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Tory MP given federal contracts months before, after failed 2008 election bid

Conservative Member of Parliament Wai Young stands in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 17, 2012.

BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS

The federal government awarded $1-million in contracts to a consultant in the months before and after she ran as a candidate for Stephen Harper's Conservative Party.

A Vancouver-based consulting firm, Wai Young and Associates, received the contracts from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 2008 and 2009 to run a pair of conferences in Toronto. Ms. Young was a Conservative candidate in an election that fell between the awarding of the two contracts, losing a narrow race to a Liberal incumbent. She won the seat in 2011 and is now an MP.

Federal ethics rules prevent MPs from receiving government contracts but don't extend to candidates. Ms. Young said Conservative Party figures were not involved with the decision, which didn't break any rules.

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"The contracts you're referring to were actually done through bureaucrats in Ontario. They had nothing to do with anything political whatsoever," Ms. Young told The Globe this week, adding she'd worked as a social-policy consultant for 18 years.

"You go to where the work is. You go to where people want you or need you. So I've done work all over Canada, all over B.C. – literally – and I'm fortunate in that I've had a really strong and vibrant career prior to [politics], which I guess is part of the reason that led me to this, because when you're interested in social policy, you want to make a difference. Here I am."

The Globe's Access to Information request for the "contracts" initially came up empty because officials instead considered them "contribution agreements," a kind of grant. Nonetheless, documents indicate Ms. Young applied for the funding, but do not show whether the agreement was sole-sourced or the result of a bidding process.

The signed contribution agreements show Ms. Young would provide "delivery assistance" for the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, helping run a pair of conferences.

The first conference was scheduled for June, 2008, four months before the federal election. At the time, Ms. Young's campaign manager told media that she was nominated as a Conservative candidate in January of 2008 for a spring election that did not happen. Ms. Young signed the contract in April.

The agreement says the conference will provide "professional development and networking opportunities for over 300 participants" from Ontario, and that Ms. Young was responsible for promoting the conference, developing its programs, "all on-site conference logistics and management," food and other costs.

The agreement included $468,683 for program delivery funding and $109,907 for administrative costs, for a total of $578,590. Her specific costs are redacted in the copy released to The Globe. When asked whether Diane Finley, who was the CIC minister at the time, was aware of the contract, spokesman Marcel Poulin said only that "officials award contracts, not ministers."

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That fall, Ms. Young ran in Vancouver South for the Conservatives, losing by just 20 votes to Liberal incumbent Ujjal Dosanjh.

The questions about the first contract didn't deter Ms. Young's consulting firm – her office declined to say how many employees the firm had beyond Ms. Young – from seeking a second one just over a year after the election. The November, 2009, pact totalled $452,900 for planning the same conference, this time in early 2010. It included $337,000 for "program delivery" and $115,900 for "administrative" functions. Again, the specific costs are redacted.

A spokeswoman for Jason Kenney, who had succeeded Ms. Finley as CIC minister when the second contract was awarded, said he had "no knowledge of or involvement" with the contracts.

A statement from the department echoed that. "Both contracts were assessed and approved by the appropriate delegated departmental official," spokeswoman Sonia Lesage said.

Ms. Young ran once again in 2011 for the Conservatives in the riding, beating Mr. Dosanjh by nearly 4,000 votes.

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