Council denies grant to SRTA

Sooke Region Tourism Association left without annual fee for service

It was two against four in a vote that saw the Sooke Region Tourism Association (SRTA) lose their fee for service grant of $23,000.

At council on April 22, four councillors voted to deny the grant as conditions of the application were not met.

At issue was the fact that council and the Grant Review Committee felt SRTA had not supplied documentation of where the previous grant monies were spent.

Coun. Maja Tait made the motion to table the item for one month as she was now the council liaison with SRTA.  She stated there was a “serious disconnect in communication.” Councillor and acting mayor Coun. Kevin Pearson supported Tait’s motion. The motion was defeated.

“SRTA needs to understand council is responsible to the taxpayer,” said Pearson.

The new policy and guidelines for Service Agreement grants were developed to ensure full disclosure of where taxpayer funded grants were being spent.

Each of the councillors; Bev Berger, Herb Haldane, Kerrie Reay and Rick Kasper stated they wanted accountability, receipts and transparency.

After the vote, a frustrated and angry Frederique Philip approached the podium and was told she was “out of order.”

“I know I’m out of order, but you are all out of order!” said Philip.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting, directly following the council meeting, SRTA president Jonathan Heerema said  they had provided all the information requested by staff.

“If they don’t have it, staff didn’t request it,” he said.

He said he “hated the thought of tourism in the area and SRTA going down the toilet.”

Heerema said he was the expert on sales, marketing and destination marketing and he was doing it for free.

“I’m as good as you’re going to get. I’m trying as best as I can to promote this town… I’m severely disappointed.”