Tourism P.E.I. handed out $60,000 in free golf passes

Tourism P.E.I. was scrutinized in the legislature Wednesday after it was revealed the tourism department handed out about $60,000 worth of free golf passes last year.

In total 593 free passes were handed out to charities for silent auctions and people who promote the Island as a vacation destination.

The biggest portion of those were for charity, a total of 268 passes, worth $21,980 were donated.

Golf writers and travel influencers received 117 passes worth $10,565.

The rest were handed out for special promotions, including groups such as Moosehead Brewery, the P.E.I .Teachers Federation and UPEI.

It is common practice for the department to give out complimentary rounds of golf.

Tourism Minister Robbie Henderson said he brought in a new policy surrounding the passes, when he became minister last year, to boost business to golf courses during the off-season and to courses that are less busy.

"The one change that I've made is we're trying to put a few more checks and balances," Henderson said.

"If we're giving a free round of golf to an association for a fundraising event… we're trying to do it at maybe a golf course that's not quite as busy, and also attach certain times of year to that."

Henderson says the purpose of the complimentary rounds of golf is to promote the sport on P.E.I.

He said, although he didn't have specific numbers, the amount given out last year was actually lower than in previous years.

Tourism Critic James Aylward said he would have liked to know more of the specific details surrounding who the passes were given to.

The issue of the free passes came up during Henderson's defence of his department budget.

Last Friday, Henderson came under fire over irregularities found in an Auditor General's report.

Aylward grilled Henderson over, what he calls, the mismanagement of $8.4 million in untendered tourism contacts.