Posted on Jun 4, 2020
KENNEY FUNNELED NEARLY $570,000 OF ALBERTA TAXPAYERS’ MONEY TO HIS PARTISAN CRONIES’ COMPANIES IN 2019
EDMONTON -- At the same time as taking federal wage subsidy money for the United Conservative Party that was meant to support struggling Alberta businesses, Jason Kenney has also funneled $567,860 of Alberta taxpayers’ money into the pockets of his partisan cronies.
Yorkville Strategies is the UCP’s polling company, and presented their polling data at the most recent UCP convention. Yorkville’s president, Dimitri Pantazopoulos, was Kenney’s “senior strategic advisor” during the 2019 provincial election campaign.1 In the year following the election, Yorkville was handed $481,560 worth of taxpayers’ money through no-bid contracts, according to recently released government sole-source contract disclosures.2 The Kenney government has given documents to the media prepared by Yorkville that claim up to 90 per cent support for Kenney’s policies.3
Vek Labs is a video production company that produced campaign videos for the UCP, including an intimate mini-documentary of Jason Kenney visiting his childhood home of Wilcox, Saskatchewan.4 Since the election, Vek Labs has gotten $73,500 worth of public money through no-bid contracts to make flattering videos of the premier.
In November, a government spokesman all but admitted a corrupt procurement process for the Vek videography contracts, telling media “We needed somebody who the premier’s office was comfortable with and so we asked them, which is how we came up with that supplier.”5
Enterprise Canada was handed $12,800 in no-bid contracts to provide “media training for the Premier's Communications Staff and Minister's Office Press Secretaries.” Enterprise Canada’s Western Canada vice-president is Erika Barootes, who was president of the United Conservative Party through the 2019 election campaign.6
Neither Yorkville Strategies, Vek Labs, or Enterprise Canada had won any government contracts before the 2019 election. The Kenney government gave itself permission to skip an open tender of the Enterprise Canada and Vek Labs contracts under Clause G of Alberta’s sole-source policy: “where it can be demonstrated that only one supplier is able to meet the requirements of a procurement.” The Yorkville contract was justified under Clause H: “where an unforeseeable situation of urgency exists and the services, or the goods or services in respect of Construction, could not be obtained by means of open procurement procedures” despite the fact the government already entered into several other contracts with a non-partisan research firm, Leger Marketing.
“All Alberta companies should have a right to bid for government contracts,” said Heather Sweet, NDP Opposition Critic for Democracy and Ethics. “Alberta taxpayers have a right to expect these companies to compete on price and value, and for public servants to select them based on the strength of their bid, not their coziness with the premier. Jason Kenney is the most corrupt premier in Alberta history, and now he’s letting his partisan cronies skip the bidding and help themselves to taxpayers’ money.
“Jason Kenney shamefully diverted pandemic relief funding from taxpayers to subsidize his political party,” Sweet said. “Now we see he’s also funneling Alberta taxpayers’ money to his partisan cronies’ companies. While Albertans are losing their jobs and businesses in massive numbers, Jason Kenney’s partisan cronies are laughing all the way to the bank with Alberta taxpayers’ money.”