Editorial — June 10, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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A report released to Prince Albert city council on Monday evening should put the Diefenbaker Trust controversy to bed once and for all.

But you know it won’t.

Let’s give this one more try.

A bequest was made to the city by John and Olive Diefenbaker after his death in 1979. There were no stipulations for the $217,000.

It was mistakenly rolled into city coffers at the time but was later re-established as a separate fund.

By 1996, the fund had grown to $750,000 and the city handed it, plus interest, over to the Prince Albert Arts Board for use in a cultural project. The only rule was that the principal of the endowment could not be touched.

At the time, council didn’t specify if that meant the original endowment total of $217,000 or the November 1996 balance of $750,000.

As the newly formed Arts Board pushed forward with the idea of building what came to be known as the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, the city held on to the money for another seven years.

By the time the Arts Board was ready to tap into the fund in 2003, they had raised more than $10 million.

The city kicked in money and it was agreed that it would own the building.

As the agreement was drawn up, a significant decision was reached that impacted the Diefenbaker Fund. There were no direct stipulations limiting the use of the money or specifying that only the interest could be spent.

The only request was that the money be used in perpetuity to support the Centre’s operations.

The Arts Board was then given the responsibility of doling out the money.

A legal opinion in 1996 once again determined that there were no specific uses for the money in John Diefenbaker’s will. His executors agreed.

By 2003, the fund was worth $1.25 million, including a $250,000 donation by the Kinsmen Club.

Like many of us, the portfolio’s investments were hit hard in 2008. That in turn affected both the balance of the fund and what was available to the Centre.

With the facility in the hole, drawdowns had to be made from the fund. The city approved each of them.

A lengthy series of emails from 2009-11 explaining the circumstances are included in the report.

The fund now sits around $460,000, more than double the original balance but less than half of its high-water mark.

The city has increased its grant to cover operating expenses and the Fund has been invested in an attempt to increase it.

The solicitor’s report in one spot says “The fund has been used exclusively for the operations of the Centre, and has been consistently used for its intended purpose.”

It later adds “The use of the Fund has been transparently reviewed and publicly reported.”

The Arts Board did what was asked of it all along. It’s too bad that money was lost in the market but that happened to nearly everyone.

Money remains in the fund and hopefully it will gradually increase.

The city can’t be any more transparent on this issue than it has been in this exhaustive report.

There will no doubt be Prince Albert skeptics who will continue to ask for the Diefenbaker Trust fund equivalent of Obama’s birth certificate, even though it was offered up in detail with this report.

Anyone who has read this report and is still finding wrongdoing has to question their personal motivation.

Here’s what we know for sure.

1. There is money in the account.

2. Every penny has been accounted for and every withdrawal explained.

3. Prince Albert has one of the most beautiful concert halls in Western Canada.


Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: Prince Albert Arts Board, E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Diefenbaker Trust Prince Albert Diefenbaker Fund Kinsmen Club Daily Herald

Geographic location: Western Canada

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Recent comments

  • Concerned Taxpayer
    June 10, 2014 - 23:58

    "The fund has been used exclusively for the operations of the Centre, and has been consistently used for its intended purpose.” So my question is, why did the fund need to be used? Was the Centre not making as much money as it was supposed to? Was there an increase in the quality of musical or performing acts that solicited drawdowns? Why was (is?) the centre in the hole?