Monday, July 31, 2006

Letter from Western Economic Diversification and follow-up to Hon. Carol Skelton regarding federal centennial funding for Saskatoon - July 31, 2006

July 25, 2006

Dear Mr. Kuchta:

Minister Skelton has referred your recent correspondence to me and has asked that I reply on her behalf. I noted with interest your questions respecting the decision-making process for the Saskatoon projects under the “Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan” program.

The Government of Canada followed an open process to enable interested stakeholders to bring forward potential legacy projects in Saskatoon. This process led to nineteen proposals involving over $50 million in requested capital funding being identified. In accordance with the guidelines established in the “Request for Proposals”, WD officials reviewed each proposal and recommended for Ministerial consideration four projects, which would be lasting legacies of Saskatchewan’s centennial year.

I am pleased to be able to advise that every project was selected in accordance with the criteria published and made available to all applicants.

I thank you for your correspondence.

Yours truly,

Daniel Watson
Assistant Deputy Minister


July 31, 2006

The Honourable Carol Skelton

Minister of National Revenue and
Western Economic Diversification Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Skelton:

I am writing in response to a July 25, 2006, letter I received from Daniel Watson, Assistant Deputy Minister of Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD). My correspondence of June 30, 2006, to you concerning the recently concluded Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan request for proposals (RFP) process in Saskatoon was apparently referred to him for reply on your behalf.

I would like to express my disappointment with the response I received from your department. Mr. Watson did not provide answers to any of the questions or concerns that were raised in my letter such as:

- Why was Saskatoon Prairieland Park Corporation not required to leverage funding from other levels of government for its proposal, when at least three other applicants were required to do so?

- Why did WD officials not communicate to applicants the department’s “in-house rule” that the confirmed funding criteria was 30% and not the 20% stated in the RFP submission guidelines?

- What is the purpose of this “in-house rule” and when was it created?

- Was the 30% “in-house rule” applied only to the Mendel Art Gallery’s application, or was it extended to all 19 proposals? If only applied to the Mendel could you please explain why?

- What other “in-house rules”, if any, did WD apply during the evaluation process that was not communicated to the applicants?

- Why did WD officials not ask the Mendel to provide confirmation letters of confirmed gifts?

- Why did WD officials not communicate to prospective applicants before the RFP deadline that provincial funding would be a strict eligibility requirement? Why did the submission guidelines not state this more clearly?

- Why did WD officials accept a proposal from the City of Saskatoon that included a project it did not own, that being Persephone Theatre?

WD has yet to address concerns over the bias it appears to have shown in favour of River Landing related projects and the department’s refusal to release the points ranking for projects to applicants or the public.

In November 2005 the federal government promised that the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan RFP process in Saskatoon would be fair, open and transparent. In your March 24, 2006, speech announcing the winners of the centennial funding you said the selection process, like your new government, emphasized accountability. However, when approached to provide answers to legitimate questions and concerns about the process the government refused to do so.

Despite several freedom of information requests details of WD’s decision-making process are being kept secret. If such information is to be exempt, one of the major purposes of transparency fails, namely, to provide a means of holding the government decision-making process accountable; this simply cannot be done if there is no public access to the documents that government uses to base its decision. At every turn the federal government has hidden behind the Access to Information Act to deny the public access to critical information.

As a Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar constituent I am deeply disappointed. The very things the federal government says it stands for – fairness, openness, transparency and accountability – were not delivered.

Thank you for your time.


Joe Kuchta
Saskatoon, SK



Saskatoon City Council
Mendel Art Gallery Board of Trustees
Meewasin Valley Authority Board of Directors
Hon. Glen Hagel, MLA, NDP, Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation
June Draude, MLA, Saskatchewan Party, Culture, Youth and Recreation Critic
Catherine Bell, MP, NDP, Western Economic Diversification Canada Critic
Don Bell, MP, Liberal Party of Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada Critic
Jeremy Warren, Planet S
Lori Coolican, The StarPhoenix


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