The office running the government's pro-harmonized sales tax campaign secretly awarded around $46,000 of work to a company owned by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon's deputy leadership campaign manager, Public Eye has exclusively learned. It's the fourth such deal doled out by the office to an individual or company with Liberal connections. But, in an email, finance ministry communications director Matt Gordon said that contract was instead given to Kareem Allam's company because of his "extensive experience working with ethnic media and community leaders."
Mr. Gordon said Allam Public Relations was hired by the office several months ago to "assist and provide advice" on helping those communities understand the impact of the harmonized sales tax as well as seek suggestions on how it can be improved.
The communications director also said Mr. Allam was more than qualified to do that job, having "worked with large corporate clients, regulated utilities and financial service providers as well as prominent non-profit organizations."
Like the other contracts, Mr. Allam's was directly awarded because the government believed the usual competitive process would have disclosed "confidential" information, as well as taken too much time.
Those other contracts included more than $250,000 of deals that saw Backbone Technology Inc. develop a HST Website, Campaign Research Inc. conduct telephone town-hall meetings on the tax and Marc Andrew provide "political analysis" to the head of the harmonized sales tax information office.
Backbone Technology also created the Liberal's website, while Campaign Research worked on cabinet minister George Abbott's unsuccessful leadership campaign. As for Mr. Andrew, he was formerly a senior political aide to the finance minister who brought in the tax, Colin Hansen.
Upon hearing of Allam's contract, New Democrat house leader John Horgan said it appears "the HST office is not informational in any sense of the word but is, in fact, a haven of Liberal hacks."
Mr. Horgan also said the excuses the "Liberal communications wizards" have given for awarding that work without going through a competitive process demonstrates the government has a "tin ear."
"They don't understand the public," he said. "They don't understand transparency. They don't understand the expectations citizens have of their government."
On Friday, the government disclosed Alex McMillan, who once worked as an aide to Hansen, has also been working for the harmonized sales tax office.
Mr. McMillan had been seconded to do that work from his present position as external relations director for the ministry of jobs, tourism and innovation.