Sunrise Motel Scandal

Back in November, 2023, Meara and the Sask NDP exposed the fact that the Sask Party government was paying the highest rates and the most inflated rates to two hotels connected to Sask Party MLA for Regina Northeast, Gary Grewal. Mr. Grewal owns the Sunrise Motel and is an investor in the Thriftlodge Hotel. It just so happens these two hotels receive the highest nightly rates from the Ministry of Social Services and inflate their rates more than any other hotel when the Ministry foots the bill.

This story broke after a senior was evicted from Sask Housing. She had always paid her rent on time but the Housing Authority took the position she didn’t have enough supports to continue to live in the unit. After Evelyn Harper was evicted from her senior’s housing, she found herself homeless. She took a cab to the Sunrise Motel where she paid out of pocket to stay. Meara and the Sask NDP learned about the events and hosted Ms. Harper at the Legislature, demanding she be re-housed, that her hotel be covered in the meantime, and that she receive supports at home. At this point, the Sask Party government agreed to cover the cost of the hotel until a new unit was located for Ms. Harper. However, once Social Services stepped in to pay the rate, the Ministry paid nearly double the rate Ms. Harper paid at the Sunrise Motel at the inflated rate of $200/night.

This prompted concerns around the Sask Party’s hotel use policy. It took 46 questions asked by Meara in Question Period, several letters, Freedom of Information requests, several press conferences, and 32 incidents where the Minister of Social Services stood up in the Legislature promising transparency before the Sask Party government finally provided more information in February of 2024.

When the information was released, Gene Makowsky, the Minister for Social Services told media no other hotels used by the Ministry to house people (besides the Sunrise Motel) were connected to his government members. However, Meara and the Sask NDP quickly discovered that there was a second hotel connected to Mr. Grewal: the Thriftlodge Hotel, which is listed a source of income for Mr. Grewal in his Conflict of Interest Disclosure. The information provided demonstrates that of the hotels used by the Ministry of Social Services across Saskatchewan, Mr. Grewal derives a financial benefit from the two hotels that receive the highest nightly rates from the Ministry of Social Services, and inflate their rates more than any other hotel. It just so happens Mr. Grewal also shares a constituency office with the Minister of Social Services, Gene Makowsky,

It seems that Mr. Grewal began receiving a lot of business from the Ministry only after he was elected. Mr. Grewal’s Sunrise Motel received $282 in 2018-19 fiscal year. By 2022-23, Mr. Grewal, who was elected in 2020, received $220,474 from the Ministry of Social Services. To date his hotels have received about half a million and counting. The rates being paid out to Mr. Grewal’s hotel really begin to jump in the 2022-23 fiscal years, which is around the same time Minister Makjowsky assumed the role of Minister of Social Services. The two share a constituency office.

Meanwhile the choices of the Sask Party government have led to soaring homelessness rates, which have only gotten worse on the heels of their failed SIS program. Record expenditures on hotels (tripling since Premier Moe took office) demonstrate the cost of the Sask Party’s failed housing policies. The Sunrise Scandal raise concerns that rather than try to fix the housing crisis, Sask Party MLAs are profiting off of it.

Meara has still not received information on how much money has been paid out to the Thriftlodge Hotel going back to 2018. She will continue to seek accountability and transparency from the Sask Party government in her role as Housing and Social Services critic.