Report critical of P.E.I. government golf investment

Atlantic Institute for Market Studies says taxpayers have lost millions of dollars because of the provincial government's investment in the golf industry.

A new report says P.E.I. taxpayers have lost millions of dollars because of the provincial government's investment in the golf industry. 

Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson says the provincial government will continue to promote and market the golf industry on P.E.I. (CBC)

The Atlantic Institute of Market Studies report released today said the investment in golf made in the 1990s did not have the expected economic impact.

Public policy consultant Ian Munro prepared the report for AIMS. He said the provincial government is still deeply in debt 25 years after spending millions of dollars to build and operate golf courses.

"The strategy may have seemed compelling but a combination of bad luck and strategic missteps resulted in a policy failure," said Munro.

The province still owns four courses: Mill River, Brudenell, Dundarave, and Crowbush Cove.

In the report, Munro details how during the golf boom in the 1990s, the P.E.I. government made the decision to make golf development the focus of its tourism and economic development strategies. Private investors became involved and from 1990 to 2003, 20 new golf courses were opened across the province.

There are now 33 golf courses on P.E.I.

"If it was such a great opportunity, why did the government need to step in as an owner-operator?" asked Munro.

The current government says it agrees, for the most part, with the outcomes of the report. Tourism Minister Robert Henderson said he would not speculate on the decisions made by previous administrations.

"The reality is it is a difficult market. The industry has changed somewhat from the 90s to what it is today and it's my role to deal with the situation that is in front of us now to try and grow our golf industry as best we can."

The government is currently trying to find buyers its four courses. That process has been ongoing since 2007.

"It was the role of the government at one time to create an industry. It has done that. Now we think we are probably not the best suited when we are trying to compete with the private sector."

Henderson said the government is working to get the best deal for Island taxpayers.

"Prince Edward Island is still Canada's premier golf destination. We have some wonderful golf courses on Prince Edward Island and its part of our marketing strategy to promote golf and it's still a major attraction."

Henderson said golf remains one of the five pillars of tourism on P.E.I. and the government will continue to invest marketing dollars in it whether it is the owner-operator of the courses or not.

Golf PEI Executive Director Mark McLane says the golf industry on P.E.I. is good shape despite a report stating otherwise. (CBC)

Golf PEI's executive director said the current golf environment is not as bad as indicated in the AIMS report.

Mark McLane said rounds were down by three per cent in the 2014 season but says that was largely due to weather and a late start to the season.

"Our members are saying things are just not that bad from their perspective," said McLane. "Despite what the report portrays, everybody is still in business. The product is still just as strong."


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