309 in government business from 2018-20, prior to Grewal taking office, according to the documents, while the Thriftlodge had no government business in that time, according to the document.In 2020-21, the Sunrise Motel got $12,931 worth of government business, $37,041 in 2021-22 and $220,474 in 2022-23, according to the document.In the first six months of the 2023-24 fiscal year (April to September 2023), it got $110,887 in government business.The Thriftlodge got $46,679 in 2021-22 and $163,704 in 2022-23. In the first six months of 2023-24, the motel received $139,478 in government money.NDP MLA Meara Conway asked the governing Sask. Party to justify spending public money at motels connected to the Regina Northeast MLA. (CBC)During question period at the Saskatchewan Legislature Tuesday, NDP MLA Meara Conway asked the governing Sask. Party to justify spending public money at motels connected to the Regina Northeast MLA. “Saskatchewan people deserve answers and transparency when it comes to their public dollars,” said Conway, the Opposition’s critic for ethics and democracy.”They want their dollars going to the classroom supports for kids or to highways, or to sustainable housing.”The Opposition also stated that the motels’ business with the Ministry of Social Services jumped considerably around the time MLA Gene Makowsky took over as minister of the department in May 2022. Both Makowsky and Grewal share a constituency office.Makowsky said that he had no involvement in any of the procurement of the motels.”That is done by our valued public servants as well as our third-party mobile crisis workers,” he said Tuesday afternoon.While addressing the expenditures, Makowsky said hotels were used as emergency alternatives when they were faced with a lack of shelters in the city. He said the province’s options were limited as hotels in Regina willing to take on clients, particularly those on income assistance, were declining over time. “Then the amount paid, if there’s a similar amount of clients, would result in higher expenditures per hotel,” he said. In a statement to CBC News, Conway said the spending is a scandal the Sask. Party has tried to hide and cover up for months.”It’s there in black and white. This looks to be a clear example of corruption,” she said.Change in policySunrise Motel was under the spotlight after the Opposition NDP alleged in November that the business was renting rooms at inflated costs to social services clients.Since then, the government has changed the process for how it acquires hotel rooms.First, it would disqualify hotels owned by MLAs.Second, it would require specific hotels in Saskatoon and Regina to enter into a formal contract with the government to accommodate clients, along with the concept of paying damage deposits.It is also implementing a policy that would require officials to obtain quotes from three hotels.Makowsky said it would be a one-year pilot.

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