Nova Scotia

N.S. crown agency spent $56K at Olympics: Docs

A Nova Scotia Crown agency paid for $724-per-night hotel rooms and $775 hockey tickets for business executives during the Olympics in Vancouver last year.

A Nova Scotia Crown agency spent $56,959 during a trip for two employees and four business guests to the Vancouver Olympics, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

That includes Olympic tickets, hotel and some entertainment expenses for all guests invited by the agency.

It paid for $724-per-night hotel rooms and $775 hockey tickets for business executives during the Olympics in Vancouver last year.

Stephen Lund, the chief executive of Nova Scotia Business Inc., and one of his staff members, took four prospects to the gold medal hockey game and put them up in three hotels, according to documents obtained under access to information legislation.

Three executives received $775 tickets to the game made famous by Sidney Crosby's winning goal, and they also received tickets to the closing ceremonies at the same price.

The other invited guest received a $550 seat to the game and a closing ceremony ticket worth $500.

The hotel stays ranged from a high of $1,449 for two nights for one guest, to a low of $800 for a two-night stay for another guest.

The agency declined to release the names of the guests, citing privacy concerns.

Lund said the trip had merit based on the hope of developing "a long-term play," but added that he wasn't certain whether jobs or investments resulted from the Olympic trip.

"I'm not going to be specific but ... if you look at all the companies that we were with out there, there has been business done in Nova Scotia," Lund said. "But I don't know if it's directly a result of our efforts there."

Trips worth it?

Donald Savoie, who wrote a report last year on economic development in Nova Scotia, said it's difficult to categorically say whether such trips are worthwhile.

"I don't think there's a clear, one-sentence answer saying, 'It's good' or 'It's bad,"' said Savoie, a professor of public administration at the University of Moncton.

But he added that he would have hoped to see evidence by now of job creation from the trip.

"It's one thing to establish contacts ... But that's not the criteria. Did you come back with jobs?" he said. "The Vancouver Olympics were some time ago. It's got to be more than leads now."

Sarah Levy, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Business Inc., said via email that the trip has drummed up interest in the province from a large business.

Lund said the Nova Scotia initiative was worth the money because it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make contacts with key corporate decision-makers.

He also said that sometimes meal and alcohol expenses are necessary in his efforts to promote the province, and the purchases are often a matter of personal judgment.

He spent $1,171 on entertainment between Feb. 14 and 18, and between Feb. 27 and March 1.

"We're pretty prudent with what we do," he said."It's a judgment call when we're with clients."

Altogether, $13,620 was spent for tickets to Olympic games and ceremonies that included guests and staff.

Robert Orr, the chief executive of Ocean Nutrition, a Halifax firm that supplies Omega-3 fish oil ingredients to manufacturers of dietary supplements, said he was one of those clients.

Nova Scotia paid for his $2,174 three-night stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel and an $80 ticket to an Olympic preliminary round hockey game.

"I have no idea what the room accommodations were," Orr said. "I was invited to attend a business leaders' summit attached to the Olympics."

He said he paid his own airfare and food costs.

"We didn't do any transactions. It wasn't a trade mission as much as a business leaders' summit."

Saddled with an anticipated deficit of $390 million this fiscal year, the Nova Scotia government has sought ways to cut spending.

Lund said seeking ways to grow the province's economy through trade and investment trips such as the one to the Olympics will help lift Nova Scotia out of the red.

"I do what I think is right to generate opportunities for the province."