04/16/2015 17:04 EDT | Updated 06/16/2015 01:12 EDT

Tories question $140,000 training weekend for Nova Scotia Liquor managers

HALIFAX - A $140,000 weekend training session for senior managers at Nova Scotia Liquor is being panned by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives as an indefensible expense in a time of fiscal restraint.The Tories obtained details of the training seminar through an access-to-information request, which said it will be held at the Inverary Inn in Baddeck next month and include about 200 employees from across the province.Finance critic Tim Houston told the legislature Thursday that the expense is an unjustifiable use of taxpayers' dollars after the government announced program cuts and layoffs in last week's budget.Houston said while he understands the value of getting employees together, he thinks there may be a cheaper way to train employees of the Crown corporation than to book a weekend at the Cape Breton resort.He said the move runs contrary to Premier Stephen McNeil's austerity message."You can certainly do that for a lot less than $140,000, especially in the financial times that the premier is talking about," Houston said.Finance Minister Diana Whalen said she doesn't know the details of the event but she will look into it.But she touted Nova Scotia Liquor's value to the province's coffers."They return a healthy amount of money to our bottom line and it has been stable or growing even in difficult times," Whalen said.Nova Scotia Liquor spokesman Mike Maloney confirmed the cost and said the agency shopped around before choosing the site. He said they got a discount because the resort is normally closed in early May."We are going out to these places that normally wouldn't have the business so they are able to cut us a very good deal," said Maloney.Maloney said the upcoming gathering over two nights and three days is necessary to roll out the corporation's five-year plan to management.