The man who helped Kathleen Wynne to victory in the 2014 election has been receiving lucrative contracts directly from the premier’s office according to documents obtained by The Rebel through a Freedom of Information request.
David Herle is the principal player behind a company called The Gandalf Group and according to the bio on the company website, Herle “served as Premier Kathleen Wynne’s campaign co-chair and steered the Ontario Liberals to a majority government in 2014.”
That fact alone has some wondering about the propriety of Herle and his firm billing the taxpayer for almost $900,000 for “research services” in the last fiscal year from one office alone.
A request for a list of contracts awarded by the Cabinet Office at Queen’s Park for the 2015-2016 fiscal year shows a list of 30 contracts, none as big as the ones Herle charged taxpayers for. There are two separate contracts listed for The Gandalf Group, one for $836,600 and another for $49,155. Both contracts simply say “Commissioned Research Services.”
A request to the premier’s office asking what kind of research services were provided was not answered, instead a vague statement was issued about how, “Polling is a cost-effective method of measuring public awareness and attitudes on current and emerging public policy issues.”
Wynne spokesperson Jennifer Beaudry told The Rebel via email that, the hiring of Wynne’s campaign manager was done through a fair and transparent process.
“Every company must be a qualified vendor of record and compete for a project against no less than 5 competitors. The final decision about which vendor is best suited for a project is made by a committee of at least 3 non-partisan public servants,” Beaudry said.
Beaudry even cited polling done for the government by global polling firm Ipsos to determine the success of the #WhoWillYouHelp campaign against sexual violence. While Ipsos did conduct research on behalf of the Government of Ontario, the contract was not awarded through Wynne’s personal department, the Cabinet Office.
In fact, the only polling or research contracts awarded directly through Wynne’s department in the 2015-2016 fiscal year went to Herle’s Gandalf Group.
Senior Liberals with experience in how the Cabinet Office functions disputed the idea that the process was completely non-partisan and not subject to political direction from the premier.
Wynne’s office is likely not the only source of Ontario tax dollars heading to the man that helped keep Kathleen Wynne in the premier’s office. It is believed that The Gandalf Group is or has been under contract to several government departments and the Liberal Party of Ontario itself.
Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown was scathing of the news saying that Ontarians deserve full answers on all the contracts awarded to Wynne’s campaign director.
“This just another example of the Liberal’s ethical lapses,” Brown said. “Almost a million dollars from Kathleen Wynne’s office to someone who is the Liberal Party strategist, pollster…unacceptable.”
Brown said this is about Liberals helping Liberals, not the people of Ontario.
“This is not about helping families with a child with autism, our crumbling schools, our hospitals.”
New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath told The Rebel this is the type of thing that leaves a bad impression with voters.
"There's a reason why people are feeling left behind by this government. Time and time again, from the gas plants scandal, to recent allegations of pay for play fundraisers, they keep putting their friends and their own political interests first rather than doing what's right for the people of Ontario,” Horwath said via email.
Attempts to contact Herle and The Gandalf Group were unsuccessful. Questions emailed to Herle and the firm were not replied to as of writing.