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EDITORIAL: Benefits of rejuvenating Mill River complex come with cost

['Anyone who has worked at the Mill River complex will need to re-apply for work with the new owner.']
['Anyone who has worked at the Mill River complex will need to re-apply for work with the new owner.']

Opposition members rose in the P.E.I. legislature a couple of times in the past two weeks to point out what a sweet deal the new owners got for the Mill River Resort and golf course property.

Considering the figures presented, it looks like a very generous offer from our provincial government. Opposition MLA Steven Myers suggested the government gave away the Mill River golf course, the resort and 400 acres of land for free.

Last year Innovation P.E.I. gave Mill River Experience a grant of $500,000 to develop the Mill River resort. This is also the exact amount Don McDougall and his daughter, Anne McDougall-Cooper, paid for the Mill River properties.

The McDougalls paid only $500,000 for the entire property, and since they were the ones who received this Mill River Experience grant of the same amount, it was like getting the resort, golf course, campground and fun park properties for free.

The resort itself is in need of considerable upgrades. However, the golf course seems to be in reasonably good shape and a valuable asset.

Government bought the resort from Rodd Resorts for $1.8 million then essentially gave it away to the McDougalls.

The government will also be financing those necessary renovations and improvements being made to the resort property. The agreement included $6 million, again from taxpayers, for the new owners to carry out capital improvements over the next 12 years. The McDougalls are also required to spend a minimum of $1 million on upgrades.

And if that wasn’t enough to sweeten this deal, another $1.6 million was thrown in to cover operational losses anticipated in the first six years.

A founder of the Toronto Blue Jays, Don McDougall is a well-established and successful businessman. The expertise he will be contributing to this Mill River development is certainly valuable, but is it worth $8.9 million?

Perhaps there were no other potential buyers expressing an interest in the property. If that was the case then not selling the property at all should have been considered.

If government bought the resort, is paying to fix it up and add improvements, and already owned the campground and the Fun Park, why didn’t the provincial government just operate it? At least that way the province might get some return on its investment.

Now any of the proceeds from golf rounds sold or rooms and campsites rented will go to the McDougalls.

In return we get a refurbished Mill River resort, the golf course remains open and the complex continues to employ about 100 people in the community. It will likely bring more visitors to the western part of the province.

These are all good, but they did cost us $8.9 million.

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