Nfld. & Labrador

The Rooms 'sorry' for saying critics of N.L. government won't get contracts

The tourism minister was on the defensive in the House of Assembly on Monday.

The corporation 'regrets ... the use of a misleading example'

The Rooms found itself the subject of recent criticism because of information on its website for companies bidding on contracts. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

The Rooms is apologizing after stating it would be "improper" to award contracts to groups critical of the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

"In attempting to explain language used in a recent Request for Proposals, The Rooms regrets and apologizes for the use of a misleading example," reads a statement issued Monday. 

"The Rooms Corporation has been established at 'arm's length' from government and has a significant degree of flexibility and autonomy. Accordingly, the government does not express an opinion, for or against, the exhibitions and programs presented by The Rooms from year to year or otherwise interfere in its programming."

The example in question was provided on a section of its website that provided more details for companies trying to assess whether they qualify for contracts with The Rooms. 

Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore insists a recent contract was awarded in a 'fair, open and transparent process.' (CBC)

"For example: It would be a conflict of interest for The Rooms to work with an [Agency of Record] that represented a lobby group protesting Muskrat Falls, or a group or industry actively and/or openly working in conflict against the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador," read the post on the website. 

PC Leader grills minister

The issue came up in the House of Assembly on Monday, with Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore denying that any group was excluded during a recent search undertaken by The Rooms to secure a marketing or communications firm to do some work.

"Any marketing agency or firm had the opportunity to make a submission. There were multiple submissions and it was evaluated in a fair, open and transparent process in awarding the particular contract," Mitchelmore insisted, in response to multiple questions by PC Leader Paul Davis. 

"They have identified that they used a poor example in the Q and A and that's something The Rooms has since apologized for."

PC leader Paul Davis pressed tourism minister Christopher Mitchelmore several times on the issue in the House on Monday. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

That did little to appease Davis.

"No they certainly haven't apologized for the process that they've used, they only apologized for the example," he said.