Opposition suggests government spent $1.3M on one marketing agency

The P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party is questioning what it says was $1.3 million in government spending over a seven-year period, all with the same marketing firm.

In response to a series of written questions tabled in the provincial legislature, the PCs calculated government spent $1,309,605.88 at Results Marketing between 2009 and 2016. According to responses to those questions by various government departments, most of that money was spent without issuing a tender to secure competitive bids.

In question period on Friday, Opposition MLA Colin LaVie told the house this is the same marketing agency where the Liberal Party of P.E.I. spent $800,000 as part of the 2015 election.

Elections documents show the party spent $797,023 on advertising during that campaign. When asked by CBC, the P.E.I. Liberal Party confirmed the money was spent through its "agency of record," but did not clarify which agency that was.

Why 'feed' taxpayer dollars to firm? asks Opposition

"Why did you have to feed them another $1.3 million of taxpayers' money?" LaVie asked the premier.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan seemed momentarily confused, thinking LaVie was asking about spending by the Liberal party.

"Don't put the blame on your party," LaVie clarified. "It's your government that spent it. One point three million dollars could give a lot of hurting Islanders a warm bed and a roof over their heads."

But the premier continued to reference the party.

"If the honourable member would like to know more about this, I'd recommend that he write to the executive director or the president of the Liberal Party of P.E.I., and you never know if you get some of the information that you're looking for on that, you might even learn a few things that could be helpful to the Conservative Party of P.E.I."

Only $220K spent by us, says current administration

Government later issued a clarification, to say only $220,000 has been spent by government with Results Marketing since the current administration came to power in 2015.

Among the expenditures revealed by the PCs through their written questions to government:

- $97,104.73 in fiscal year 2012-13 for communications related to the launch of HST on P.E.I. (untendered).

- $60,000 for consulting and strategic advice, plus an additional $36,387.77 for advertising and brochures in 2015-16 regarding provincial drug plans and wellness programs (untendered).

- $6,475 in 2011-12 for the design of Provincial Budget Address in 2011. The Opposition insisted this was just for the design of the cover page. Finance Minister Allen Roach said it was "not just for one cover on one book" (untendered).

"Government is moving forward the priorities of Islanders and it's important to inform the public of this work and how they can access programs, services and information. The majority of this work is done internally within government," said a statement issued by the premier's office on Monday.

"If work is done externally, the province and/or funding partners work with a variety of companies with an expertise in marketing and communications, whether it's through initiatives such as Burger Love or the Shellfish Festival, or informing Islanders of important programs in healthcare, or advising them of safety information through transportation," it continued.

"Approximately 80-90 per cent of the funding provided to marketing companies flows directly to local print companies, broadcast production firms and media outlets to cover the cost of running marketing campaigns to inform Islanders."

Company responds

Results Marketing is only one of many marketing and professional services companies that does work for the province, responded company spokesperson Heather Howatt via email, echoing that much of the money does not stay in the marketing firm's pockets, but is rather paid out to other companies.

"The overwhelming majority of costs related to marketing and communication campaigns are disbursements that reflect the direct cost of advertising in local media outlets, including print, online, radio and television," said Howatt, adding Results employs a staff of five people. 

Results was also the P.E.I. Liberal Party's agency of record for the last election, Howatt said. "I believe the numbers you are inquiring about are publicly available, if not please contact the Liberal Party for further information," she said.  

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