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Sobeys wins non-tendered contract under Nova Scotia Loyal program

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Nova Scotia government officials are keeping details of a $950,000 exclusive contract awarded to Sobeys last month secret.

The grocery giant, headquartered in Stellarton, New Jersey, was awarded a contract on April 1 as part of the long-standing customer loyalty program Nova Scotia Loyal.

The idea was part of the Progressive Conservatives' 2021 election campaign. They promised to create a loyalty program that would use incentives to get more people to buy local products.

A government spokesman said in a statement that partnerships with other retailers were also being worked on and that details would be announced “at a later date”.

No further information was provided and it is not clear what role Sobeys will play.

Economy Minister Susan Corkum-Greek says the launch of the Nova Scotia Loyal program is imminent.Economy Minister Susan Corkum-Greek says the launch of the Nova Scotia Loyal program is imminent.

Economy Minister Susan Corkum-Greek says the launch of the Nova Scotia Loyal program is imminent.

Economy Minister Susan Corkum-Greek says the launch of the Nova Scotia Loyal program is “imminent.” (CBC)

Last summer, the government announced it would survey consumers about their purchasing habits and their views on how the loyalty program should be branded and operated. It's all part of the Tories' goal of having 20 per cent of all food purchased in Nova Scotia grown or produced in the province by 2030.

Economy Minister Susan Corkum-Greek told reporters earlier this month that Nova Scotia Loyal was in the final stages of preparation.

“Unfortunately, I can't give you a date today – I may know one, but I can't tell you – but … it's imminent,” she said, adding that the program will “definitely” start this year.

With seasonal farmers' markets opening across the province, the minister said she was keen to push the program forward.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said the Tory government was using the Financial Measures Act to exit the legislature more quickly.Liberal leader Zach Churchill said the Tory government was using the Financial Measures Act to exit the legislature more quickly.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said the Tory government was using the Financial Measures Act to exit the legislature more quickly.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill says the government needs to explain how Nova Scotia Loyal will make life easier for local producers and grocery shoppers. (Robert Short/CBC)

Liberal Party leader Zach Churchill said he was not surprised the Tories were again awarding a contract without a tender, “because that's just how they do it.”

The province's auditor general has highlighted problems with health care contracts that the Tories awarded without public tender.

All the government has to show so far to fulfill its “Nova Scotia Loyal” campaign promise are marked trucks used in parades and other public events, Churchill said.

He said he expected that if the government awarded contracts to large companies in the food sector, it would also take steps to include smaller retailers.

“This money should actually be used to help local grocers and producers so they can do their jobs and more Nova Scotians can buy locally produced food and goods.”

According to information released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia's farm net income has been negative for seven consecutive years.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender speaks to reporters at Province House.NDP Leader Claudia Chender speaks to reporters at Province House.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender speaks to reporters at Province House.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender says the government has not been transparent enough about the Nova Scotia Loyal program. (Robert Short/CBC)

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said awarding contracts without competitive bidding was “very typical” of the Tories. Most people are still unclear about how the Nova Scotia Loyal program is supposed to help struggling farmers and people struggling to pay for their groceries, she said.

The government must be transparent and clear about what the contract with Sobeys is about, Chender said.

“If Nova Scotia Loyal is really about local food, we need to understand what that means,” she said.

“After two and a half years, I still have no idea what Nova Scotia Loyal is, except that it sounds good when you say it.”

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