Hassard defends decision to sole source Total North contract

Economic Development Minister Stacey Hassard says he sole-sourced a $1.3-million contract to Whitehorse-based Total North Communications because the company came up with the idea to upgrade internet speeds.

Economic Development Minister Stacey Hassard says he sole-sourced a $1.3-million contract to Whitehorse-based Total North Communications because the company came up with the idea to upgrade internet speeds in Teslin, Carmacks and Watson Lake.

On July 28, the CBC reported that the Yukon government’s procurement support centre analyzed the contract and recommended that it be put out for competition, but Hassard ignored the recommendation and awarded the contract directly to Total North.

Last week, Hassard told the News that Total North came to the government in January or February with an unsolicited proposal to install local fibre networks in various Yukon communities that would allow for faster internet in public buildings.

In June, the government announced it was moving ahead with a project to provide one gigabit per second internet to schools, hospitals and health centres in Teslin, Carmacks and Watson Lake, in partnership with Northwestel and Total North.

Hassard said he sole-sourced the contract because Total North is a Yukon company providing a service to Yukon people.

“It just made sense. It was a good program for Yukoners,” he said. “When I see an opportunity to improve the life of Yukoners, I’m going to go for it.”

The News has so far not been able to confirm that the idea originally came from Total North. Calls to the company have gone unanswered. Neither Hassard nor the Department of Highways and Public Works, which oversees government contracts, has provided the News with a copy of Total North’s original proposal.

The Yukon government is required to ask the procurement support centre to analyze any contract over $50,000 that it wants to award directly, according to information provided by the cabinet office.

In this case, the centre recommended that the fibre contract be put out for competition, but Hassard chose to award the contract directly to Total North anyway.

“Their job is to recommend that we don’t ever sole-source anything, or try not to sole-source anything,” he said. “I felt that it was a worthwhile project and it was worthwhile overriding the … recommendation.”

Hassard said the Yukon Party talked about providing fast, reliable and affordable internet during the last territorial election in 2011, and this is part of making good on that promise.

The Yukon government estimates the entire project will cost $3.8 million. The contract with Total North is worth $1.3 million, and another $2.5 million will go to Northwestel to expand the reach of its fibre network in Watson Lake and to expand service to Teslin and Carmacks.

According to information from the cabinet office, that $2.5-million contract did not need to be put out for competition because the existing infrastructure already belongs to Northwestel.

Until recently, Hassard’s profile photo on the Yukon Party’s website showed him wearing a Total North cap. That photo has since been changed.

Another photo on the website appears to show him and Highways and Public Works Minister Scott Kent in Total North’s offices.

But Hassard said that was just part of a “routine visit to businesses throughout the territory,” and this particular project was not discussed at that time.

“We try and visit as many businesses as we can and just connect with people and discuss issues of the day,” he said. “And I guess somebody took a picture of us at Total North on that particular day.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

World Cup season just around the corner for Yukon skiers

“I know I still really love to ski race and I feel like I haven’t reached my potential”

Whitehorse’s Nadia Moser named to biathlon World Cup team

“It’s pretty exciting to actually make the World Cup”

Ross River Dena Council appeal set to be heard

Appeal judges are looking at a 2017 Yukon Supreme Court decision on Canada’s duty to negotiate

Yukon NDP questions the cost of the health department’s medical review

$1.5 million appears to be going towards a steering committee and a “Tiger Team”

Yukon government helps fund 10 new affordable housing projects

The projects, supported by the housing initiatives fund, will build 123 new affordable units

EDITORIAL: Attention Whitehorse: shovel your sidewalks

For those who haven’t looked out a window this week, the snow… Continue reading

Youth boxers take home silver and gold medals

Alberta Sub-Novice Tournament, an introduction to competitive boxing, happened last weekend

Respite home offers a break to caregivers

Hillcrest home is a pilot project

Yukoners make a splash to mark the beginning of the swimming season

Nearly 120 swimmers took part in the Ryan Downing Memorial Swim Meet

Commentary: Lack of affordable housing in the Yukon is not about funds, but how we spend them

Why are we not building apartment complexes to serve the lower and lower-middle income bracket?

Driving with Jens: When should you plug your vehicle in?

You can probably still start your car without plugging it in at -25 C or colder, but you shouldn’t.

Yukonomist: Too far up the supply curve

Some copper mines come in and out of production as global demand for the metal surges and ebbs.

Most Read