As posted yesterday, Calgary-based Highwood Communications has filed for bankruptcy protection with the Court of Queen’s Bench after leaving unpaid bills totalling more than $5.3 million. Highwood, owned by long-time PC insider Barry Styles, held an exclusive government ad-buying contract between 1997 and 2007, handling $41.3 million of taxpayers’ money to buy newspaper, radio, television, magazine and online ads.
Highwood’s financial downfall raises some very interesting questions:
– Highwood was entrusted with millions of taxpayers’ dollars to buy government ads. If Highwood didn’t pay the media outlets that ran the ads, where did the money go? Highwood was being paid to place $5.3 million worth of ads and ended up with less than $2 million in assets, where did the $3.3 million go? Is there any way to get it back?
– If Highwood failed to live up to the basic terms of its contract, does the province have a legal recourse?
– Why didn’t senior Public Affairs Bureau officials properly monitor the company?
– Why did Highwood’s parent company, B.A.S. Managing and Consulting Services Ltd., also directed by Styles, receive $1.5 million from Highwood and never pay it back?
– Did the government know, or should it have known, that the company was in trouble? Highwood’s Saskachewan branch was the advertising agency for several departments of the Saskatchewan government when it filed for bankruptcy in 1998, leaving liabilities of $582,000.
I agree with Paula Simons‘ recent article, “the government owes the people of Alberta answers.” In its first Speech from the Throne in 2007, Ed Stelmach‘s government declared that, “Governing with integrity and transparency is the first priority of this government.“
It’s time that Stelmach and his 71 MLAs live up to that promise and give Albertans answers.