The provincial Ministry of Social Services has been under fire in recent weeks over expenses paid out for emergency hotel stays in Regina. The concerns were raised by the opposition NDP after they learned the rate charged by the Sunrise Motel, owned by Saskatchewan Party MLA Gary Grewal, was higher than the standard rate they charge. It was then learned the amount spent for emergency stays at the Sunrise, and the Thirftlodge, another hotel Grewal is an investor in, increased by nearly $730,000 since he was elected in 2020.  

Jeff Redekop is the executive director of Income Assistance Service Delivery with the Ministry of Social Services. He spoke to the media and explained they have been working to ensure people in need of emergency shelter, be it a stay at a shelter or in a hotel, are taken care of.  

He was asked how the Thriftlodge and Sunrise were selected for use after 2020 when they hadn’t been in use before that.  

“Our staff and ministry, their priority is looking after clients to make sure that people are safe and secure, and have a place to stay, so they would look to refer to an individual, they might look to speaking with the individual to stay with a friend if they’ve got an option, or to a hotel,” Redekop said. “It was a matter of which hotels were available which would accept a client from our ministry.” 

The process, however, has changed in recent weeks, he elaborated.  

“We’ve implemented a new procedure where we seek three quotes from hotels in communities, including Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw, and we look for the lowest quote,” Redekop continued. “When someone comes in to require a stay, our staff will go down the list and select the lowest quote and then move to the next one, and move to the next one, and the bottom line is always making sure that people are served and safe.” 

When asked about the ownership of the hotels, and the costs associated with the stays at various hotels, Redekop said the ministry doesn’t keep a list of who owns what hotels.  

“Frontline staff are looking for what options are available for clients who are in need,” Redekop stated. “The ministry has generally no knowledge of who owns the hotel, and has never been instructed by the government to use a certain hotel.” 

When pressed about the use of Thriftlodge and Sunrise before 2020, Redekop reiterated it was a matter of the availability of rooms at motels that would accept a client from Social Services. 

“I don’t know at a concrete level what was available back at that time. I know the process certainly was to make sure the clients were served.” 

The Ministry of Social Services is also looking at changing the process slightly for Regina and Saskatoon as well. A request for proposal is being launched to secure a block of five rooms in Saskatoon, and five more in Regina, as a demonstration to find out more about the process, and what the rates would be.