Sole-sourced $26M contract to a firm, another storm over Ford. Stiles: “He hasn’t learned his lesson yet”

TORONTO – New “trouble” for the premier of Ontario, Doug Ford: a company has obtained a contract from the Province to create a digital tribunal system, with a price that, according to sources in possession of CityNews, has increased by less from 1 million to more than 26 million dollars. 

The contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC, an accounting firm with little history in software development) was signed more than three years ago and involved the development and implementation of a new online digital tribunal system for the Landlord Tenant Board. The sources in question say the contract came to more than $26 million through change orders and additional contracts.

When CityNews asked why the contract was not put out to tender so that specific software development companies received bids to ensure the best deal for taxpayers, Attorney General Doug Downey said: “Lots of choices to be made, we went with those who had the experience and had a product that was actually operating and operating very well.”

Downey was referring to the fact that PwC worked to develop the Civil Resolution Tribunal case management system for the government of British Columbia, although some sources say that what PwC was contracted to do at the Landlord Tenant Board of Ontario has a much broader scope. Furthermore, according to CityNews sources, ministry and court staff have been unhappy with the work provided by PwC, with deadlines and milestones repeatedly delayed and costs rising. But when asked about the quality of the work, Minister Downey replied: “It works well.” Although PwC’s work on this dossier was noted in the public accounts, it was never detailed in any of the ministry’s annual reports or mentioned.

It is, as CityNews says, the latest example of exclusive procurement by the Ford government. Like the deal with Staples to host nine Service Ontario stores as part of a contract that wasn’t put out to tender, even though Ford had repeatedly spoken out against such government-only sourcing contracts.

“I don’t know why Doug Ford hasn’t learned his lesson yet” said NDP Leader Marit Stiles, referring to Ford’s previous “troubles” on the Greenbelt, for example, with the release of land to “friends” builders. According to Stiles, the contract awarded to PwC was to be put out to public tender. “We want to know that we’re getting the best deal. Certainly, we want to see funding for the Landlord Tenant Board, but I wonder why the government continues to do business like this.”

The Landlord and Tenant Board is responsible for resolving disputes between residential landlords and tenants, as well as handling eviction requests and hearing from tenants who seek to force their landlords to make necessary repairs. It has been plagued by delays since 2018. In May 2023, Ontario’s ombudsman released a report finding that the backlog of cases has grown to 38,000 and that it is taking an average of seven or eight months – a sometimes up to two years – before a hearing takes place. The latest data shows that the average wait for an eviction order is now 342 days, compared to 32 days in 2018. But Minister Downey argued that new software that digitizes much of the process is working well. “It’s helping us take down the backlog, we come to balance in several of our tribunals” he said.

Regarding the exclusive nature of the contract with PwC, Andrew Kennedy, spokesperson for the Attorney General, said that “the process was conducted in line with the appropriate public service procurement directive.”

But the story is a bit reminiscent of the one about ArriveCan, the “app” wanted by Justin Trudeau’s government to “monitor” entries into Canada during the pandemic, which ended up costing, thanks to “suspicious” subcontracting, almost 60 millions of dollars. In short: Ottawa or Queen’s Park, Liberal or Conservative, the whole world is country…

In the pic above: Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles in a screenshot from the video of her speech today in Queen’s Park (from Twitter X – @MaritStiles