Opposition questions sale of mobile kitchen

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The P.E.I. Association of Exhibitions is considering selling its Cuisine Machine mobile kitchen that it purchased for $220,000 with government help in 2006.

The P.E.I. Association of Exhibitions is looking to sell a mobile kitchen it bought with government help and opposition MLA James Aylward wants to know why the province is allowing the sale.

Aywlard raised the issue during Friday's question period and later told The Guardian his concern was that the equipment was purchased with taxpayers' money and was meant to help sell local products across P.E.I.

"I would have thought that there was a condition that it stay within the provincial exhibitions and fairs," Aylward said.

The exhibition association bought the Cuisine Machine in 2006 with financial help from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the provincial government and the not-for-profit FoodTrust.

ACOA contributed $165,000 to the purchase while the exhibition association spent $22,000, various provincial departments added $26,500 and FoodTrust gave $7,000.

In total, the mobile kitchen cost more than $220,000.

A representative from the exhibition association told The Guardian it was considering selling the equipment and confirmed it had been in talks with businessman Kevin Murphy, but would not discuss any further details of the potential sale.

Agriculture Minister George Webster responded during question period by saying the government doesn't own the machine, but his understanding was that the exhibition association was selling it because it was underutilized.

Aylward said it was utilized extensively but will now have a sole operator.

"I really see no reason why it would have been sold off."

The opposition also spent much of question period asking about loans to Murphy Investments and associated companies, including money spent to renovate its brewery in Charlottetown.

Innovation Minister Al Roach said it was a good company that paid its loans and the government made money off the interest.

"Companies like that this government is more than happy to do business with," Roach said.

In speaking with The Guardian, Opposition Leader Steven Myers said it showed there wasn't a level playing field for all Island businesses.

"They're the premier's friends, no question."

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Murphy Investments

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Iceland

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