York University clarifies reports on use of consultants

The following statement was issued yesterday by York University:

Figures released in public on Wednesday, Oct. 5, concerning work done on behalf of York University by three contracted agencies, were presented without context, timeline or accuracy with regard to the nature of the projects.

A Freedom of Information request in June of this year asked for figures regarding total value of existing contracts with three specific companies; namely, The Devon Group, Counsel Public Affairs (CPA) and EcoNexus. York University complied with that request in prompt fashion. What the request did not include, or ask for, was a disclosure of what the scope of work was, and over what period of time those contracts were in effect.

The Devon Group provided guidance to the University in the form of a professional services contract from January to June 2010. Devon Group was asked to provide strategic counsel and guidance about an expanded partnership with the Pan Am Games. The contract value was $31,500. York University has since entered into a letter of intent as announced on Aug. 23, to provide additional venue sites for the Pan Am Games. York University is confirmed to host tennis as part of the Pan Am Games at the Rexall Centre on its Keele campus.

York entered into a letter of agreement with CPA for a five-month contract in February 2008 to garner broad-based community input with regard to the potential of establishing a medical school at York at some time in the future. These were functions that the University did not have within its existing staff complement. After initial success, a second phase of that project was entered into from July 2008 to January 2009 with CPA. Its objective was to gather further information, align community needs and garner health care sector and municipal and provincial government input for the preparation of a business case for a medical school at York. CPA also provided assistance with regard to labour relations during that period of time.

York’s total spending with CPA breaks down to $90,100 in 2008, $112,400 in 2009, and $14,635 to date in 2010. 

A contract with EcoNexus was a project to assess the interests and expertise of York faculty in climate change and environmental research with the objective of building a strategic research plan in this area for York University. Karen Kraft Sloan – an adjunct professor at York – was assigned to lead the project. While she is a federally registered lobbyist, she was not lobbying with regard to this project. Having had success in developing the basis for this research project, EcoNexus was further asked to develop a climate research strategy to move this research project forward. EcoNexus was paid $64,400 in 2008, $86,600 in 2009 and $38,100 in 2010. It is significant to note that there is no specific government lobbying attached to any of the work that this firm has done for York in this regard. 

York University has regular and professional interaction with all levels of government and with a variety of community organizations and groups. The University and government have a common interest in ensuring that the University fosters positive relationships with government and other groups or constituencies, particularly in the case of specialized or special-purpose activities. Any service contract entered into by York University with external firms, for any purpose, is done so with efficiency and effective return on investment in mind.