U.S. film company wins half-million-dollar contract for Royal Alberta Museum

Local video production companies say the new Royal Alberta Museum represents a lost opportunity to secure a half-million-dollar contract and gain valuable experience.

Local film producers says preference should have been given to Alberta companies

Filmmaker Kevin Wolfert (right) says Alberta film producers should have been given a better chance to bid on a big contract for the Royal Alberta Museum. (Kelly Wolfert, Leven Creative )

When the new Royal Alberta Museum opens its doors to the public sometime towards the end of 2017, it will feature state-of-the-art exhibitions depicting Alberta's human and natural history.

But for some local production companies, the new museum represents a lost opportunity to secure a half-million-dollar contract and gain valuable experience.

A contract to produce 14 videos for the new museum on subjects ranging from the Edmonton Oilers to the province's insects was awarded this week to North Shore Productions, from Portland, Oregon.
Executive director Chris Robinson says U.S. company won the RAM contract based on a fair process (CBC)

Kelly Wolfert, owner of Leven Creative company in Edmonton, says given the downturn in the economy, the contract should have gone to an Alberta firm.

"It's very interesting to see that the choice was made to hire a company outside of the country to help with this project when there are many options in Alberta or even Canada," Wolfert said.

Not enough time to find partners

He said the four-week window to bid did not given him enough time to compile partners for such a large project.  

An open competition was posted on the Alberta Government procurement website, Alberta Purchasing Connection, or APC, from May 27 to June 24.

The museum's executive director, Chris Robinson, said North Shore was chosen because it had the "highest overall rating" of 11 bidders based on three broad categories of experience and qualifications, service delivery, and price.  

"Cost was one of the assessment variables, and when that is added to the service-delivery approach, and to the experience and qualifications, they came out with the highest overall rating."

According to the Request for Proposal, or RFP, "experience and qualifications," was the highest-weighted category comprising 55 per cent of the evaluation criteria.

"The objective in any RFP, is to maximize the benefit to the province," Robinson said," while offering all proponents a fair and equitable opportunity to participate."

According to its website, North Shore Productions specializes in producing videos for museums, visitors centres, corporations and television.

Listed amongst its projects are films for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Extraordinary times

Wolfert has no doubt the company will do a good job, but says these are extraordinary times.

"We see both the federal and provincial governments creating infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy, and this is a perfect example of a half-million-dollar project going out to bid that had the opportunity to provide an Alberta-based company some economic stability."

Robinson says 10 of the 11 proposals were from Alberta and Canadian companies.  

"I am bound by the trade agreements in place," according to Robinson, who adds that every procurement over $75,000 must be open to bidders outside of Alberta.

"I have no choice but to follow those procedures."

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said in an email statement that Alberta is bound by trade agreements to allow for open competitive  bidding.

"The government is exploring options to do more work with local suppliers, where competitive bids are available and within the bounds of our existing trade agreements."