In the moments leading up to Friday morning’s Ottawa police briefing on the ongoing protest against the anti-vaccine mandate on Parliament Hill, officers – in uniform and plainclothes – and media were waiting the arrival of the chief and deputy chiefs.
Meanwhile, a few people were circulating a press release about tougher policing coming in the coming days, including a man who was not with the police department, but with the chief’s office, he said. -the CBC is told.
That man was Matthew Barnes, senior consultant for Navigator – an elite and expensive crisis management firm.
Police Chief Peter Sloly’s office confirmed via email that Navigator was hired last weekend to “assist the Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Police Services Board with communications and information support.” community engagement on the first weekend of the protests”.
The full cost of the services is not yet known, but according to the statement, taxpayers pay Navigator on what is described as a “fee-for-service basis”, with “an upper limit” of $50,000. at $75,000.
There was no competitive bidding for the communications work because, according to police, the contract falls within the service’s sole-source guidelines for special events.
We don’t know if the strategy is working.
According to CBC sources, Sloly did not strictly follow his speaking notes at Wednesday’s press conference when he suggested the military might be needed to cover the protest, and that police alone may not be enough to bring the protests to an end.
Police did not say whether Sloly was off-script on Wednesday.
“High-Stakes Communications Strategist”
With the tagline “When you can’t afford to lose,” Navigator describes itself as “Canada’s leading high-stakes strategic consulting and communications firm.”
It was founded more than 20 years ago and its executive chairman, Jaime Watt, was a Progressive Conservative strategist who worked with former prime minister Mike Harris, helping him launch his “common sense revolution”. He has represented high profile clients including, briefly, former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi.
According to the biography on the company’s website, Watt is “widely regarded as Canada’s leading high-stakes communications strategist, a trusted advisor to boards of directors, business leaders and professionals as well as political leaders from all three levels of government across Canada.”
Navigator opened an office in Ottawa last March, according to a press release at the time, led by Graham Fox and Barnes.
Prior to joining Navigator, Barnes was senior director of communications for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and worked for her predecessor Bill Morneau.
Fox was previously CEO of the Institute for Research on Public Policy think tank and previously worked in government relations for clients of law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (now Dentons).