Letter to the Editor: Things Get Heated Between Two Tourism Companies


Editor's Note:

What follows is a letter that was sent to us by Candis Kirkpatrick-Miller, former Moose Jaw City Councillor and former Executive Director of Tourism Moose Jaw. The letter was written in response to an Editorial published in the May 23rd, 2018 issue of the Moose Jaw Express. We recommend reading the original editorial to understand the full context of Mrs. Kirkpatrick-Millers letter.

The original can be found here: https://www.moosejawexpress.com/

Publishing this letter put us in a quandary, as it is a policy of ours that we do not criticize other media in Moose Jaw, we began covering news because we felt there wasn't enough news coverage in the city, so, to begin taking pot shots at other local news outlets is to attack something we deem as valuable and necessary in the community.

To ensure fairness, MJ Independent contacted Joan Ritchie, she is the Editor at Moose Jaw Express, as well as the person who penned the original editorial.
We gave her and the people at the Express the opportunity to respond and present their side of the story, as well.

We have limited resources at MJ Independent and are sometimes unable to cover events which we feel deserve coverage. Many of those events get covered by the Moose Jaw Express; they do a fine job and we encourage our readers to keep up-to-date by reading all Moose Jaw news outlets.

All we really know for sure about all of this is that there are two tourist booths, two tourist information guides and two Downtown street markets, each charging their vendors a different price.

Plus, there is a new museum in the basement of the former Moose Jaw Times Herald building, which is truly great to see. It’s on our growing queue of things to go and write about; perhaps the curator(s) can drop us a story and photos all about it. With the demise of the Times Herald, it’s great to see some of that history on display.

With that said, we chose to publish the letter as we believe in the freedom of speech and feel this is a case in which opposing sides deserve to be heard. We agree that Mrs. Kirkpatrick-Miller should have the opportunity to voice her opinion and we also support the editorialists right to voice or not to voice hers. We also fully support her right to pen the original editorial, as well. As an organization, We have no opinion regarding who is right or who is wrong; we are neutral in all of this. We are only providing the forum for open discussion and debate.

Beneath Mrs. Kirkpatrick-Miller's letter is a response from Robert Ritchie, the Publisher at Moose Jaw Express

This letter came unsolicited:

"I am appalled by the Joan Ritchie editorial in the May 23, 2018 issue of Moose Jaw Express."

Candis Kirkpatrick-Miller
North Battleford, Saskatchewan

While her first paragraph is ambiguous though ‘titillating’, it soon becomes apparent who she is talking about. Or should I say, running down. 

She begins by questioning the placement of the Tourism Information Ambassador Booth on the corner of Main and River, which she refers to as a shed.  This particular spot has been the home of the Tourism Moose Jaw Information Booth, for the last seven years, and this is the first time anyone has taken exception to its placement.  Her main goal may have been to draw unwelcome attention to Tourism Moose Jaw but, in the process, she has diminished the role that Home Building Centre played when they generously donated this booth, as well as one at the Tourism Visitor Centre.

Her second-hand reporting of the presentation made by the director of Tourism Moose Jaw (correct title, Executive Director), stretches the limits in its attempt to be a put down. Failing to find fault with the achievements of the organization over the last year, she jokes about the membership increase and childishly comments, “Woo Hoo!!”.  Having sat through countless annual reports, I cannot think of any that did not highlight their successes and that is as it should be.

She then sanctimoniously points out that Mayor Tolmie, “stroked the director’s ego and commended her on a job well done” and that he did so only because he is a "total politician".

I assume that her allusions to what she has “heard” are backed by fact and that the other party in this slanderous allegation has been approached for comment.  If not, this is nothing more believable than hateful graffiti or anonymous phone calls.  Ah, but this is her segue, though a poor one, to the topic of the Sidewalk Days Festival and the fact that it will run under the Tourism Moose Jaw banner, with the hopes of making a profit for the organization(s). 

She manages, at this point, to insult the volunteers who have run the Festival since the City let it go, turning it into a hugely successful Summer event, by stating that "in the past it was basically a wash".

Tell that to the thousands of visitors who have filled Moose Jaw’s Main Street since this small group of dedicated volunteers took over. 

It is ironic that as it grows, opiniated, non-involved individuals feel that they have the right to criticize and demand changes.

As for Tourism Moose Jaw making money?  Well, here’s the rub.  Not-For-Profit does not mean that an organization cannot make money, only that all of the money earned by or donated to a Not-For-Profit organization is used in pursuing the organization’s objectives and keeping it running.  To not pursue money making opportunities is to remain stagnant.  Growth would be impossible.  To pursue them successfully and put the profit into more programs and marketing the City is a win-win for all involved. 

 The suggestion that the subsidy (correctly - Fee For Service) received from the City and the sale value of the Tourism Visitor Centre could better be used for some of the infrastructure upgrades is ignorant and narrow-minded.  This is not a new suggestion to me.

 In a November 16, 2004 article in the New York Times, (Capone May Have Slept Here, Too, Canadian Town Says) Councillor Swanson was asked for comment.  His response?  “I call tourism the snake oil of the new millennium”.  In various forms over the years I have heard those words, both as the previous Executive Director for Tourism Moose Jaw and a former Moose Jaw City Councillor. It matters not to him (and apparently neither to Joan Ritchie) that Moose Jaw has the distinction of having one of the most unique Tourism Centre’s in Canada, which incidentally, is open year round, and that it is not by chance that the City is regularly and very positively featured in numerous publications and by media outlets, making it a go to place to visit.  Take that away and you will rather quickly see a return to the late 1980s. 

In attempting to make her points about the Tourism Booth, Sidewalk Days, rumoured allegations and finally her suggested solution to the City’s budget shortfall, what came through for me is a malicious and petty attack on a perceived rival to Moose Jaw Express’ foray into tourism and an even more blatant attack on Jacki L’Heureux-Mason and Mayor Tolmie.  Neither deserve it.

Lastly, in the spirit of inviting businesses to call Ms. Ritchie and/or the Mayor, I too invite you to do the same.  My invitation is a bit different though.  Call if you are a business who owes some of your success to the efforts, on your behalf, of Tourism Moose Jaw, whether you are a member or not.  Call if you have heard complete strangers extol the virtues of Moose Jaw.  Call if you have sold more meals, clothes, specialty items, rooms and event tickets.  Yes.  Call for the right reasons.  That is what makes Moose Jaw great. 


The Response from Moose Jaw Express:

In regard to the letter submitted by Candis Kirkpatrick-Miller:

Thank you for the email of the letter that you received from former resident Candis Kirkpartick-Miller, which was never received at the Moose Jaw Express Office.
In my opinion, the letter is ludicrous in nature and one must consider the source.
The Moose Jaw Express has supported volunteers, downtown Moose Jaw and Tourism relentlessly since our start in 2008.
If people are so shallow to think that we, the Moose Jaw Express cast the first stone, then please drop by the Moose Jaw Express office and talk to the publisher Rob Ritchie or Bob Calvert who would be more than happy to provide a more true and accurate side of the story.
Robert Ritchie, Publisher