A city bus drives down Second Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 1. Green Party candidate Lenore Morris and her campaign manager are disappointed the City of Whitehorse is not honouring a verbal contract they claim was made in August for ads on the back of 10 city buses. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

‘It’s infuriating’: Green candidate loses out on bus ads

City of Whitehorse official says there was no contract in place for the bus space

Lenore Morris is expressing outrage by what she says amounts to the City of Whitehorse not honouring a verbal contract for ad space on the back of 10 city buses.

Morris, who is running under the Green Party’s banner to be the next Yukon MP, says her campaign team had been told by city staff in August that space on the back of 10 city buses would be available beginning in October, only to learn after signs were made and delivered to the transit department that the spaces had been sold to another candidate.

“We had an oral contract,” Morris said in an Oct. 1 interview from the campaign trail in Dawson. “It’s infuriating.”

She wants the city to honour that contract. At the very least, she said she wants at least half of the spaces she says her campaign team was promised rather than the two bus ads and some stationary spots around town the Greens ended up signing for after it was learned the bus spots were no longer available.

Morris’ campaign manager Susanne Hingley said it was Aug. 22 when she called Whitehorse Transit about taking out the bus ads.

She was told Conservative ads currently on some of the spaces were coming down Sept. 30 and the spots would become available Oct. 1, Hingley said. Other bus ad space would be available Oct. 6.

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, Hingley claims she asked about the process to book the space and whether she would need a deposit.

She said she was told no, there was no need to worry about a deposit and if anyone else called about renting them, the city would get in touch with Hingley before the spaces were rented out.

There were calls back and forth after that, she said. Hingley said she confirmed on Aug. 26 the campaign team would take the ad space on the back of the 10 buses as well as some bus benches.

“She used the words, ‘they’re yours’,” Hingley recalled the city staffer telling her.

With that, Hingley followed the instructions to order signs, specific to the size available on the back of the buses. They cost $5,500.

It was only after the signs turned up at the city transit building on Sept. 27 that Hingley got a call the space had actually been rented to someone else.

“I’m trying to figure out what went wrong,” she said.

City staff told her they hadn’t received a contract from her, but Hingley insists when she asked about the process to book the ad space she wasn’t informed of any contract that had to be signed.

The situation left the campaign team wondering what to do with the signs that were specifically sized for the back of the buses.

Without other options, the Green Party signed the deal to have two ads placed on buses that did have space available and have signs placed on other city-owned spaces around town like bus benches.

The decision to book the ad space on the back of the buses was strategic, both Hingley and Morris pointed out, adding it represents a significant political investment.

Morris described the bus ads as a good opportunity to “get out and seen right before the election.”

Losing that space could make a significant difference come the Oct. 21 election date, Morris said.

Both Hingley and Morris said they’re hopeful the city will do “the right thing” so they can use the space they were certain was booked for the campaign.

At the very least, they suggested there should be a compromise with half of the spaces allocated to the Green Party.

No one from the city was made available for an interview. In a brief emailed response, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said nothing had been finalized after the Green Party reached out to the city at the end of August. The end of September was the next time the city was contacted, he said.

“They dropped material off without any contract or payment, both of which are required to move forward,” he stated. “They were disappointed to discover that someone else had purchased the ad space they were interested in.”

An “advertising agreement form” is available on the City of Whitehorse website.

Asked about the party’s claim it was told a deposit wasn’t required and not being informed about a contract, Dolphin would only reiterate: “Again, the Green Party approached us at the end of August and inquired about purchasing ad space. They didn’t purchase any ad space at the time. As a result, no contract was in place. A contract is one of the criteria required to purchase ad space. They came back in September and were disappointed the ad space they wanted was no longer available.”

He also said the city had no obligation to inform the Greens others had come forward to purchase the space as there was no contract in place.

On Sept. 30 the Green Party signed a contract for ads to be placed in available spots on the back of two buses and a number of benches around the city, and that has been accommodated “very quickly,” Dolphin added.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com