Buying the people

Buying the people Political patronage is defined in part as, "the appointment of officials inside and outside government, and the use of government financial resources to reward companies or individuals for their electoral support." While I have not rese

Political patronage is defined in part as, “the appointment of officials inside and outside government, and the use of government financial resources to reward companies or individuals for their electoral support.”

While I have not researched other areas, I can assure you that Watson Lake is no stranger to the subject.

Other than through personal experience and observations, I often look to the Yukon government for details about their contracts.

I don’t believe the financial numbers are entirely complete, it does offer a bit of insight to anyone interested in these contracts. Many are unaware that the Yukon government does maintain a website for all its departments.

It can be accessed at:

Here you can see the bid price of contracts and whether they were awarded by public tender, sole-sourced or invitational bid.

I think everyone would be very interested in this information.

For instance, in Watson Lake over the fiscal years from 2005/06 to 09/10, there was a total capital expenditure of $2.2 million for Community Services alone. Only four contracts involved were publicly tendered, the rest were sole-sourced as patronage. Overall, capital expenditures for Highways and Public Works, Community Development and Health and Social Services totaled $183.5 million. More than 75 per cent of this was sole-sourced or awarded by invitational bid.

Needless to say, only one or two local contractors made big money over that period.

The one contract that really stands out was the construction of what became known as the multi-level care facility.

This was the addition to the Watson Lake hospital in 2006, later dubbed by the media as “Fentie’s $5.5-million boondoggle”. It was not tendered as a single contract.

As you will note in the registry, for the most part it was publicly tendered, but was awarded by patronage to a local political supporter and contractor in a series of very small contracts. These were designed to discourage competitive or interfering bidding.

The interior drywall eventually became soaked with rainwater, and the structure remained full of mould until it was torn down last spring to make room for the new hospital addition.

At most, perhaps a couple of hundred thousand dollars in materials were actually salvaged, including the steel frame. The rest went to the local dump and Yukon taxpayers lost about $5 million in the process.

How’s that for patronage?

And, as you will see, there are many more similar contracts.

If you have the time and patience, the registry is straight from the government and it makes for very informative reading.

And I’ll bet you will find it chock full of sole-sourced and invitational contracts right across the territory.

This is patronage at its best, and it’s our government that’s been providing it.

You can bet they want to continue doing this for at least another five years.

Donald E. Taylor

Watson Lake

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