Mark Browne is wrong.
In his letter to the editor “Osmond funding article dropped the ball on details” — which was published on our website April 9 — the MHA for Placentia-Bellevue West made statements that weren’t factual.
In relation to the story “Taxpayers footing some of the bill for skater’s visit to Marystown” by reporter Colin Farrell, and published April 6, Browne accused the Gazette and Farrell of omitting from the article “many facts I provided.”
Specifically, Browne wrote, “I explained the funding was split three ways, totalling $6,500; the Town of Marystown received $4,000 …. The Ice Crystals Figure Skating Club received $1,500 …. And SkateNL received $1,000 to help support travel costs.”
Well, that’s not exactly true.
Browne did not provide that breakdown of funding in his telephone interview with Colin Farrell. Browne did say he was working with these three organizations — and we reported that — but he did not provide a specific breakdown on how much money each would be getting.
He did not say, and we did not report, that the money was going directly to Kaetlyn Osmond.
He did say, and we reported correctly, the province was spending $6,500 for her visit.
We have the tape from the interview and can say with certainty that every bit of information Browne provided was used in the story.
We quoted Mark Browne directly, and correctly, as saying, “All told the province is providing $6,500 to help support the cost of bringing home our world champion and world champion athlete.”
Browne’s allegation he gave the reporter detailed information that was not reported is false.
For the purpose of this editorial, and to make the record clear, we offer up the verbatim transcript of the interview:
Browne: “We have been leading the coordination of her visit, working with the Town of Marystown, the Ice Crystals Figure Skating Club and Skate NL to help co-ordinate the various visits of next weekend.
Her father approached us back in late December, I believe it was, or early January, and wanted to get some planning started.
“We did work with the town to work up a proposal … and there was also a performance fee associated with her skate at the ice show and then there was, of course, a travel cost. So, all told, the province provided $6,500 to those three groupings to help support the cost of bringing home our world champion and gold medal athlete.”
Reporter: So it’s only the local visit that the province is helping; what about the other clubs that she’s skating at?”
Browne: “We are supporting her trip to her hometown. The other skating clubs are organized independently of our efforts. They are working out their own arrangements. He (her father) asked us to play a role in terms of helping coordinate and lead the planning of her visit back to the province and to her hometown, so that’s where we stepped in.”
At this point Browne’s constituency assistant, Tara Planke — who was in the room while the reporter conducted the telephone interview with Browne — interjected, “We paid for her ticket to get to the province.”
Reporter: Is the plan still to have a number of government officials here to see her skate? Is that going ahead?
Browne: Oh yes, there’s such high interest about Kaetlyn Osmond throughout the entire province, the premier and a number of cabinet ministers and MHAs will be in the area, attending those functions, and just really to celebrate this remarkable achievement by a young girl from Marystown, who started out here and ended up a world champion.”
Reporter: Is there any estimate currently as to what that will cost to have those representatives here — travel and accommodations?
Browne: “Ah, no, a lot of them will be travelling on personal travel and … I have no idea … unless they have official business while they’re in the area they would be travelling on personal costs, as I often travel through the province on personal travel.
“Unless they’re on official business it would be personal travel, and we don’t pay for personal travel.”
“Look, most are just coming … they're coming with their wives or their husbands, some are bringing their children, they just want to experience the thrill of having Kaetlyn in Marystown with their families. So the majority of that, in fact probably all of it, I imagine, would be personal travel for them.”
Reporter: And would that apply to the premier as well?
Browne: “I don’t know, you can certainly ask him when he’s there.”
So, have another read of the story reported by the Southern Gazette.
Then compare it to the transcript of the interview with Mark Browne.
And judge for yourself whether Browne’s letter of complaint was factual.
In addition, nowhere in the story did we report the funding provided by the province was a waste of money. Readers offered up plenty of comment on the story on our Facebook page, giving their honest opinions, which is entirely their right as citizens of a free country.
The story did not, in any way, criticize Kaetlyn Osmond. In fact, she was not the main subject of the story. The Southern Gazette has reported on, and will continue to report on, and celebrate, her achievements.
This story was simply to offer information to the public on the provincial government’s role in special events around her visit.
As for our choice of headline on the story, it was also factual.
Sometimes people fail to forget that money from the province doesn’t come out of the premier’s back pocket.
And politicians will never use the word ‘taxpayers’ when they are announcing funds or presenting cheques.
But we will.
As your community news team we feel it is important for you to know how your money is being spent by your governments.
And we will never be sorry for a headline that reads “Taxpayers footing the bill . . .”
Because it is the truth.