Homeowners in Whitehorse’s new Whistle Bend subdivision deserve a complimentary membership at Mountain View Golf Course. After all, whether they like it or not, they will be the ones who ultimately pay for the Yukon Party’s secretive bail-out of the club a few years ago.
By our rough calculations, the buyer of a $130,000 single-family lot will have paid about $350 towards the golf club deal. This, like much else about this mess, is something that our political leaders would prefer you not to know.
To recap: the debt-ridden golf club received $750,000 from our previous Yukon Party government, under the pretense of a land parcel purchase. The catch? The government actually owned the land it was buying. The golf course had paid just $125 annually to lease the parcel, with the idea of eventually developing it, although it had no immediate plans to do so.
As government memos obtained by the News make clear, this transaction was never really about the land. It was about bailing out the club while keeping the public in the dark. As an official wrote at the time, hushing up the transaction would avoid “a ‘me too’ scenario” and ensure the “political backlash is minimized.”
All this was done by the previous Yukon Party regime. Yet it turns out that our current premier, Darrell Pasloski, sat on the golf course’s board at the time of the transaction. That helps explain why our current cabinet is so determined to bury any piece of information related to the scandal.
Yet this seems to only draw out the misery of those involved, as embarrassing facts keep coming to light. Such is the case with the revelation that the bail-out cost had been dumped on Whistle Bend homeowners.
The government could have provided this information when the scandal broke back in December. Certainly, it was asked for it, both in questions posed by opposition MLAs in the legislature and by the NewsSSRq queries to cabinet communications staff.
What’s more, records show that Brad Cathers, who was community services minister at the time, had been briefed on this very point not long before he was asked about it during question period. So, lest there be any doubt, he knew at the time. He just didn’t want to say.
Cathers also refused to speak to the matter with us this week. But he sent us a statement that maintains the government had always been above-board with the reporting, because during legislative debates he acknowledged that the bail-out had been stuffed away somewhere in the land development budget.
In other words: we answered your question, but in a general way that didn’t actually provide the information you sought, and at a time we hoped you weren’t listening. This is what passes for our government’s idea of transparency.
Similarly, when pressed about whether our current government would have handled the Mountain View bail-out request any differently, Cathers has conceded that our current regime would have issued a news release. The implication is that the bail-out itself was publicly defensible. Yet, if that were true, the government would not have bothered with structuring the deal as a bogus land transaction – the whole purpose of which was to keep the deal secret.
And, if our current leaders are not the least bit squeamish about how the bail-out was brokered, why did they, to their credit, balk at a later deal that the golf course tried to broker? Not long after the bail-out, the golf club asked the territory to pay another $1 million for a new sprinkler system. The club proposed that this payment be done “outside of the traditional annual community and recreation grant system,” like what was done with the bail-out.
The reason for taking this route is clear enough. When the golf course later did apply for a traditional grant, it was denied on the grounds that the course competed with another, privately owned golf course, and the government didn’t want to help one and not the other. Of course, this same objection should equally apply to the course’s earlier bail-out.
The public also continues to remain in the dark about how Mountain View wound up deep in debt in the first place, what actions the course took following the bail-out to ensure it would be financially sustainable, and how the club spent the $250,000 that remained after it had settled its debts. We’ve asked club executives repeatedly for this information. They decline to say.
However, the club’s financial filings show that it continues to bleed money year-over-year, after receiving the government’s cash infusion. These documents also show that the club sank its left-over cash into investments of some kind. (Let’s hope they plopped the money into boring government bonds, rather than mining stocks.)
Of course, Yukon’s ski hill operators and recycling depots are expected to publicly disclose their financial details and
present a persuasive business case before receiving government support, if they indeed receive it. But golfers? Apparently they play by a different set of rules. Why go through the hassle of showing that public funds have been well spent? Clearly, that’s never been part of the deal.
The board’s flagrant sense of entitlement is somewhat galling, given the prominent public roles that some board members play. For the record, the current directors, according to the club’s latest filings, are Tony Hill, Gord Zealand, Larry Kwiat, Ron Gorrell, Mark Wesolowski, Don Coates and Vic Istchenko.
Hill, Mountain View’s president, has indicated that he considers it scurrilous muckraking for these questions to even be asked. If he feels that indignant, maybe he should spend a moment to consider how lot owners in Whistle Bend must feel.