The advertising company behind the ubiquitous Ships Start Here campaign says it was doing mostly “preliminary” work on the file about three months before signing the contract.
Halifax-based MT&L billed the province $104,762 for that preliminary work, according to invoices obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. Sarah Young, a principal at MT&L, said the firm was asked to complete the work on a tight timeline without fully knowing how the campaign would develop.
“What we did initially ‘ and this is very typical when we start a project ‘ we’re brought in and we’re briefed, and at the outset you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re undertaking,” she said.
When asked how MT&L bills clients for its work while not under contract, or whether there was any agreement on costs in place with the province, Young said: “If anything, it would have been providing a scoping…. Oftentimes what we’ll do is say this is how much it is to engage and go from there.”
When asked if there was a formal agreement between the government and MT&L before the contract was signed, Young said questions about procurement and timelines should be put to the provincial government.
The CTF says the government broke its own procurement policy by awarding the contract without first seeking approval from the Treasury Board or putting it to tender.
Jennifer Stewart, Premier Darrell Dexter’s press secretary, said Nova Scotia Business Inc. has the power to fast-track contracts under exceptional circumstances.