Amy Reid and Tom Zytaruk, Surrey Now
SURREY — The City of Surrey says it’s not lobbying the federal government through a $28,800 contract with Concise Consulting Ltd.
The company is reportedly owned by Prem Vinning, who could not be reached for comment.
Vinning is well-known in Liberal circles as a party power-broker who had hoped, albeit unsuccessfully, to secure a Senate seat under under former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien.
In the 1990s he was a Liberal MP candidate in the former Surrey-North riding.
Both of Vinning’s sons have found jobs as ministerial aides in Ottawa since the election. Manjeet Vinning, 28, was named senior special assistant to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Gurpreet Vinning, 30, was named policy adviser and special assistant for western and northern Canada for Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, the lead minister responsible for doling out billions in infrastructure spending.
According to the city, the six-month contract with Concise Consulting, beginning Feb. 1, is to “review city plans with a view to identify any alignment with federal and provincial priorities” in areas such as climate adaption, sustainability and poverty reduction.
In an email, the City of Surrey claims no one with the firm will be meeting with any politicians, ministerial staff or senior bureaucrats on behalf of the city, adding Concise Consulting is not “carrying our message to Ottawa.”
Critics have questioned the move.
“The obvious is question is: What on earth are politicians doing hiring lobbyists to lobby other politicians? Isn’t lobbying other politicians part of their job?” asked Aaron Wudrick, federal director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
The city says that’s not the case here, and that Mayor Linda Hepner has met with all the local MPs and senior federal ministers and “will continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, the city has entered into a $21,700 contract with Earnscliffe Strategy Group for “strategic communications support for Surrey Light Rail Transit.”
The city said this contract does not include lobbying.
Earnscliffe Strategy Group’s website says the company’s work includes “government relations, public policy analysis, strategic communications and opinion and market research.”
The scope of work for that contract, according to the city, is to “review and find alignment” with the federal government’s priorities on infrastructure investment, create a “key contract list,” and develop messaging strategies.
The city says both of the contracts were secured by means that are consistent with its purchase policies: “Contracts that fall under the $75,000 threshold are not required to go out to tender.”
-With files from the Vancouver Sun