The UCP have perfected the art of the just under $75,000 sole-source contract

The UCP can’t help themselves. Earlier this week we reported on the appointment of a UCP donor and a pipeline company executive to the board of AIMCo, despite neither of them having any pension governance experience. Then on March 13 the UCP were caught continuing their long-standing practice of handing out sole-source contracts to UCP loyalists and donors. 

NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips caught this one and pointed it out in the estimates process for the ministry of treasury board and finance: the UCP recently gave a sole-source contract for $74,500 to Alberta Right Consulting for Alberta Pension Plan engagement. Alberta Right Consulting is run by Bill Bewick, a former UCP staffer

Sole-source contracts are when the Alberta government just picks a provider for something it needs to buy instead of having an open bidding process, and they’re only permitted under specific circumstances.The government of Alberta has 12 of these exceptions listed online and excuses range from unforeseen circumstances to when there aren’t any other bidders. However in Bewick’s case, the government just doesn’t offer a reason. 

When a contract like this is under $75,000, the contract also doesn’t need to be advertised. It’s a one-step process that can be approved by the minister and no other bids need to be solicited. 

When finance minister Nate Horner was asked about why this contract was sole-sourced he seemed quite familiar with this rule. “It just comes to the value amount. Sole-sourcing under $75,000 is allowed in these situations by trade agreements. That’s about all the information I have,” said Horner. 

“I guess, look at it this way: we don’t have to provide a rationale for under $75,000, and that’s probably why they get categorized that way. But, yeah, I don’t have any more information on that.”

A little digging reveals that it’s not just this one UCP insider who got a sole-sourced contract priced just under the $75,000 limit. David Yager, whose website showcases his long history in conservative politics and who brags about convincing Danielle Smith to get into politics, got a $70,000 contract for a review of the Alberta Energy Regulator. The work on that contract was completed at the end of February. 

Danielle Smith’s former leadership campaign manager, Matthew Altheim, received a $72,500 sole-source contract to make memes. National Public Relations got a $74,000 sole-source contract for strategic communications planning. Blaise Boehmer, the former director of communications for Jason Kenney turned Kenney critic, is the director for corporate communications and public affairs for western Canada for the firm. 

All sole-sourced, all given to UCP insiders and former staffers, and all carefully set just under the $75,000 cutoff. Seeing a bit of a pattern here?

Before becoming Premier, Danielle Smith was pretty opinionated about these sorts of schemes.

"We know what happens when you sole-source. Taxpayers get ripped off. There's just no way for you to have the competitive tension that keeps prices down if you only have one provider," said Smith back in 2014 when she was Wildrose leader

Damn, she really nailed that one. 


This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 500 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.