Question re: Tourism marketing funding - May 9, 2016

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier this spring, the Premier went downtown to buy a brand-new pair of shoes for budget day and sent an e-mail to all Government of Yukon employees reminding them to buy local. If only the government practised what it preaches when it comes to local purchasing and contracting. The two largest contracts underway in Yukon this year, for example, were both awarded to Outside companies. At the same time as the Premier was trying on his new shoes, the government was busy awarding a multi-million dollar contract for tourism marketing to a company from Vancouver. There has, of course, been no e‑mail to the government employees announcing this decision. There wasn’t even a news release.

Mr. Speaker, what is the value of the contract this government awarded to Cossette Communications, a Vancouver agency for tourism marketing?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First off, I would like to take the opportunity to thank our outgoing agency of record — Outside the Cube — for the exceptional service and the value the company brought to the territory in delivering a number of innovative and award-winning tourism campaigns on our territory’s behalf.

The use of an agency to implement tourism campaigns on behalf of destination marketing organizations is standard practice across the country. It’s a practice that has been in place here in the Yukon since the early 1990s. The department recently completed a public request for proposals for a new agency. In total, nine proposals were received. All were led by non-Yukon-based agencies. Two of the proposals, however, did include Yukon-based companies as partners.

Mr. Speaker, following the open tender process, which included the use of an independent fairness monitor, and an evaluation committee comprised of industry representation here in the Yukon, the contract was awarded to Cossette Inc., a Canadian marketing and communications company. I know that at this time an open house is currently being organized for later on this week to introduce the company to all of our respective industry players here in the Yukon.

Mr. Silver: There were several bids for this project that included Yukon companies. It is my understanding that the winning bid wasn’t one of those. Instead, the department is left to hold a meet-and-greet, as the minister talked about in her response this week, where local companies can — and I quote: “Meet members of our new marketing Agency of Record, Cossette Inc., as they begin to familiarize themselves with Yukon’s service suppliers...”

Mr. Speaker, this is becoming a familiar process to Yukon companies: go to a hotel and meet the company from Outside, who might or might not hire you, after the biggest piece of the pie has already been awarded.

Can the minister explain how a company that apparently had no local content won this bid?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: It’s unfortunate that the member opposite won’t actually just get off the script and actually listen to the answers provided.

Mr. Speaker, as I articulated earlier here in my initial response, there was a request for proposals. It was an open tender, we had nine proposals that were received, all of which were led by non-Yukon-based companies. There was an open tender process. It included the use of an independent fairness monitor and an evaluation — a committee which is comprised of industry representation — put forward by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon. Following all of that, the contract was indeed awarded to Cossette Inc.

In addition to that, we recognize the very importance of engaging with local business outside of the agency of record. We are certainly committed to doing just that, whether it’s with respect to building websites, producing and issuing our vacation planner, as we currently have with event management, and the list goes on.

This is but one contract within some $30-million-plus record-level budget for Tourism and Culture, of which we’re very much committed to working with local industry.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, it’s interesting that the minister criticized me for not going off of my script and then she stays on hers to answer the exact same way in the second response.

Let’s go to the script that they used for 2011 for their campaign. Here’s one: “Promote government contract regulations, policies and procedures that are fair and consistent for the local business community.”

Here’s another from their script, or their 2011 campaign: “Where feasible and economical, scale government contracts to encourage bids from Yukon contractors.”

This contract would have been an ideal candidate, Mr. Speaker, for such an approach. Instead, the government simply bundled it all together and ended up sending the lion’s share of this contract to Vancouver.

Mr. Speaker, why didn’t the government do what it promised to do in its platform and look into splitting up the work to encourage bids from Yukon contractors?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as I have already articulated again for the record, there was an open tender process that was undertaken — a request for proposals. There were a number of different submissions that were put forward. There were only nine proposals that were received. All were led by non-Yukon-based agencies, following an open tender process that included an independent fairness monitor. It also included an evaluation committee that oversaw the process from beginning to end, which included industry representation. The contract was indeed awarded to Cossette Inc.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to remind the member opposite that, as I referenced before, when we go out to contract for an agency of record, it has been a practice that has been in place here in Yukon since the early 1990s, and since that time, there has been only one successful local lead agency that was awarded and that was to Outside the Cube. Mr. Speaker, Outside the Cube did not put forward an actual proposal at the request of the RFP process.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we are very much committed to engaging with local industry. There are going to be lots of opportunities for local industry to engage with Cossette and there certainly will be many more opportunities in event management, in website building, and the list goes on.