About a month ago we received one of those ubiquitous "brown envelopes". The anonymous letter claimed that bureaucrats at the government-owned "Northpoint Energy Solutions" were being treated to annual trips to a fly-in fishing lodge in northern Saskatchewan on the taxpayer's dime. We decided that this needed to be investigated and filed a Freedom of Information request. In that request we asked for a breakdown of employee travel costs that includes the purpose, the destination, the dates and the cost for the past five years.
Intrepid CJME reporter Sarah Mills beat us to it and confirmed the allegations of the "brown envelope" (turns out the letter was sent to a lot of people).
Here is her story:
A newscentre exclusive "fish story" landed on the floor of the Legislature Wednesday afternoon.
The newscentre broke the story of how up to $40,000 will be spent to send employees of a wholly-owned subsidiary of SaskPower, and potential customers on an all-expenses-paid northern fishing trip. Northpoint Energy Solutions sells our surplus electricity outside the province.
The SaskParty's Donna Harpauer raised the issue.
"Last month, CJME uncovered two taxpayer-funded retirement parties for about 35 Department of Finance officials," said SaskParty critic Donna Harpauer, during Question Period. "Now, they've discovered that a SaskPower subsidiary has sent about a dozen of its staff on an all-expenses-paid fishing trip in northern Saskatchewan."
Today we received a response to our Freedom of Information (FOI) request. We received it exactly 30 days days from the day we filed our initial request -- the legal time limit under provincial FOI legislation. It was mailed the same day the story was brought up in the legislature buy the Saskatchewan Party.
In that letter Northpoint Energy Solutions inform us that they estimate it will take 50 hours of work to compile this information and are asking for $1,440 to pay for their costs. The kicker is that it doesn't include in-province travel costs. The $40,000 fly-in fishing trip wouldn't have shown up in their response even if I paid the $1,440.
A couple years ago, after the CTF exposed the province's Wide Open Future advertising campaign was around 1000 per cent over budget, the Premier committed his government to being more transparent. Apparently this was nothing more than political spin.
A complaint to the Information Commissioner is imminent.