The firm, run by former campaign manager Danielle Smith, was awarded a $72,000 provincial contract
The Alberta government last November awarded a three-month one-stop deal worth $72,500 to a marketing agency co-owned by Prime Minister Danielle Smith’s former executive campaigns manager and executive producer, government filings show.
The contract, which ran from November 1, 2022 to January 31, was awarded to Edmonton-based Nordic Media to provide strategic planning and asset development for digital media.
Nordic Media executive producer is Matthew Altheim, who was Smith’s campaign manager when she sought leadership of the United Conservative Party. On their website he is described as a co-owner of Nordic Media.
One-stop contracts involving services purchased by Alberta government entities without bidding are permitted in certain circumstances.
CBC News previously reported on the deal and that Altheim’s company was hired to design social media memes for blacksmithbut the dollar figure and the criteria behind the contract were not known until the latest disclosure was posted online.
Contracts require certain criteria
These exclusive supply agreements include those that can only be performed by suppliers with certain qualifications or where the procurement process may reveal confidential information.
The government must disclose each specific situation in its disclosure tables.
In Nordic Media’s case, the situation referred to was ‘when there is an unforeseeable urgency and the services or the goods or services related to construction could not be procured through open tender procedures’.
CBC News asked for more details on why Nordic Media was selected based on these criteria and what urgent or unforeseen situation had arisen.
“Nordic Media was engaged by us in response to the need for specialized digital media services, including the development of creative digital assets, strategy and data analysis on an accelerated basis,” wrote David Sands, the government’s communications director for Communications and Public Engagement Department, in a statement .
“A contract has been secured with a reputable provider to provide these specialized services on a temporary basis under Alberta Government procurement rules for expedited, low-cost contracts.”
Sands said an open call for proposals for a permanent vendor is currently under review and will be released in March.
A video posted by Nordic Media this month was an advertisement focused on affordable Alberta government payments. Sands didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question as to whether or not it was part of the contract.
According to the company’s LinkedIn, Nordic Media has between two and ten employees. It was founded in 2009.
CBC News reached out to Altheim for additional comment, but requests were not immediately answered Thursday.
The government’s sole contracts database is updated quarterly. Information on contracts for services of $10,000 or more is listed.
Also recently listed in the database is a four-month, $74,000 contract awarded to National Public Relations, a public relations firm, for strategic communications planning.
Blaise Boehmer, former communications director to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, is National Public Relations Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Western Canada.
This contract was listed on the grounds that an open bidding process “would reasonably compromise government confidentiality, cause economic disruption, or be contrary to the public interest.”
Smith has been critical of governments using single-source contracts in the past. In a 2014 Calgary Herald article, she was quoted as criticizing the progressive Conservative government for awarding contracts during the 2013 floods.
“We know what happens when you come from a single source. Taxpayers get ripped off. There’s just no way for you to have the competitive pressures that keep prices down when you only have one supplier,” she was quoted as saying during her time as Wildrose Leader.